A few weeks ago we received an email at work – the entire school was having a bake-off! Now, I am pretty confident when it comes to cooking. A pasta sauce, for example, allows for a pinch of this – a drop of that – and maybe a few too many grinds of black pepper…it may end up a bit spicy, but overall it still works. But baking. Baking is exact, and mistakes don’t hide as easily. Aside from the occasional chocolate chip cookie or banana bread, I simply lack comfort when it comes to working with floury things.
But anyone who knows me will tell you that I suffer from a mean case of competitiveness – and I wasn’t about to pass up a contest. There are stories, sure, but all you really need to know is aside from golf and ice skating, I will confidently challenge anyone to any sport – and this same attitude carries over into other parts of my life. Like baking contests.
I decided that making an over-the-top ooey gooey fudgy pile of chocolate and junk food, although delicious, wasn’t my play this time around. Instead, I wanted a recipe that would showcase unique flavors – something sophisticated. I stumbled upon a beautiful blog and a brilliant flavor pairing: earl grey and lemon. I raised the stakes a bit by deciding to make a dairy-free vegan version of the recipe – which means I swapped coconut oil in for the butter. Et voila! Delicate shortbread-like cookie sandwiches with earl grey essence and a refreshing springy hint of lemon! If I can pull this off, so can you!
Ingredients for Cookies:
2 cups flour
6 bags of earl grey tea leaves (I used Trader Joe’s – simply snip the bags and empty contents)
1/2 tsp of salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
almond milk (or water)
1 cup coconut oil (I measured roughly 1 cup of the oil when solid, then melted it down to liquid)
Ingredients for Frosting:
1/2 cup coconut oil (same measurement as above)
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl (if you have a food processor, it would be preferred), combine the flour, salt, both sugars, and the earl grey tea leaves. Using an immersion blender or food processor (you could also skip this step if you have neither on hand), blend the dry ingredients together until the tea has reached a sand-like consistency within the flour, like little specks.
Add in the cup of melted coconut oil, vanilla, and 1/4 cup of almond milk (warm water would work as well). Pulse together, or blend, until a dough is formed. I found the mixture to be a bit too dry, and slowly added almond milk bit by bit until the dough had absorbed all of the flour. The dough should be easy to handle and should feel like shortbread cookie dough.
Form the dough into a cylinder and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. Using cooking spray, grease a cookie sheet. When the dough has chilled, use a flour-lined surface to flatten it. It may take a minute or so to soften with the warmth of your hands. I don’t have space to roll, so I simply divided the dough into a few big chunks and flattened them one at a time with my hands until it was about 1/3 inch thick. Using a cookie cutter the size of an Oreo cookie (or, if you’re cool like me, the top to your Trader Joe’s ground cinnamon spice jar) carefully cut little rounds of cookies and set them on the pan.
Bake at 375 for about 10 minutes, or until the bottoms seem to have browned slightly. Remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack.
For the frosting, melt the coconut oil and let it cool for a minute or two away from the heat. Using a zester or a cheese grater, zest the lemon peel into the coconut oil. Then, juice the lemon into the oil as well.
Add in your powdered sugar and use an electric or hand-held whisk to beat up the frosting.* Continue whipping until the frosting reaches the right consistency – sort of like a dryer version of toothpaste.
*This part depends on the juiciness of your lemon – mine happened to be quite juicy, so in addition to the 2 cups of powdered sugar, I added a few extra shakes throughout the process.
Once your cookies have cooled, use a spatula to spread on little bits of frosting to a cookie, then make it a sandwich by sticking a second cookie on top and pressing them together.