Earl Grey Sandwich Cookies

Some time in middle school, I discovered English Breakfast tea, and it became one of my favorite beverages. On and off for years at a time, my day has started with a large mug of dark-brewed tea, with milk and sugar added.

As I mentioned in this post, I found a recipe several years ago for Black Tea Cardamom Cookies and was instantly intrigued. The first year I tried them, the cookies were so crumbly as to be almost impossible. The flavor seemed good, and I decided it was worth tinkering with the recipe. The second year I adjusted the dough, I believe by adding an extra egg and reducing the flour. The cookie definitely worked better, but the tea wasn’t necessarily the highlight. It was a decent spice cookie, but didn’t make a huge impression on myself or my friends.

This year, when I re-discovered the cookie, my first thought was to try re-working it yet again. And then common sense prevailed, and I went looking on Pinterest for another black tea cookie that might be better from the start. I found several recipes that seemed interesting, but I settled on these cookies.

I had an old box of Celestial Seasonings’ Victorian Earl Grey tea in the cupboard, old enough that I was worried about how potent it would be. It still smelled good, so I went ahead and used it. Obviously fresher tea would impart even more flavor, but it was still pretty amazing.

I want to share a couple of tips for rolling out the cookie dough. I have started rolling my cookies more and more on parchment  paper rather than directly on the counter. There are several good reasons for this. Rolling on parchment allows you to skip flouring the dough, which allows you to re-roll the dough scraps more times without making the dough tougher and tougher. Also, you can lift up the parchment and judge both how thick the dough is and if it’s evenly rolled based on how the light comes through the dough. If an area is “darker,” it means it’s thicker, so it’s easy to roll just that area until it’s uniform.

Another tip is to stack the dough scraps and re-roll from that, rather than gathering the scraps back into a ball. This is a tip borrowed from pie crust and laminated doughs, where it is important to keep the layers in the same orientations. This is another trick to help reduce toughness when rolling and re-rolling the dough.

The raw dough had a good tea smell to it, and I was instantly optimistic for the cookie. But it wasn’t until I started the frosting that I was really excited. The original recipe uses a cooked flour frosting, which I have made before, so I modified the recipe slightly and cooked the sugar with the flour and liquid. (Some people have trouble getting the granulated sugar to fully incorporate into the butter without any residual grit; adding the sugar to the roux eliminates that possibility without any downsides.) The concentrated double dose of tea – brewed tea as the liquid and additional dry tea for flavor – gave a wonderful taste and flavor to the frosting.

Cooked flour frostings (which have a number of different names) are really intriguing. Basically, you cook flour and a liquid together, sometimes including the sugar, until it forms a thick paste. This paste is cooled, then whipped in a stand mixer. As it is whipped, butter is slowly added to it. The speed is increased, and the frosting is whipped for a while until the butter is fully incorporated and emulsified, with a silken texture.

This beautiful frosting is then sandwiched between two cookies, and then I dare you to resist taking a bite from the first sandwich. The final cookie definitely lived up to my expectations, and it is definitely going into my keeper pile!

Earl Grey Sandwich Cookies

Yield: 20-30 sandwich cookies, depending on size

Earl Grey Sandwich Cookies

Adapted from Lucy Parissi

  • For the cookies:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • Zest of 1 lemon, optional
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon Earl Grey tea (about 4 tea bags; see note)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • For the filling:
  • 3 tablespoon plain flour
  • 1/2 cup very strongly brewed Earl Grey tea (see instructions)
  • 10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Earl Grey tea (about 4 tea bags; see note)
  • Cream butter and sugar together until light fluffy. Add egg and lemon zest, and beat until fully incorporated.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the mixer, beating just until a dough forms. Scrape the dough out onto the counter, and gently bring it together, kneading a little as necessary. Bring the dough into a ball, and then flatten it into a disc. Wrap the disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or for up to several days.
  • While the dough is resting, make the frosting. Place three tea bags into a 1 cup glass liquid measuring cup. Pour boiling water to the 2/3 cup mark, and let the tea steep for at least 5 minutes. When the liquid is dark and fragrant, remove the tea bags. Adjust water level, either by spilling some out or adding additional water, until there is 1/2 cup liquid.
  • Place the sugar and granular tea into a blender or food processor, and pulse to break the tea down a little. If desired, you can grind the tea to a powder, but it is not necessary. In a small stainless steel pot (note: it will not work in aluminum), add the flour, sugar and tea mixture, and the brewed tea. Stir to help mix everything together. Place on a medium flame, and cook it down until very thick. Stir continuously with a heat-safe spatula, making sure to keep the bottom and sides scraped clean so nothing is sticking. Keep cooking the mixture until it is very thick, and cook it for at least a couple of minutes more, until it is not getting any thicker.
  • Pull the tea mixture off the heat, and let the mixture cool to room temperature. It can be refrigerated for a couple of days; just let it come back to room temperature before the next step.
  • Place the tea mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer, and begin whipping it with the paddle attachment. Add butter slowly, one tablespoon at a time, until all butter has been added. Increase the speed of the mixer, and let it mix for at least 3 to 5 minutes, until it is light, fluffy, and fully mixed together. If necessary, stop the mixer to scrape down the sides. When frosting is ready, it can be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator until ready for use.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Remove cookie dough from refrigerator, and let it begin to come to room temperature.
  • Cut the dough in half, and place one half on a sheet of parchment paper. Roll dough to about 1/4" thick. Use desired cookie cutter to cut shapes out from the sheet of dough, placing them as close to each other to minimize re-rolling. Re-roll the scraps and cut cookies from it. Place scraps aside momentarily, and roll out the second half of dough. After cutting cookies from it, gather all scraps and keep re-rolling until all cookies have been cut out.
  • Place cookies on a baking sheet. They will not spread much, so there is no need to leave a lot of room around them. Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes, until light golden in color.
  • When cookies have cooled completely, they can be filled immediately, or stored in an airtight container until you are ready to fill them. To fill the cookies, put frosting in a piping bag or just use a knife to smooth it on. Filled cookies can also be stored in an airtight container.
  • Note: I used tea from tea bags; just cut the tea bag open and dump the contents into the measuring spoon. If the tea is in relatively small/short pieces, it can be used as-is - I did not notice any unpleasant texture in either the cookie or frosting from my tea. If you prefer, you can grind the tea into smaller pieces or into a powder. If the tea has larger pieces, you will likely want to break them down at least a little.
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