Sometimes I bake late at night as a way to wind down after a long day of work in front of the computer. Mostly chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies, but sometimes pies, if I'm feeling a bit ambitious. (We're talking 10:30 or 11pm, after all.) Yes, there are countless nutritionists who'll tell you that late-night eating is bad for you. But I'll go out on a limb and claim that smelling freshly baked cookies close to bedtime and even eating one or two has the same soothing effect that a glass of milk before bed does.
Lately, though, I've been switching gears and baking shortbread instead. I don't know why shortbread hasn't been on the regular rotation until now. It's such a simple thing to whip up, and pretty quick, even with the time it takes to chill the dough. Laurie Colwin called it "the essence of butter". Yet, it doesn't feel as heavy as a cookie loaded with chocolate chips. Whether that is a good or bad thing is up to you.
Last week for a blogger potluck at Gojee's headquarters in Soho, I made a batch of Earl Grey Shortbread with bits of Earl Grey tea spotting throughout. Like the other great blogger dishes - Kian's Yunnan-style shrimp fried rice, Veronica's Goan shrimp curry, Chitra 's curried and creamed kale, Cathy's vegetarian chili, and Paul and Steve's cheddar-blue fricos, Barb's tiramisu, and a handful of others - it was gone by the end of the night, except for a few crumbs.
Trust me that it's quite addictive, and slightly caffeinated, helpful to remember if you are trying one right before bed.
Earl Grey Shortbread
Makes about 2 dozen
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
- Mix together the flour, tea leaves, and salt until the tea leaves are speckled throughout the mixture.
- Add the confectioner's sugar, vanilla extract, and butter. Mix until a dough forms.
- Transfer the dough to a cutting board or other large clean surface and roll into a log about 2 1/2-inches in diameter. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or in the freezer for 15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 373 degrees F.
- Slice the log into disks about 1/3-inch thick. Place the disks on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper, about 2 inches apart. Bake until the bottom edges are just brown, about 10 to 12 minutes, checking at the 10 minute mark. Transfer to wire racks and cool to room temperature.
Adapted from The Food Network