I Made Cookies From Small Town Hearts

It’s possible that I have a thing for cookies in books (see: my Mother-Daughter Book Club chocolate chip cookies). What can I say, I love baking and I also love reading about characters baking; it makes them extra relatable and lovable.

So food scenes are a general favorite of mine, and this one from Small Town Hearts by Lillie Vale is no exception:

I sank my teeth into a shortbread cookie that wasn’t perfectly round. The sweet, smoky notes of tea blended with the crushed vanilla beans I’d sprinkled into the cookie batter. The flavor was incredible — like sweet, crumbly autumn goodness. Like fragrant, floral tea and crisp breaths in brisk air. Like fingertips warmed by hot cocoa and enormous woolly sweaters wrapped around me.

(I’m aware the cookies are described as autumnal. But it’s a summer romance story, and also I just wanted to make these after my recent reread, okay?)

Recipe

makes approx. 2 dozen

  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 tablespoons (approx. 4 bags) Earl Grey tea 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 stick (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar aka powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

.

Notes:

  • I consulted three recipes for Earl Grey shortbread cookies which gave me three essentially identical ingredient lists but two distinct preparation methods — so I decided to make a half-batch of each and see whether there was a discernible difference.
  • Yes, this is in cups; I’m sorry but that’s what the original recipes gave me. You can convert to weight or spoon your flour into the measuring cup for more precision.
  • In the book, Babe used vanilla beans. I didn’t have any of those at hand so I had to settle for vanilla extract instead.

 

Method 1

from recipes by Claire RobinsonMartha Stewart

  1. Combine flour, tea, and salt. Mix until evenly distributed.
  2. Add sugar, vanilla, and butter.
  3. Roll in plastic wrap to form a log (approx. 2.5 inches in diameter). Chill in fridge for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  5. Slice log into 1/3-inch thick discs. Bake approx. 12 minutes, until edges are just golden brown.

.

Notes:

  • Original recipes use a food processor and a stand mixer, respectively; I used neither but they turned out fine.
  • The chilled dough log is still crumbly, which is why my cookies aren’t very pretty — but they held together during/after baking, and their literary counterparts weren’t perfect anyway.
  • Made exactly one dozen cookies. (I rearranged the tray after taking the photo.)

 

Method 2

from recipe by Sugar & Soul

  1. Blend butter and tea. Let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Cream butter/tea mixture and confectioner’s sugar together.
  4. Mix in flour and salt. (Dough takes a short while to come together, but it’ll get there.)
  5. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out 2-inch round cookies.
  6. Bake 12-15 minutes or until edges turn golden brown.

.

Notes:

  • I used a mini food processor to blend the butter and tea, mostly because my mom had one and I wanted to play with it.
  • Dough holds together much better while shaping and baking, though these weren’t quite perfect circles either. 
  • Made 8 cookies, though these are bigger than prescribed because I couldn’t find a cookie cutter and made do with a measuring cup.

 

Results & Final Notes

  • Recipes note that you should space out the cookies (approx. 2 inches apart), which I didn’t do but shortbread doesn’t really spread so it was fine.
  • Both batches were delightfully fragrant before, during, and after baking — I savored the Earl Grey scent while waiting for them to bake.
  • Both batches were also delicious and rich. Even as someone who finds most recipes too sweet, I could probably finish all 20 of these on my own within a few days.
  • For me, the clear winner is Method 2, which
    • was less frustrating to prepare (except for the waiting-two-hours part) and came out more aesthetically pleasing,
    • baked more quickly and evenly than Method 1, and
    • resulted in a more distinctive Earl Grey taste.
    • The biggest drawback would be the leftover scraps after cutting out cookies, but you can reshape, bake, and enjoy them before you share the rest of the batch … if you choose to share.
  • If you’ve also been quarantine baking/cooking, what have you made recently?
  • Do you have a favorite type of cookie?
  • Would you ever give these a try?

10 thoughts on “I Made Cookies From Small Town Hearts

  1. These sound so yummy! I haven’t read this book but I love Earl Grey tea. I do have to ask though because I’m an idiot – are you just cutting open the tea bags and dumping the leaves into the batter or are you brewing the tea and then adding it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. haha not at all, I wasn’t totally sure at first either! it turns out you add the tea leaves directly into the batter (shortbread dough doesn’t have added liquid). and can confirm, they turned out really tasty and were gone within a few days – definitely worth a try! 😋

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Aaah I’ve got this book on my TBR and there’s tea flavoured cookies drools they look so yummy and I may one day see if I can bake them. Also now I’m thinking of all the different flavoured cookies you could make with tea, and my tea loving soul is thriving at the mere thought xD

    Like

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