Cheer in a Cup

Tea is comfort; and although familiar can yet be surprising, presenting nuances hitherto unnoticed.

As I look into my tea cabinet, much winnowed now and ready to be replenished at the start of a new and hopefully better year, I am cheered by turning to the old standbys…sturdy Sri Lankan black teas (Kandy, Kenilworth), a few Chinese smokier ones (Lapsang Souchong and even some Keemuns), and of course Assams – malty, golden-tipped, crushed, torn and curled, bold-leafed, and otherwise. All of these brisk teas are welcome now that the weather has cooled, and continuous rain punctuates the soundscape: Comforting and enveloping in its own way. Cocooning has absorbed a new meaning in this ever-uncertain pandemic climate. My time is taken up with raiding the pantry for dinner ideas, baking aplenty, and thinking of simple but irresistible sweets that will sit by the teacup, restorative for that mid-afternoon slump.

At this time, I can’t seem to get enough of a sandy tea shortbread, sugar coated and simple to make. Instead of working the butter into the flour, this one calls for butter simply melted, cooled, and then mixed in; resulting in a wonderful melt-in-your-mouth texture. If you have some very finely-powdered tea (you can pulverize them in a small blender until fine), then feel free to add a bit to the mixture before baking.

Pieces of tea shortbread stacked on a plate with a clear glass of tea behind

Ingredients 

  • 2 c. (9.2 ozs) all-purpose flour  
  • ¼ c. (1-1/4 ozs) rice flour (You can swap out half of this and replace with finely pulverized tea of your choice if you’d like) 
  • ¼ c. (1-3/4 ozs) granulated sugar plus more to coat the to of the cookies just out of the oven)
  • ½ t. fine salt
  • 16 T (8 ozs) melted butter, cooled

Instructions

  1. Set up an 8 x 8-inch square baking pan by lightly buttering the bottom and sides. Cut two 8-inch-wide strips of parchment paper (or foil) long enough to overhang the pan on both sides by about 2 inches; place them into the prepared pan so that they are crossing each other. 
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
  3. Melt the butter and let it cool. 
  4. In a bowl, use a whisk to blend the flour, rice flour, sugar, and salt. Add the cooled butter and mix well to create a well-homogenized dough. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan and then press into the pan lightly. 
  5. On a shelf, halfway up from the bottom of the oven, bake for about 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately upon removing the tea shortbread from the oven, sprinkle with granulated sugar. Cut into desired-sized pieces while still warm.
  6. Let cool, and then using the parchment paper, carefully lift out the cut tea shortbread. Place in an airtight container at room temperature. These will retain their buttery freshness for a few days.

Happy, healthy new year to all, full of many memorable cups!!!

For a ginger-infused shortbread by Robert, check out another of his recipes

Image provided and copyright held by author