Lately I’ve been trying to create new ideas in the oldest way possible – gathering inspiration from as many avenues as I can find. For example, I recently rediscovered my love of Lady Grey tea, which is a more floral and citrus forward version of Earl Grey. It seems more delicate to me as well, and is the perfect cup of morning tea when you’re feeling slow and low. Mid-tea, I thought, this would be so great with chocolate. Then I thought, plus a crisp and buttery cookie base, PLUS more orange zest. Where can I find this delicious Frankenstein cookie? I’ll just make it up. Earl grey and chocolate isn’t a new idea, but it’s always a good one.
But first I researched similar cookies from two of my cookie gurus, Dorie Greenspan and Smitten Kitchen, and once again these ladies did not disappoint. I used the Melody Cookies recipe as the base, added some grated dark chocolate a la Smitten Kitchen, then added tea leaves and orange zest to the dough, as well as mixing orange zest with the sugar dusted on top of the cookies. The result was exactly what I’d imagined: a thin, buttery sablé with the trademark sandy/crisp texture. The orange zest sparkled across the backdrop of deeply dark cocoa powder, and the tea flavor was faint but alluring – like a trail of perfume after someone leaves a room. I love the scalloped shape that both recipes used, but I don’t have a scalloped cutter, so I settled for simple rounds.
I haven’t tried it yet, but I bet these would be amazing as sandwich cookies – maybe with some dulce de leche, or as ice cream sandwiches!
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder (this is wonderful if you can find it)
- a palm-sized amount of 60% or 70% dark chocolate, for grating
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- zest from one orange
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg white
- sugar in the raw or sanding sugar, to finish, plus more orange zest to taste
- Whisk or sift flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda together.
- In a separate large bowl, combine the sugar and the orange zest, using your fingers to crumble them together until the sugar is fragrant. To this, add the softened butter and beat until smooth and creamy. You can use a hand mixer, stand mixer, food processor, or of course just a wooden spoon. More gently, incorporate the egg white and vanilla.
- Add the dry ingredients in three stages, so they have time to absorb well enough. The cocoa powder makes the texture fairly powdery at first, but keep stirring/mixing just until it blends in.
- Divide the dough in half, and place each half between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll the dough until quite thin, about 1/8″ inch. You want it to be thin enough so that the cookies will have a great snap after they’re baked. Transfer the sheets of dough onto a baking tray (you can stack them), and freeze for an hour. The dough will get pliable and sticky at room temp, so you’ll probably have to re-freeze at least once when you’re cutting the shapes.
- Preheat the oven to 350F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take one sheet of rolled dough from the freeze, and peel off the top sheet of parchment. Replace the sheet, flip the dough over, then peel and replace the other sheet. This will make it much easier for the cookies to come off cleanly when they are cut.
- Using the (fancy or simple) cookie cutter, cut out the dough and place onto the prepared baking sheet. If it’s already getting sticky, put it back in the freezer for a bit till it’s firm enough to transfer. Re-roll the scraps and repeat. You can place the cookies fairly close together, as they don’t spread very much. Combine the coarse sugar and orange zest like you did for the dough, and sprinkle on top of the cookies.
- If you’re planning to freeze extra cookies, cut out the shapes, don’t dust them with sugar, and place them on another parchment lined tray. Freeze until they are solid enough to put into an airtight container. They will keep for at least a couple of weeks in the freezer. I’d recommend still separating the layers with parchment, even when frozen.
- Bake for a total of 12 minutes or until the cookies are firm at the edges, rotating halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack until completely cool. Enjoy!
Till next time,
Pies & Pinups