Afternoon tea with Mr. Squirrel
Welcome to my blog and thank you for stopping by!
The connection between tea and squirrels might sound far-fetched, but let me tell you a story first. I fell in love with tea as a child. I would spend my afternoons at my grandmother's house and tea time was a daily ritual. It was not officially called "tea time" (it was called "merenda", the Italian word for "afternoon snack") but it was definitely a ritual which I remember looking forward to every day. She would serve strong black tea in old-fashioned fine porcelain cups accompanied with something sweet. Sometimes it was a cake she had lovingly baked, sometimes a croissant from the nearby bakery. Nothing fancy, but always special.
Not long ago, I stumbled upon a black and white photograph which inspired me. A little girl is sitting at a table set with a white tablecloth and a porcelain doll tea set. She is intently serving tea to her guest, who is sitting at the opposite end of the table. A squirrel. For some reason, this picture brought back all my fond memories of tea time with my grandmother.
And that's how The Tea Squirrel was born. Making a cup of tea is making time for something beautiful, creative and playful.
Tea ceremonies from around the world fascinate me. Tea was introduced to the Western world by the British and the ritual of afternoon tea still holds a special fascination. When I think of afternoon tea the British way, tiered cake stands and white tablecloths appear in front of my eyes. They are full of all sorts of sweet and savory delights served on fine porcelain tableware. But that doesn't mean that you need all the above to enjoy afternoon tea. You just need your own ritual.
Shortbread cookies are so buttery and elegant, yet so easy and adaptable. You can get creative and flavor this recipe with whatever inspires you! Adding finely milled rice flour (I used Jyoshin-ko from Japan) will improve the texture of your cookies, making them deliciously refined. I like to pair them with a full bodied tea (black or pu ehr) to counterbalance the richness of the butter.
Shortbread cookies three ways: matcha green tea, aniseed and lavender
1 cup (= 2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (226 gr)
1/2 cup powdered sugar (62,5 gr)
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour (187,5 gr)
1/2 cup white rice flour (80 gr)
2 tablespoons matcha green tea powder OR 1 tablespoon crushed aniseed + 1 teaspoon whole aniseed OR 1 teaspoon ground dried lavender buds (culinary grade)
powdered sugar for sprinkling if you like
Cream butter until smooth, then gradually add the sugar. Sift in flours a little at a time and add matcha or aniseed or lavender. Now you can either shape the dough into a log or roll it out (1/2 inch thick, 1,5 cm). Either way, cover it in cling wrap and rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
If you shaped your dough into a log, cut it in slices, otherwise use a cookie cutter. You can see the resulting difference in shape in my photos; I shaped the matcha shortbread cookie dough into a log, which I then sliced, whereas the aniseed and lavender cookies were cut out with a cookie cutter. Rustic VS precise. It's fun to mix things up a little bit.
Bake in a preheated oven at 325 F / 160 C for 6 minutes, Then at 300 F / 150 C for 18 minutes until light brown at the bottom. Watch carefully.
Enjoy with a beautiful cup of tea.
Recipe adapted from: http://www.biteclubeats.com/matcha-shortbread-cookie-recipe/
How did you become a tea lover? What tea would you pair these shortbread cookies with?
Let me know in the comments below. I am looking forward to hearing your story!