Saturday, October 10, 2009

VeganMoFo Day Ten: Duke of Earl (Grey)

Would you perhaps enjoy a spot of tea (cookie)?

I found this recipe for Earl Grey Tea Cookies online about a million years ago, and what with the only non-vegan ingredient being butter it's ridiculously simple to veganize. Not even work, actually. The author of the recipe made some sort of comment about how not using "real" butter would make it vegan, but it would change the flavor and-

yeah, that's when I stopped listening.

While this is a simple cookie, it is also sophisticated one. (Hello, there's tea in it?) It has a delicate flavor, is of diminutive size, and is not overly sweet. Moreover, it's possibly the most advanced cookie recipe I've ever baked. Fine, that isn't saying much, but whatever. I've avoided making it for so long because it's what I noted as "difficult", but I've decided that avoiding "difficult" things is cop-out b.s., selling myself short, refusing to grow, and a handful of other cliches that are preventing me from doing some awesome baking. So when I came upon this recipe on Friday night, I knew the time had come.

What makes this recipe complex? Two things, really. One, it gets put together in a food processor. Not something that is difficult, per se, just something I hadn't done before. Two, once the dough is made you have to roll it into a tube, chill it, and then slice it into your nice round cookie shapes. For some reason this step intimidated me. Did I doubt my tube rolling abilities? Perhaps.

But I persevered, and I am here to tell you my story.

Earl Grey Tea Cookies
2 cups flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup confectioners sugar (also called powdered sugar or icing sugar)
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp Earl Grey tea (tea from about 6 or 7 commercial bags)
1 cup (2 sticks) margarine, softened and/or cut into chunks
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp water

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Set your margarine out to soften. Line at least two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In your food processor, combine sugars, salt, and tea. Pulse to pulverize tea (although if you're using bagged tea like I did, it's pretty small to begin with. Bagged tea is the dregs.) While you are doing this it will appear as though a very fine curl of smoke is rising from your food processing bowl, but don't worry. It's just from the powdered sugar.

Once the original mixture has become homogeneous, add the flower and pulse again. Continue to pulse until the majority of the mixture is moving like it's a liquid. You'll see what I mean. It's cool. If you don't see what I mean, just pulse till you think it's all good and mixed.

Add your butter, vanilla extract, and water. I combined these into one bowl first, and that seemed to work well. (I softened my butter a little too much - thus this glorious mess.)

Pulse until the mixture becomes a dough. Don't worry - it will. I stopped a couple of times and pressed the mixture down with my spatula. At first it became a sort of crumbly dough, but after a little bit it became nice and pliable and began to round itself out. That's when I called it done.

Next, divide the dough in half, and place each half in a ball on its own sheet of plastic wrap. (Incidentally, this right here is probably where the recipe lost me the first time. I promise it's not hard!)

Roll each ball into a log approximately 12 inches long. My logs ended up about 1.5" in diameter. This step was not as difficult as I had feared, though the dough is fairly dry so you have to be careful not to let it crack.

Once your tubes are tube-a-riffic, roll them up into their respective sheets of plastic wrap and pop them into the fridge to let them chill. I put mine on a cookie sheet for safekeeping. (Don't they kind of look like white sausage? Creepy yeah? I swear I wasn't actually making sausage.) Chill for 30 minutes or so.

Once your rolls are nice and cold and firm, unwrap from the plastic wrap and slice about 1/3" thick. Place on your parchment-paper-lined cookie sheets about two inches apart, but don't worry - these do not spread very much. Mine ended up getting somewhat flattened out during their time in the fridge, which didn't surprise me much, so I ended up rounding them out a bit as I put each slice on the cookie sheets.

Into the pre-heated oven they go, and bake for 12 minutes and/or until the edges become golden brown. Remove and let cool; if you are fancy enough to have those wire cooling racks, use em after the cookies have been out of the oven for five minutes or so.

So, listen. I know how much you like cookies that are still warm from the oven. In fact, any person who has a human heart beating in the chest rather than a cold dark stone of some kind likes cookies still warm from the oven. But the stark fact is that these cookies are just no good that way. Believe me, I tried. A couple of times. No dice.

You know why? Because they're tea cookies! Also known as butter cookies. You know, like the ones that come in that dark blue tin with all the weird paper cups in it. (A.K.A. the ones you haven't eaten since you went vegan.) I didn't really know it until they were baked, because I've never made anything like this before, but that's what's happening here. I've never had Earl Grey Tea Cookies before I baked these, even, but I think they're pretty tasty. It's a subtle flavor of bergamot harmonizing with a classic buttery crumbly sort of affair. Next time, I'm totally going to press them into turbinado sugar before baking - because how awesome would that be? I thought of adding a little lemon extract, but I'm glad I didn't. It would have overpowered their gentle natural flavor.

These are a whole other species than the ooey-gooey straight from the oven chocolate chip cookies that I'm also baking today - don't worry, I'll tell you about those soon. No, these little ones are made to nibble on... while you drink tea. Or perhaps a glass of almond milk?


TheAwesomestPossum said...

yum, yum, and more yum. i am so making these as soon as i have a chance (and powdered sugar) to do so. i love the pressing them in turbinado sugar idea! totally makes me think of those blue-tin cookies, which totally make me think of my grandma, and anything that makes me think of my grandma is by definition awesome. :)

Monique a.k.a. Mo said...

Woah, so the tea is in the cookie?! That's crazy. Does it make you feel all hopped up and stuff?

melissa bastian. said...

Mmmm... no. Well, except for all the sugar. :D But it's surprising how much the tea and bergamot flavor comes through! I want to try variations with spice teas and stuff.

Becca said...

These are so good it's ridiculous.

I'm makin green tea ones tomorrow, the Earl Grey ones I made today probably won't make it through the night, lol. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe <3