At work this week, I had to fill out an annual review. The seemingly innocuous questionnaire was only a page long, but was filled with loaded questions that would determine my next (or, heaven forbid, lack thereof) salary raise: What were my accomplishments for the year? How did I demonstrate my contribution to the company’s values? What were my strengths?
Now, if you know me in real life, I’m sure you’ll agree with this statement: I’m a completely deprecating person. Talking about myself and/or my achievements is something that is completely unnatural to me, for better or for worse. I always feel slightly fraudulent and embarrassed on the rare occasion that I’m talking myself up. That is, my face gets hot, and I can actually feel the blush creeping onto my face as I apologetically share news of my accomplishments.
I’m especially bad about it in the context of this blog. Last week, I attended a networking event where I met several local bloggers in the area. During the event, I listened to other attendees pitch their blogs and excitedly tell me what their personal brand was about; finally, they would pause and ask me what I blogged about. “Oh, nothing too important,” I would say, shrugging my blog off and deflecting the conversation back to the blogger’s work. At most, I would volunteer the phrase “I’m a food blogger who focuses on desserts and baking”, before steering the conversation away from my own blog by asking the blogger a question about themselves or their blog.
As I watched other bloggers confidently introduce themselves to the PR companies and local restaurant owners at the event, I was suddenly reminded of my friend Nathan in England (or, this dapper chap with the beautiful skin). During my last night in London, Nathan cooked a wonderfully delicious dinner: gooey, cheesy baked pasta with vegetables, accompanied by a from-scratch fruit galette with a buckwheat tart that has far surpassed anything I’ve ever made. As we complimented his cooking, Nathan consistently waved us off. He scoffed that the pasta bake was such an easy recipe that anybody could do it, and he made apologies for mistakes in the fruit tart that nobody even noticed.
At the time, I had almost snapped at him, “Stop being so damn modest! This is one of the best meals I’ve had in ages, and just accept the credit you deserve.” It baffled me that he just couldn’t accept something as minor as complimenting his cooking. What was the big deal? Was he trying to be noble? Because he was just being ridiculous! And so that was when it occurred to me — right then, standing alone by myself in the middle of a crowded room, awkwardly sipping my wine — I was guilty of the same damn thing on a much larger scale.
At the end of the day, I know that I’m doing myself a big disservice by trying to remain anonymous and blend in with the crowd. Although I often pass this blog off as something fun and easy I do in my spare time, the fact of the matter is, I work really damn hard on it and should accept some recognition. Modesty is a virtue, yes, but so is the strength to go after what you deserve.
So with that, this cookie recipe is dedicated to my friend Nathan and, well… me. The cookies are your regular, buttery, dark chocolate chip cookies but with a twist — the butter has been infused with Earl Grey tea, one of the world’s most comforting flavors to me (also, on a side note, Earl Grey is one of the most stereotypically British flavors too, so consider that an homage to your mother-country, N). These cookies are our reminder that it’s okay to be good at things, and it’s okay to admit that we are. Because apparently we need a little more help than most people.
See? There I go again, being self-deprecating. Oh well. Baby steps.
UPDATE (3/16/2014): A lot of you guys have reported that this recipe produces a dry batter that results in a crumbly cookie. I’ve revised the recipe and added an additional egg, which I think will help combat the dry batter. I’ve also changed the way you infuse the butter with the tea, to make sure you get the right amount of butter in the recipe.
Some baker’s notes:
- Plan ahead for this one! Several steps are time intensive. The first step requires you to create brown butter, and then allow the tea leaves to steep and infuse the butter for 30 to 45 minutes. The longer you steep the butter, the stronger your Earl Grey flavor will be. I recommend a minimum of at least 30 minutes. For tea lovers? Go the full hour.
- Additionally, the dough requires refrigeration overnight. In fact, the longer you refrigerate the cookies, the better they will be since the dough has time to soak in and absorb all the flavors.
- The secret to a good cookie texture is a good creaming process — don’t skimp! When I say cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 10 minutes, I mean 10 minutes. No, really.
- So there’s a weird step in this recipe — that is, once the dough has come together, I ask you to cover the dough in plastic cling wrap, roll it into a log, and then chill it overnight. Don’t ignore this step. The dough turns hard when it’s chilled, making it super difficult to portion it out into cookies. This log method makes it a lot easier for you — similar to frozen cookie dough, you can just cut it into 1-inch rounds and then bake accordingly.
- Feeling creative? You can sub out the Earl Grey tea with any black tea of your preference. If you go this route, let me know what combinations you tried in the comments section!
Dark Chocolate and Earl Grey Tea Cookies
- a fine-mesh sieve
- plastic wrap
- 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons or 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup portions, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup Earl Grey tea leaves
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons light brown sugar, tightly packed
- 2 eggs
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 10 ounces (1 package) dark chocolate (or, semi-sweet) chunks
- In a large saucepan, brown 1/2 cup unsalted butter by melting over medium-low heat. Once the butter is fully melted, increase the heat to medium and stir occasionally, cooking the butter until it turns golden brown and develops a nutty aroma. Once the butter has browned, remove from heat and immediately whisk in 1/2 cup Earl Grey tea leaves and 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract. Make sure that the leaves don’t float to the top of the butter; whisk hard enough so that the leaves get soaked and incorporated into the butter. Set aside to rest for 30 – 45 minutes.
- Once the tea has infused the butter, place your fine-mesh sieve over the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer. Strain the tea and butter mixture into the bowl, using a large wooden spoon or a rubber spatula to press down on the leaves. You want to squeeze out as much butter as possible, so don't be afraid to use force! Melt the remaining 1/4 cup of unsalted butter and add to the butter you've squeezed from the tea.
- Once you've squeezed out all the butter you can, add 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons light brown sugar. Using the paddle attachment, beat on med-high speed for 10 minutes until well combined and the mixture has turned light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl before turning on the mixer to its lowest speed and adding 2 eggs, only adding the next egg until the first one is fully incorporated. Continue mixing until just combined.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, 2/4 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Turn the mixer to its lowest speed and add the flour mixture, beating until just combined. Add 10 ounces chocolate chunks and beat until just combined. At this point, the mixture has come together to form a cookie dough.
- Halve the cookie dough and shape each portion into a log about 2 inches in diameter. It doesn’t have to be a perfect log at this point, don’t worry! Cover each log well in plastic wrap. Once both logs are covered in plastic wrap, refrigerate for 15 minutes to firm up the dough.
- Once the dough is a little firmer than it was, take out the logs and use the palm of your hands to roll them against a hard surface to create perfect logs. Once you’re satisfied with the shape of your logs, put them back in the refrigerator and chill for at least 10 – 12 hours, preferably overnight.
- Once the cookie dough is sufficiently chilled, preheat the oven to 375 (F) and prepare a baking pan by lining it with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.
- Remove the cookie dough logs from the refrigerator, unwrapping and discarding the plastic wrap. Cut into 1-inch thick rounds, and space each round at least 4 inches apart from each other. Gently press each cookie round with the back of your hand and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the edges have set. The centers will look undercooked, but the cookies will firm up as they cool. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about 8 to 10 minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.