I do not consider myself a baker. At all. Actually, I pride myself in saying “I’m a cook, not a baker.” I remember many concoctions that I’ve put together that, in the words of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, were “underbaked,” “very close in texture”, that did not have all the “layers.” After binge watching 6 hours of the Great British Baking Show on Netflix, I felt empowered to venture into some baking for myself. I feel as though I’ve absorbed some of the baking skills of these talented amateur British bakers and I wanted to see if I could put myself to the task of having a “good bake.”
I happened upon a really great recipe for shortbread on Family Circle’s website (link below)
This was such an excellent recipe to build off of, but I modified a few things to make it fit my own tastes and the tastes of my family who would be helping me to enjoy these shortbread biscuits. In Asian cooking, there is often minimal or moderate use of sugar. Sugar is seen as a nemesis of health and there is a level of shaming that happens when your older relatives catch you eating something sweet. Some people even take pride in saying “I don’t eat sweet things.” That’s actually quite a smart way to avoid unhealthy overconsumption if you think about it. Being the American-Born-Chinese (ABC) that I am, I cannot help but love my sweets, but in moderation of course. Thus, I modified this recipe to intensify aromatic flavors and balance sugar content. Most recipes I find for European-inspired sweets are often too sweet for my own tastes. I hope you enjoy this recipe and get a chance to experiment with your own aromatics and nuts in your shortbread this holiday season!
I found that grinding my spices with a mortar and pestle intensified the flavors more so than pulsing them in a food processor. Definitely go with a mortar and pestle for this step if you have one at home!
I used to make overly crumbly shortbread because I did not knead or work my dough enough. I found that working it a bit, helped my shortbread to help it build structure and not just crumble at the touch.
If you do not own a food processor large enough to make these cookies (neither do I), I found that using a pastry cutter is a great way to get the job done too. It just requires some elbow grease and arm power.
Ovens are finicky and fickle creatures. Every oven has its own temperament. I find that my oven runs hot, so when certain recipes call for a certain temperature, I make sure that I watch my time closely. I always have to rotate my pans as well, because I have hot spots in my oven and rotating ensures even cooking all around. Experiment with your own oven and see if you can tame the beast that it is to make it work for you and your baking/cooking.
Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 24 cookies
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1/8 cup confectioners sugar
1/8 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp water
2 tbsp of aromatic tea leaves (matcha, earl grey, chai)
Using a mortor and pestle or spice grinder, grind aromatic tea until they become a fine powder. Pass through a sieve to ensure that no large chunks of tea end up in your cookies. Note that this step of grinding your tea is not necessary when you have matcha powder because it already comes in a fine powder.
Combine dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse together with butter until the butter is well incorporated into the flour. There should be no large chunks of butter left.
(Optional: For matcha cookies, add 1 cup chopped walnuts and 1 tbsp honey to dough)
Add in water and continue to pulse until well incorporated.
Pour out dough onto a clean floured surface and knead for 1-2 minutes. This step helps to create gluten, which well help the shortbread have a nice structure instead of crumbling to the touch.
When the dough has come together, roll into a thin log about 1.5-2 inches in diameter. Cover in saran wrap and place in the refrigerator/freezer to set for 5-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cut dough into even 1/4 inch thick slices and place onto a baking sheet, leaving some (but not much) space in between.
(Optional: For matcha cookies, cover the log in a thin layer of brown sugar before cutting cookies)
Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes until the edges are just starting to brown. Then increase heat to 375 degrees for the last 3-5 minutes of baking.
Rotate your baking tray in the oven to ensure even baking if you notice a hotspot in your oven.
Watch cookies closely at the last few minutes and remove from the oven when the edges are golden brown. Try not to “overbake.” =P