Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Tea Infused Butter and Cardamom Tea Shortbread Cookies

It's been very quiet in my house lately (okay, as quiet as a home with three kids 10 and under can be).  What I mean is, it's just kind of been us around here.  Many friends have moved away, some are away for the summer, visitors have come and gone.  My hubby has been traveling and working like crazy.  It's just been very......still.

A couple of weeks ago our niece blew in like a whirlwind to disrupt the stillness for a little while.  Only a little more than 10 years younger than me, she feels a little more like a friend than a niece.  She's a little like her mother- a bit of a gypsy, very independent, headstrong and outspoken.  And I mean all of those in the best possible way.  I'm a bit envious, I must admit.  She's in her mid-20s traveling around the world doing missionary work, deciding on grad school or the next step in her life, no ties and full of the promise of life.  I've known this young lady since she was a little girl but her adult self is a far cry from the little pixie who was a flower girl at my wedding.

As we spent hours at the table and in my kitchen talking, sipping (endless) cups of tea I got to know my niece as an adult.  It was so interesting to really see what was going on in her life beyond the chipper and always upbeat Facebook posts and Instagram photos.  And I think getting to share myself with her she got to know me as a real person, not just the nice girl who married her uncle.  She is absolutely a fireball of energy and optimism and there's such a sincere person behind the constant smiles and enthusiasm.  A true joy of a person to know.

Our home in Germany was the week-long pit stop in my niece's journey back to the US from 6 months in India.  She brought a few gifts for us and among my favorites is the cardamom tea we never got a chance to share together.  It's a black tea that is not very finely ground and infused with fragrant cardamom.  If you've spent any time around here you'll know that tea is among my favorite flavors.  I've ground it into cookies and infused it into milk for cupcakes but the flavor never quite comes through as much as I'd like.  I ran across a new method the other day that I thought I'd try out- infusing the butter in the recipe directly.  The butter really takes on the flavor of the tea, almost a little too strongly as a matter of fact, and I think I may have found my favorite new way to get tea into my baked goods.  I've got the butter base and a cookie recipe for you today and another to follow soon.  If you're a tea lover I guarantee that you will not be disappointed with the results.

Tea Infused Butter
Makes about 1 cup.  Based on a method from Sprinkle Bakes.
For the printable recipe, click here.

This is such an interesting method for infusing flavor.  It's easy to whip up and can wait in the fridge until you're ready to bake with it.  You lose a bit of the butter as you strain the tea so the trick is to start with a bit more than you want for the final product.  The infused butter can be used in place of plain butter in any baking recipe.

18 tbs butter
2 tbs loose black tea

Place the butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat.  As the butter begins to melt and pool at the bottom of the pan add the tea and stir.  Continue to cook until the butter has melted completely.  Remove the pan from the heat and steep, stirring occasionally, for several minutes until the butter has taken on a deep golden color from the tea.

Place a tea towel (that you do not mind getting stained) in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl.  Pour the infused butter through the towel and strainer pressing as much butter through as possible.  Gather the tea towel with the tea in the center and squeeze to press any remaining butter through.  Place the bowl with the butter into the refrigerator.  Stir the butter every 5 minutes or so (to redistribute the milk solids and fats) until the butter has solidified.  Scrape the butter into a storage container and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Cardamom Tea Shortbread Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.  Adapted from this lovely recipe on Food52.
For the printable recipe, click here.

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste)
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp milk
1/2 cup cardamom tea infused butter (from recipe above), room temperature
about 1/4 cup turbinado sugar for rolling the cookies

Place the sugars and vanilla bean together in a food processor.  Pulse several times until the vanilla bean is ground into small bits.  Add the flour and pulse until just combined.  Place the vanilla, milk and butter into the flour mixture.  Pulse again until the ingredients come together to form a dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather gently into a ball.  Roll the dough into a log roughly 1.5 inches in diameter.  Spread the turbinado sugar over a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap.  Roll the dough log over the sugar to coat the outside.  Pour off any extra sugar and wrap the dough log in the parchment or plastic wrap.  Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to firm up.

When ready to bake cookies, heat your oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment or a nonstick silicone liner.

Remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator and unwrap.  Slice the dough into 1/3 inch rounds rolling the dough every few slices to keep it round.  Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet leaving 1/2 inch between each cookie.  Bake the cookies  for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies are just beginning to turn golden at the edges.  Place the cookie sheet on a wire rack and let the cookies cool for 5 minutes.  Remove the cookies from the cookie sheet with a spatula and continue to cool on the wire rack.

Cookies will keep for several days in an airtight container.

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