I’m a bit of a worrier when it comes to essays, especially now that I’m in Honours and the stuff I do actually counts! I’d like to pretend that I suffer in silence and manage my work myself, but I just don’t. My friends and my long-suffering significant other should probably get a mention on my diploma, if and when I graduate, for all the time they put in editing my grammar and assuring me that yes, my thesis DOES make sense.
Don’t feel too sorry for them, though. I am fully aware that they aren’t really interested in how female time-poverty hinders development in rural Sub-Saharan Africa or how the rise of moderate political Islam can be seen as a sign of a future for sustainable, organic democracy in the Middle East. I’m also fully aware that nothing relaxes me after handing in a paper like a little cooking. So, I’ve cunningly combined thanking my friends for their patience and meticulousness with my favorite hobby. And the results are pretty delicious.
As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’m not much of a baker. But people don’t tend to take kindly to being offered giant cuts of meat (though, if anyone wants to buy me a present that’s a good place to start, hint hint) and savory dishes can be pretty hit and miss as well. But everyone likes cookies. So, I bake. And my friends keep agreeing to read my essays, so I guess the cookies must be pretty good!
I ran across this recipe online and have been tinkering with it to get it just the way I like it. I love the idea of incorporating the very herbal, earthy taste of tea into chocolate cookies. It’s probably blasphemy to defame the sacred chocolate chip cookie, but sometimes they’re just too sweet for me.
The tea adds a nice balance to the sweetness and gives these cookies a complexity that really makes them, at least in my mind, seem like special occasion cookies. You can’t even necessarily recognize the tea taste as being tea, especially after the cookies have cooled, but you do get that flavor complexity and a dampening of the overt sweetness. The first time I made these cookies I did them with Darjeeling tea, and the second time I used a rose-petal infused Darjeeling. Both times they were really nice. I haven’t tried other types of tea, but I think that any fragrant black tea would work. I think I’ll try them with Earl Grey next time.
Other than just being good because of the tea, these cookies are just generally great. In fact, you could probably make them without the tea and just brown the butter and they would still be delicious. They’re not cake-y, and both times I’ve made them they’ve managed to be crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside: perfection.
– 250 grams butter, room temperature
– ½ cup loose tea leaves (you can also cut open tea bags for this, which is what I did the first time I made them, but the leaves are smaller and harder to get out of the butter.)
– 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
– 1 cup + 4 tablespoons light brown sugar, firmly packed
– I egg
– 3/4-teaspoon baking powder
– 3/4-teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
– 1 ¾ cups plain flour
– 1/4-teaspoon salt
– 250-280 grams (depending on how chocolate-y you like your cookies) of dark chocolate chunks or dark chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 180C
2. Melt about 220 grams of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once it has melted, add the tea leaves, lower the heat a little bit, and let the mixture simmer. You want lower heat over a long time as opposed to quickly bringing the mixture to a boil. That way more of the tea flavor infuses with the butter.
3. Allow the butter/tea mixture to simmer until the butter has browned, but stir frequently in order to prevent the butter from burning. Even if the tea is obscuring the color of the butter, you should be able to tell when it’s browned because the bubbles on the top of the mixture will turn a roasted, nutty brown.
4. Once the butter has browned, remove the mixture from heat. Stir the vanilla in and allow the mixture to cool (and further infuse) for about 15 minutes, away from the heat.
5. Using a colander—or cheesecloth if you used a tea with really small leaves—separate the butter from the tea, collecting the butter in a large bowl. Don’t worry if there is a little bit of tea left in the butter after you’ve strained it, it’s not a big deal. The strained butter will probably be slightly strangely colored—the Darjeeling I used turned it green! But this isn’t going to affect the final appearance of your cookies.
6. Melt the remaining 30g butter and add it to the tea-infused butter mixture.
7. Put the mixture in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to bring it to room temperature.
8. Once the butter is room temperature, add the light brown sugar and use a spatula to combine.
9. Add the egg and use a whisk to beat the mixture for about two minutes. You can also use a hand mixer, but both times I did this recipe I did everything by hand and was really pleased with the results.
10. Add the baking powder, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), flour, and salt. Use a spatula to fold it into the butter/sugar/egg mixture and use either a spatula or a spoon (the mixture will hopefully be too thick to effectively whisk) to mix everything until it is just combined. Don’t over stir! You just want to make sure that all the dry ingredients have combined evenly with the wet mixture.
11. Add chocolate chunks or chips, stirring to make sure they are evenly dispersed.
12. If your dough has gotten a little greasy or cake batter-y just from being out in a hot kitchen, stick the bowl of dough into the fridge for 5-10 minutes just to make it a little firmer. This will keep your cookies from spreading too thin and help them keep their shape during baking.
13. When you’re ready to bake your cookies, line a baking sheet with parchment paper (though I’ve used aluminum foil and been happy with the nice crispiness it gives the bottom of the cookies) and measure out your cookies. This recipe makes about 18 standard-sized cookies, but if you want to make monster cookies or tiny cookies, that’s your prerogative. Go nuts. Just remember that the cookies will spread a little bit in the oven (though less than usual if you’ve refrigerated them) so don’t put them too close to one another.
14. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, but check on them because they may cook slower or faster, depending on your oven and how chewy or crunchy you like your cookies. Once they are golden brown all over they are done, even if they are still soft in the middle. Trust me, they will firm up significantly during the cooling process. When in doubt, take them out. They continue to cook outside the oven and that’s usually more than enough.
15. Use a spatula to transfer the cookies to a cooling rack if you have one. If you don’t, take the parchment paper of foil with the cookies on it off the baking tray and move it somewhere cooler—you don’t want your cookies to overcook from being on a hot tray!
16. Desperately try not to eat all the cookies before they cool—I think they’re better at room temperature! But even if you can’t wait that long, enjoy!
Photo credit: Emily Grant