High Tea

Sometimes I wish that all our interpersonal problems could be resolved over a cup of tea and some biscuits.
For example, can’t stand that ONE person on your team, and you would love to just clobber him/her with a hockey stick? Well, how about sitting down to some lovely Earl Grey and shortbread, and magically, all the disagreement just melts away. Fighting with the hubby/wifey and tired of the shouting matches and having expensive porcelain ware thrown at you à la Mr. and Mrs. Smith style? Maybe you two just need a nice cup of chamomile served amidst the battle rubble. Or, about to have dinner with the horrendous IN-LAWS?! Well then, tea and homemade cookies may be the prophylactic to preventing disagreements and arguments – in which case, I’d never have a fight ever again. Wouldn’t it be great if I could just show up to my new job with a tray full of homemade cookies and just win over the boss and all my co-workers and magically make everyone cooperative? Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way, no matter how hard I wish for that to be the case. Just this week, I presented a rather special lady with a box my favorite tea flavored short bread cookies in hopes of mending a few misunderstandings and starting anew. We began with cups of steaming Jasmine tea – the fragrance which is suppose calm the nerves and loosen any tension. We then nibbled on delicious Jasmine flavored short bread cookies, beautifully studded with sugar crystals and just sweet enough to sweeten our tongues. I had intended for the tea and cookie combination to set the mood of the conversation – hopefully making it pleasant and reconciliatory. But somehow, by the end of the night, I managed to be even more incensed and all my efforts were thwarted. My attempts of cleaning the slate and rebuilding burned bridges failed. And now, I’m just as angry as ever before. Well, at least we both enjoyed the cookies and tea, if not each other.


Tea Shortbreads
This is a recipe I have been working on for a few weeks, having tried different types of tea and flavorings. It is versatile and lends itself to improvisation. The tea (Earl Grey being my favorite, but chamomile, lavender, chai, jasmine, etc.) and almond flavor (vanilla, lemon extract/zest, orange zest, etc) can be substituted with pretty much whatever you like , and the salt you choose to use is completely optional – I just love the bigger fleur de sel flakes in this cookie because it adds so much depth and surprise. Table salt or sea salt both incorporate better, if you prefer a less pronounced salt-taste. I’ve been able to roll the dough into a log and slice them before baking (for a more ‘rustic’ or homemade feel), or you can roll out the dough and use dainty cookie cutters – both have produced wonderful results for me. And just prior to baking, you can roll the cookies in regular granulated sugar, or larger sugar crystals to produce a prettier coat. Or, you can disregard the sugar altogether, and just dip the baked cookies in chocolate. So many possibilities! This recipe yields a fine crumbed and (at first) sandy cookie, that melts on your tongue to become silky and rich – your taste buds will be instantly tantalized by the sweetness of the butter and fragrance of the almond and tea.

1 c butter, softened
1/2 c Confectioner’s sugar
1/4 tsp fleur de sel (optional, table salt or sea salt is fine too)
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 tsp loose tea leaves, roughly chopped (or to taste – I prefer subtlety)
2 c all purpose flour
coarse sugar for coating

By hand (or with a mixer), cream the butter and Confectioner’s sugar together until light and fluffy. Add salt, almond extract, and tea leaves and mix to integrate. Slowly add flour and continue to mix – the mixture may be on the crumbly side, but with enough mixing, the dough should come together into a sticky ball. To make the dough more workable, mold the dough into a log and wrap with parchment if you intend to ‘slice-and-bake’. If you will be using cookie cutters, simply form the dough into a disk and wrap with parchment. Place dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, until firm enough to work with and no longer sticky.


To bake, preheat oven to 375*F. Place coating sugar in a shallow dish. for ‘slice-and-bake’ cookies, simply remove the log from parchment, slice the cookies about 1/4″-1/3″ thick, roll in coating sugar and place on baking sheet. For cut-out cookies, use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough to a 1/3″ thickness. Use desired shapes to cut out the dough, and again, dust the cookies with sugar on all sides before placing on baking sheet. Bake cookies until golden brown at edges, about 15-20 minutes (my NYC gas oven took longer than my electric CA one – go figure). Let cool on cookie sheet (and continue baking) for 5-10 minutes, before removing to cooling rack. The cookie may seem fragile and not quite set when removed from the oven, but they will firm up with cooling, not to worry. Serve with tea and enjoy!


So no – sadly, bad relationships aren’t healed with cookies and tea. Unfortunately, it takes a lot more than that to mend those – like maybe the conversation that accompanies the cookies and tea, or maybe an extra dash of understanding or a few spoonfuls of listening. Heck, a splash or two of love probably doesn’t hurt either. But of course, cookies and tea don’t hurt 😉


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