I’m a huge bookworm. What I love most about books is their ability of transporting, to a different time and place. Incredibly, I have discovered that food has that very same ability; it relies on the appeal of aesthetics through site and conjuring various feelings through the palate. Food is just as much about experience as it is about pure nutrition. It should nourish both in animus and in corpus, that is to say both in body and soul.
I’ve had this weird fascination with books written during and about the Victorian era. One of my favorites is Jane Eyre. I was recently dusting off my book shelf and couldn’t help but peruse through the pages of my illustrated copy of Charlotte Brontë’s popular novel. Suddenly I had the sudden urge to bake a cookie that would encapsulate the feelings that are invoked when reading this book. English novels are almost synonymous with tea, and what better choice than Earl Grey? Thus, my Earl Grey cookies were born.
I have to be honest. My experiments in the kitchen aren’t always successful and sometimes it takes several tries to create the perfect recipe. But, I think you become a better cook through your failures, more so than through your successes. My first shot at these cookies created a flat failure. I used honey instead of sugar in the recipe, and ended up with Earl Grey pancakes instead of cookies. Presentation:fail. Taste: heavenly. I still ate a few, the flavor was very rich and textured with the perfect amount of zest and spice. My secret ingredients in addition to the tea: lemon zest and cardamom!
Attempt number two was definitely better, but produced something resembling muffin tops rather than cookies. Again the flavors were transcendent, but the consistency was not right. I wanted the chewy/crispy combination of the perfect cookie.
I was about to give up on the whole project, but since I was SO close I convinced myself to give it one more go.
The mere satisfaction of success is inexplicable. It’s enough to fuel many more projects, because what emerged from the oven was something truly delectable. The intermingling of the lemon zest and the bergamot from the Earl Grey was a citrus explosion; coupled with the smokey cardamom and I swear I was eating the words off the page. How’s that for 19th Century England in a bite?
“It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it.”
– Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
Recipe: Earl Grey Cookies
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup of unsalted butter
2 tbs Earl Grey tea (finely chopped/ground)
zest from 1 lemon
1. In a medium bowl cream together sugar, butter, and vanilla. Next add egg and whip for one minute. Blend in lemon zest.
2. In a smaller bowl whisk together all dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, Earl Grey, and cardamom. *Note on grinding Earl Grey, I used a mortar and pestle but a coffee grinder should also do the trick.
3. Slowly mix in dry ingredients with creamed mixture until completely incorporated. Roll dough into a ball, cover in saran wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
4. Preheat oven to 375F. Drop cookies into greased baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
yields two dozen cookies.
Have you ever had an idea for a recipe that took several attempts to get it just right?