Sunday, 28 June 2009

Earl grey butter cookies

My sister is addicted to congolais. And by that I don't mean she has dated a string of guys from the Congo (Congolais in French) but that her life is dominated by a cone-shaped, yellowish pud of coconut and syrup that may, or may not, trace its origins back to the Congo.

This is not one of these subtle, layered, pastel-colored pastries the French are famous for the world over. This is a sticky mess of sugar and coconut. You thought fudge was sweet, bite into a congolais and feel coconut flakes seal your top and lower jaw together.

She has confessed to sometimes stockpiling the congolais because her favorite ones are from the subsidized cafeteria at her workplace (ah....France....sometimes I do miss you) and she obviously can't go there at the weekend (not because she wouldn't-- don't underestimate her-- but because it's closed). So she has sometimes been known to come home on Friday night with half a dozen congolais in her handbag.

Eager to free herself from her dependence on a single supplier, she tried to convince me, during my recent visit to Paris, to learn how to make the exact same congolais. Unfortunately I didn't have much time the day she was craving them (I was in Paris people! And just because I bake a lot of cookies doesn't mean I have lost all interest in shopping) and there was no coconut powder in my mom's cupboard so I tried to assuage my sister as I could: I made butter cookies. But because I was keen to show I was making an effort, I grandly decided to make earl-grey cookies. 

My initial instinct, to be completely honest, was to make matcha cookies, but that wasn't on hand -- my mom is not really one for exotic ingredients. However, a quick rummage through her kitchen revealed some heavenly scented earl grey tea from one of my favorite shops in Paris: The Mariage Freres. They have recently revamped their packaging and replaced the severe black tins with more appealing colors. The minute I saw the tin, I was determined to follow through, not so much for my sister -- whose frown as she watched me chop up my mom's best earl grey suggested a slight worry at the outcome of this experiment--but in pursuit of a pretty picture of the tin.

As you can see, I didn't relent. And although the sables obviously weren't as popular with the sis as the congolais, she did pack up half a dozen to eat the next day. So they can't have been bad. She is not one to waste a calorie on something less than delicious.

140g unsalted butter at room temperature
140g sugar (white or unrefined caster sugar, both work)
1 egg
280g flour (better to use white here so the cookies are crisp)
About four tablespoons chopped best earl grey loose tea

Cream butter and sugar together in a food processor (or with a hand whisk). If your butter is fridge cold and you can't wait for it to warm up, cut it in a few chunks and pop it in the microwave for 15 seconds.

Once the mixture is pale yellow, add the egg, your earl grey and then all the flour at once. Scrape everything together to form a ball. Do not overwork the dough. If it's too wet, add some flour. When you're happy with the texture, separate into two balls, flatten slightly and individually wrap in cling film. Put in the fridge for around 2 hours (or, again if you can't wait, 15 minutes in the freezer).

Spread some flour on your work surface.  Roll the dough out. You want it the thickness of a CD case. Thicker and it won't get crisp enough, thinner and it will fall apart when you're trying to peel it off your countertop. Using a wine glass or a cookie cutter, make circles. Put the cookies on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes. You want to watch check after 6, however. These cookies must stay blond. When they're just beginning to color at their edges, take out and cool on a rack.

You can keep the cookies in a sealed tin or tupperware at room temperature for at least 5 days.

I find that they make great gifts too, love by parents and children alike. Just order some small transparent bags that you will tie with a string or a ribbon.

1 comment:

  1. What a delicious idea! And ah, Mariage Freres...le sigh...


    You are a tease. So to speak.