I know for many of us shortbread isn’t exactly a breakfast item, but one of my over-riding memories of living in Rome was seeing my landlady every morning scoffing biscotti and knocking back an espresso topped up with lukewarm tap water. Quite pragmatic really. I also think we may be in danger of taking the whole healthy eating crusade too far, and we live in LA where this is endemic. As long as you are instrumental in creating the food you will eat, you cook the food you love, you know what’s gone into it and hopefully where it’s come from, the rest is just common sense.
These have a lightness about them; I’d say ethereal but that would be going a bit far. The egg yolks and butter keep things crumbly and short rather than cakey, which I’m not a huge fan of. This is probably because I’ve never mastered the hallowed chocolate chip cookie, which takes that subtle interplay of cookie and cake to its ultimate conclusion.
Cocoa and Earl Grey Shortbread
Adapted from Cindy Mushet, The Art and Soul of Baking
Makes about 24 (if using a 6cm round cookie cutter)
12 tbs (175g) butter, softened
Scant 1/2 cup (90g) organic cane sugar
Generous pinch of sea salt
2 medium egg yolks (organic and free range)
Grated zest of a whole orange or lemon
1 heaped tbs Earl Grey tea leaves
2 heaped tbs organic cocoa powder (Green and Blacks is good)
Scant 1 1/2 cup (200g) of plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
Whizz together the sugar and Earl Grey tea in a coffee grinder or spice mill until the tea leaves are very fine. Now beat this together with the butter until the mixture is light and fluffy. This can take a good 5 minutes but it’s important to get the right consistency. Add the salt, egg yolks and zest. Beat for half a minute. Sift together the flour and cocoa powder and gently fold it into the butter, sugar and egg mixture using a spatula until the mixture coheres. The dough will be very sticky. With floured hands place the dough on to a floured surface and pat into a wide, flat disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for half an hour. Preheat the oven to 350F. Roll out the dough onto a floured surface to a thickness of about 3mm. You may need to refrigerate again for short while after this bit. Use a 6cm cookie cutter – or whatever shape and size you want – to cut out your shortbreads and use a palette knife to transfer them to a non-stick unlined baking sheet and bake until just firm to the touch. 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and store on parchment paper in an airtight container. They keep for about a week.