Earl Grey Tea Cookies


And then there were cookies.

The week wait for my new oven turned into a monthlong slog of endurance, as I dreamed about everything that I would use the oven for. Cookies, quick loaves, crusty bread, and bubbling pies filled my fantasies. Every time I tried to bake something with the old oven it ended up not quite right- tasty enough, but with irritatingly imperfect. Textural control went out the window. I got tired of opening and closing the door and fiddling with the knobs to properly maintain temperature. And so I put my dreams of baking on the shelf, waiting for the promised day.

And finally, after a lifetime of waiting, it did arrive. The new oven is a thing of beauty. There’s an extra four inches! It runs true to temp! I can fit full sized cookie sheets in it! I can buy full sized cookie sheets now! The possibilities are endless!

And so I spent a week not baking anything, trying to decide the best baked good to christen the oven.

Scones? Cinnamon rolls? Lemon meringue pie! Malted milk tart? The indecision hit me hard. Eventually, the idea arrived when I at work, using my fingers to rub butter into tart dough. A shortbread-ish cookie, with lemon zest rubbed into the sugar, scented with earl grey. The type of dessert I like to make at home- sweet enough to be a treat, but humble enough to eat everyday. (At work it’s a whole different story.)

These cookies are easy. You whisk together dries, rub lemon zest into sugar, and cream butter. The rest is all mixing and shaping. The dough needs to rest for at least 3 hours before being sliced and baked, which is really ideal. It makes it easy to whip it up in the morning and bake in the evening. (Or make the dough, bring a log in your purse on the bus, and bake it off at work, but that’s neither here nor there.) They pull together entirely with pantry ingredients (assuming you keep earl grey tea in your pantry). The cookies are delightfully crisp, and the turbinado sugar adds a bright crunch to the cookies. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, they are delicious with tea.

Earl Grey Tea Cookies

adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Yield: 18 cookies

These cookies are very roughly adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s famous World Peace Cookies. If you’re keeping track of how the recipe has changed, I halved the yield, changed the sugars, dialed down the chocolate, and added in earl gray and lemon zest. Dorie also included coco powder, but I wanted the chocolate to be a grace note in this instance, not the main flavor. Dorie originally called for light brown sugar instead of the turbinado sugar, but I swapped it out because I only had dark brown and I didn’t want that flavor to dominate. I imagine that these would be delicious with brown sugar, if more chewy.

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (95 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (2 tea bags) of earl grey tea, finely ground (I used a mortor and pestle)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup (75 grams) turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons (25 grams) cane sugar
5 1/2 tablespoons (64 grams) butter, softened
zest of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 ounce dark chocolate, finely chopped

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, tea, and baking soda. Set aside. In a small bowl whisk together the 2 sugars. Using your fingers, rub the lemon zest into the sugar until the lemon zest is well distributed and the sugar is fragrant. Set aside.

In a large bowl using a hand mixer whip the butter until it is fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Add in the lemon zest sugar, the salt, and the vanilla. Beat until the whole mess is soft and fragrant, about another 2 minutes.

Turn off the mixer. Pour in the dry ingredients. Turn the mixer on low, beating the flour in 30 second increments, until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the dark chocolate fragments.

On a clean surface, place a length of plastic wrap. (If you’re like me and often forget to buy plastic wrap, you can also use parchment paper or wax paper.) Turn the dough out onto the plastic wrap. The dough will be crumbly and may resemble sand. This is okay. Begin to form the dough into a log. I found it easiest to shape the dough into a rectangle, then fold the plastic wrap over the dough. Push the dough out, then round, and repeat until the dough is about a foot in length and an inch in diameter. Wrap well in the plastic (or parchment or wax paper) and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to 2 days.

When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 325. Pull the dough from the refrigerator. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1/2 inch pieces. The dough may crumble while you cut. This is okay, just push the dough back together. Place the cookie rounds an inch apart onto the cookie tray. Bake for 12 minutes, until the cookies are fragrant and the edges are set. Remove from the oven and keep on the try until  the cookies are cool and have firmed.

The cookies will keep well for a few days if kept in an airtight container.

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Dear Bon Appétit: We Are Not Brooklyn


Dear Bon Appétit:

You don’t know me, so it’s only fair that I introduce myself. My name is Allyson. I’m a twenty something line cook who lives in Minneapolis. You may also not know much about Minneapolis. Perhaps all you know is that it shares a suffix and a region with a city you recently profiled, Indianapolis.

And what a profile it was. I was certainly hungry while reading descriptions of Jonathan Brooks of Milktooth’s food. A dutch baby topped with oatmeal dukka streusel? Wild rice biscuits with persimmon butter? Yes please. But I was taken aback by the condescending tone of how exciting the food in Indianapolis was. And I cheered when Brooks straightened out writer John Birdsall, who was looking for Brooklyn in Indianapolis, with this gem: “it’s not fucking Brooklyn. It’s Indianapolis.”

