Earl Grey Shortbread

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I’ve always wanted to be a tea person. You know, someone who religiously brews a pot of something like Earl Grey or oolong at the same time every day, fragrant curls of steam wafting around their face as they take a sip of the flowery concoction. Perhaps it’s raining outside, and this person is reading a book with rustling, raspy pages, edges soft from years of fingers turning them. There’s a fire crackling in the hearth and, of course, a little plate of delicate cookies atop a spindly table next to the cozy armchair, upon the arm of which a cat purrs. There’s some instrumental music playing softly in the background—maybe Bach, or Mozart, nothing at all hectic. It’s a cold, grey day, but that doesn’t matter to the Tea Person—they smile into their mug because they know they’ve reached the pinnacle of quiet contentment and sophistication. They reach for a cookie, pop a buttery morsel into their mouth, chew slowly, and follow with a sip of tea. What a life Tea Person leads.

Alas, I have not reached Tea Person status yet, often opting for coffee instead (although I have been doing a lot of matcha lately, so maybe I’m well on my way). Perhaps I will be that person one day, but in the meantime I will attempt to get my tea through other means.

Companion Bakeshop is one of Santa Cruz’s star food spots, and for good reason: they churn out excellent sourdough loaves, phenomenal chocolate croissants, savory pinwheels, and delicious crumbly buckwheat scones almost every day—we’re lucky to have them. We recently stopped by the bakery with some good friends before a day out on the town, and got a decadent assortment of treats. Everything was superb (I do love a good kouign amann), but the humble little square of Earl Grey shortbread in the corner of the box stole the show for me. Buttery, crumbly, and lightly fragrant from the tea, it was hard for me not to hoard all three square inches of cookie to myself. A day later, I began attempting to recreate that little wonder of a cookie. After several batches mainly spent tweaking the amount of tea (the answer always seemed to be more tea), I feel like I’ve finally found the right ratios. The Earl Grey flavor is faint, a wonderful, floral background to the prominent nutty, buttery flavor of the shortbread, and that’s how I like it. Feel free to up the amount as you see fit. The lemon zest is also very light, but helps lift the shy Earl Grey and allows it to shine. These cookies are so good I cannot stop eating them—which just goes to show that my truest nature is probably closer to that of a Cookie Person.

Note: Tea is strongest in flavor when it’s fresh; if you’re using older tea you may need to add more. Also, shape your dough into a round log, if you wish, but I like that the rectangles remind me of little tea bags.

Earl Grey Shortbread

Makes 12-16 cookies

125g (about 1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
65g sugar
1/2 tsp lemon zest
3 1/2 tsp Earl Grey ground tea
heaping 1/4 tsp fine sea salt

150g all-purpose flour
25g corn starch

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and smooth, about a minute. Stir 65g sugar, 1/4 tsp lemon zest, 3 1/2 tsp Earl Grey, and heaping 1/4 tsp fine sea salt together in a small bowl, then add to the butter. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stir 150g flour and 25g cornstarch together in another small bowl. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and add the flour to the butter mixture all at once. Beat on low speed just until a dough forms.

Lay out a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap on a flat surface. Scrape the cookie dough into the center of the paper or plastic wrap and press it into a long rectangle or smooth log. Wrap tightly and chill in the fridge for 2 hours or up to a couple of days. (You can also freeze the log for up to a couple of months—simply thaw it in the fridge overnight before baking).

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Unwrap the dough and slice into scant 1/4-inch thick cookies. Arrange the cookies on a lined baking tray, leaving an inch or so between them (they won’t grow much at all, so they can be close). Bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through, until the edges are golden brown. Let cool completely before eating (they might even be best the day after). Serve with tea for the full effect. Enjoy!

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