You see, here in the Midwest we’re used to being overshadowed. We’re used to being dismissed as “Middle America” or as “flyover states”. We’re subject to all sorts of assumptions about our politics, our health, our personal biases, and our food. During college I did a short internship with an artist in Seattle. When I introduced myself to another artist of her acquaintance, who had come to Seattle from California, I told him I attended college in Iowa.

“I’m sorry,” he said, in evident sincerity.

“Why?” I shot back. He had no good answer and resorted to vague talk about repression and gay marriage. (I hasten to add that at this time same sex marriage was legal in Iowa but not in Washington or California.) I am not alone in experiencing this reaction from non-Midwesterners when talking about home. And we’re sick of hearing it.

An important part of the human condition is that in order to understand people we have to imagine the lives that are not our own. It’s a complicated undertaking and is easy to get wrong. Without this imagining being checked, one could easily imagine that Brooklyn is only populated by white kids who live off of their parent’s largess while selling knit mustaches on etsy. They would survive on artisanal pizza and PBR, and eat ramen when they’re in the mood to wait in line for two hours. Hopefully as a member of the national media, you would never be so careless to print such an article. Besides, being based in Manhattan, you know Brooklyn well enough to recognize this as falsehood.

So why do you not apply the same caution while profiling other places?

If you looked from afar you could see Brooklyn in my life. I shop predominantly at a coop. I drink at coffee shops that roast their own beans. I cook in a restaurant that you would likely  claim as Brooklyn inspired, but that is actually modeled from the warmth of French-influenced Montreal. I eat as many millennials eat- voraciously, with wide interest.

Or you could look closer and see Minneapolis. You could see the proliferation of local ingredients- wild rice in beer, maple syrup in lattes, bison tartar. You could see University of Minnesota apples such as Honeycrisp and SweeTango, and local wildflower honey. You would find breweries in every neighborhood, speakeasies that serve complementary hot chocolate on cold nights, and some of the best bakeries in the country. There are inexpensive farmers markets, miles of waterfront, and small farms nearby.There is a strong Nordic influence, from locally distilled aquavit to the proliferation of dill. There are both award-winning restaurants and affordable apartments. It is part of what makes our city good and interesting, and different from Brooklyn. It is an exciting place to work, because we have such a strong pool of talent, and a good place to live, because I can afford to live graciously on a line cook’s salary. Would you see this if you came to Minneapolis? Or would you see our pourover coffee, our excellent bakeries, our local breweries, and our housemade kombucha and claim we were attempting to recreate Brooklyn?

I do not know if you would see this, because after reading your article I got no sense of what made Indianapolis unique. All I got was that the food was good and the chefs were cool, that this was reminiscent of Brooklyn. This is not helpful. I was left, if you’ll pardon the pun, hungry.

Brooklyn is not everywhere. Brooklyn is its own place . There is nowhere in Minneapolis or Brooklyn like Milktooth, and this is a great thing. Milktooth has joined the long list of restaurants that I long to eat at. One of the great things about our growing food economy is that people everywhere are doing exciting things. There are restaurants around the country that I long to try, from Nashville (Russ and Daughters, The Catbird Seat) to Seattle (Delancey, The Walrus and the Carpenter, Cafe Lago) to Chapel Hill, North Carolina (Lantern, One). And yes, Brooklyn is on the list. I dream of trying Roberta’s. But Brooklyn is not unduly represented on this list. There are too many beautiful options out there for me to spend excess time dreaming of Brooklyn.

To paraphrase one of Brooklyn’s favorite sons, America is large. It contains multitudes. To ascribe our burgeoning food scene as an attempt at Brooklyn is wrong. Brooklyn did not create pickling or homebrewing or regional Thai cuisine. It created a hub where enough people were interested in such things that it became profitable to open such restaurants. How lucky we are that there are so many hubs in this country, with such infinite variations. We are all richer for this.

From one hub to another I wish you the best.

Sincerely,

Allyson

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Cup of Love + California

We flew out as we do by habit. We woke up at 4am. Both Aaron and I had worked the night before and liked to pretend we were still young enough to get by on three hours of sleep. I drove our car to a friends house where we parked it in case of a snow emergency. Aaron met me there driving a Car2Go, which we took to the airport. At that time of morning there was no traffic, only the clean expanse of pavement. We parked and paid and checked our bag, because even though it was only four days how would we bring back wine in our carry ons? A six AM flight, layover in Denver, delay, boarding, unboarding, boarding, fitful naps, and one nerve wracking landing later, we had arrived in San Fransisco.

We were there for two purposes- to hang out with Abby and her boyfriend Joe, who had recently moved to Oakland, and to drink a lot of wine. My parents, who had gotten in an hour before, picked us up. We drove around San Francisco and stopped at Tartine for lunch to have enormous, cheese stuffed sandwiches. I ordered a mocha, needing the caffeine, and finished it all. This was a coup for me as a non-coffee drinker. I then proceeded to spend forty dollars on pastries and later on the trip bought Tartine No. 3. I didn’t regret a cent.

The trip was a Christmas present from my parents to Aaron, Abby, Joe, and I. And when I say a, I mean the. It was an enormous blessing for me. I will always prioritize experiences over things, and what an experience. We stayed in Windsor, in an airbnb that my newly technologically-savvy parents found. On the drive from San Fransisco to Windsor we drove across the Golden Gate bridge, through Saulsulido, and into the hills. It seemed like California was showing off a bit. It didn’t seem fair that one place should have such impossible beauty. In Windsor that night we stopped into a local bar, where we sat outside around a fire pit and drank out of jam jars. At one point my dad remarked that just this, sitting around and talking with all of us, would have been enough. It was hard not to agree.

But there was more to the trip than sitting and talking for one night, and for that I’m grateful. We hit Sonoma one day, Napa the next. Dad wore shorts. I shed my sweaters. We sipped and swirled and smelled our glasses of wine. In some places we did so standing at the counter while a friendly tasting manager talked us through the nuances of what we were drinking. In other places we took our tastings outside to escape the crowds of people drinking the same way we were. Unsurprisingly, in almost every instance the wines we liked best were poured by the nicest people.

At one tasting the woman pouring a Sauvignon Blanc (tropical, crisp, brightly refreshing) mentioned that she couldn’t wait until it got warm and she could drink this wine outside. It was in the sixties with an impossibly blue sky, and it was the middle of February. I was wearing flats! Without socks! No coat! Us Midwesterners had no idea what she meant, until it got warm.

My cousin and his girlfriend, who also live in the Bay area, drove up to meet us. Without them we wouldn’t have found some of the excellent wineries we tried in Napa. We also all went to Francis Ford Coppola winery together, where we saw Coppola’s Oscars and Godfather relics. After we had paid homage to his films we settled onto the patio, where we drank a full glass and watched the wild turkeys roam the by the grapes.

We bought five bottles of wine that caused our suitcase to exceed the allocated luggage limit. Those bottles are now sitting on our bookshelf, waiting for good company. The last night of our trip we ended up at Russian River brewing, engaging in a beer tasting to balance the scales at bit. We sampled three different sours, a gauntlet of Belgians, and some seriously hoppy IPAs. And then we ordered pizzas, because nothing goes better with beer than pizza. We all ended the night full, tipsy, and so very happy.

It was a whirlwind of drinking wine and soaking in the sunshine and smiling so hard that my cheeks hurt. It was both Aaron and my first time in California, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I’m looking forward to returning and hanging with Abby again- and eating my way through San Fransisco, of course.

Places we went to eat:

Tartine in San Fransisco (for caffeine, sandwiches, pastry inspiration, and the best lemon tarts I’ve ever had)
Bouchon Bakery in Yonteville (for macarons and homage)
Dry Creek General Store in Healdsburg (for a gorgeous assortment of salads and souvenir honey)
-Cafe Noto in Windsor (for locally sourced caffeine)

Places we went to drink:

West Wines (one of our favorites, and a place we just happened to stumble across)
Peterson Winery (the wonderful Danny gave us a primer on wine tasting techniques)
Family Wineries (6 wineries in one tasting room, all making interesting wines)
Francis Ford Coppola Winery (or as we heard it referred to, Disneyland)
Tank Garage Winery (a cool, modern space that felt markedly different than the other tasting rooms we visited)
Twomey Cellars (Aaron loved the three pinot noirs included in the tasting)
Frank Family Vineyards (pricey, but delicious)
Russian River Brewing (for a break from the wine, and Pliny the Elder)

 

 Cup of Love

inspired by the drink at Cafe Noto

Cafe Noto was a bright, happy coffee shop a two minute stroll from our airbnb. I ordered the Cup of Love, because I’m always interested in expanding my repetoire of non-coffee warm beverages. I was a bit worried that the drink would be too sweet, but it was perfect- warmly comforting and still light. It tasted like a hug in a cup. I used a lovely robust honey I bought out in California, and needed 4 teaspoons. You should taste as you add the honey and adjust to your own sweetness level.

Makes 2 small or 1 generous serving

2 cups unsweetened soymilk
4 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a small saucepan warm the soymilk. Whisk in the honey and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer. Drink in the sunlight.

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