Monday, March 24, 2014

Tea and cookies



A couple of quick recipe reports: 

Tea-based desserts are polarizing. No matter how silky and fragrant it is, no matter how pretty it looks in your grandmother’s vintage china tea cups, if you make jasmine panna cotta roughly half the people at the table simply will not eat it. Last night, my 4-year-old nephew shouted, “I don’t like it!” after a single bite. No one else was quite that direct. They just quietly put down their spoons.

But the other half of the people scraped clean their cups. Infused with jasmine pearls tea, Valerie Gordon's panna cotta from Sweet is similar to a lovely tea cream I made last year, but firmer, richer and probably better, though I’d have to taste the two side by side to be sure. 

The panna cotta wasn’t roundly adored, but the accompanying almond shortbread was. These delicious, buttery, nicely salty cookies (another recipe from Sweet) are about the size of poker chips and ridiculously easy. You should make them . All shortbread is good, but this one is extra good. I’m stingy with my star stickers. Valerie Gordon now has three.  
Just feeling exuberant, I guess!

28 comments:

  1. Those cookies look soooo good! I am definetely going to try them. Lucky you to have an impartial audience to test your recipes on. The 4yr old's opinion absolutely cracked me up! So honest. I myself am not a fan of Jasmine in food or tea but love it in the garden.

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    1. There's some beautiful jasmine growing in your old garden -- maybe the only beautiful thing in there, Pat.

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  2. Just wanted to say I really enjoy your blog, but your "exuberance" above finally yanked me out of lurkdom. Hubby always teases me about my cookbook annotations, so seeing that you do it too made me chuckle. Thank you!

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    1. You're welcome! My mother annotated so I annotate and my daughter now annotates.

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  3. Well, I went to Valerie Confections in Westlake on the way to the Calder exhibit. After purchasing the cookbook, I became intrigued by the rose petal petits fours and wanted to give them a try before committing. The passion fruit purée wasn't overpowering like I thought it might be and the cake was moist, almost wet. The sugared rose petal on top was pointless because someone didn't add the dried rose petals to the ganache! My mom and I split a Durango cookie and they are fantastic. When I dissected the cookie, I noticed that the smoked salt was a very fine grained salt and I couldn't detect any smoke flavor. The cacao nibs she used didn't seem to be as bitter as mine. Maybe she used the sweet variety?

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    Replies
    1. No smoky flavor in my cookies either. I haven't always loved cacao nibs, but they didn't overpower these cookies -- and mine weren't sweet. Oh, I'd love to taste her petit fours, especially rose petal! I went to her booth at the Grand Central Market back in December, but I don't think she was selling petit fours. I had a cookie. I think it was plain chocolate chip, but now I wonder if it was Durango.

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    2. I made them today with my own smoked salt. I didn't have enough milk chocolate so had to supplement with 64% bittersweet, but it was mostly milk chocolate, and I didn't have almonds at work (though they are coming out of my ears here at home, because nougat!) so used roasted hazelnuts, and I was a bit underwhelmed. The smoked salt didn't come through enough. Also, I wish I had read the recipe carefully enough to realize I could have just gone NEXT DOOR to the Spice Station for the Durango salt, and saved myself the (minimal) trouble of smoking my own. I will try the shortbread cookies because you said to. And I love writing in cookbooks, though usually just to multiply the recipe or insert modifications. I love the idea of dating and rating it!

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    3. As a professional pastry chef, you will probably find the shortbread very basic and discover ways to make it even better. I had two nougats today -- I've been saving them, but decided I needed a treat. Divine.

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    4. I also made the Durangos yesterday. I could only find Maldon's smoked salt (it tastes exactly like their original/don't bother). Using your advice about smoked almonds, I subbed my husband's fav TJ product: Mesquite Seasoned Smoked Almonds (Roasted). Normally, I find them offensive but they were just what the cookie needed. Topped with giant flakes of Maldon and reduced from frisbee size to cookie size, I arrived at a winner. Even better than the one I tried on Saturday! My mom had ordered their lavender petit four. They cost four dollars and get their own little box. They use dried lavender that must be terribly fresh because I found it to be too "lotion-y". I have a shortbread recipe that uses the fresh petals of lavender and it is lovely and delicate. http://m.chsugar.com/recipe/lavender-sugar-cookies-1172

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  4. I think I'm in the anti-tea dessert crowd, since I don't like desserts that taste like my grandmother's face powder -- this also eliminates anything with rose water. So I empathize with your little nephew (aside from, that is, all the times he gets to eat the other amazingly delicious things you make; in those cases I'm just jealous. and hungry).

    Your shortbread cookies look wonderful. I'll have to try that recipe since the last few times I essayed shortbread the edges crumbled a lot. It looks like yours came out beautifully.

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    Replies
    1. I know, there are a lot of you out there who don't do rosewater, violet, lavender, tea. All of which are irresistible to me. It's great shortbread. If you do try it, I hope you like it.

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  5. I already had this on my "to make" list from Sweet, and I am so glad to hear it is as good as it looks. (I appreciated her description of this recipe.) I am also intrigued by some of her shortbread variations. I'm not crazy about tea flavored foods, but I am going to have to make lavender infused shortbread, I think. Ever had it? For some reason, rosemary shortbread also sounds good to me, although I don't remember if that was one of her suggested variations. Since there are only two of us here, I am plodding along, trying to use restraint in how quickly I make these recipes.

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    1. I've never had lavender shortbread. I have had rosemary flavored cookies, maybe even shortbread, and I remember they were good -- but you definitely didn't want to eat them all at once. What have you made? I think the gingersnaps or the caramel crispies will be next on the cookie front for me.

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    2. I made the oatmeal cookies, and I thought they were very, very good. I kept part of the batter back to see if I could make them smaller without losing the crispy/chewy factors. A cookie that big is just too big for us, but the chewy in the middle with the crispy on the edges makes a very fine cookie. I also thought they weren't too sweet, which is often a problem with cookies, at least for me. I think I like them better than my usual oatmeal cookie recipe, which is the Vanishing Oatmeal cookie recipe on the Quaker oats lid, which is very good. It is more of the chunky variety. I am awaiting a visit from my stepson to see what he thinks. He thinks he is the oatmeal cookie expert around here. Shortbread is definitely next.

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  6. I'm in the "tea is not dessert" camp. Guess I don't want to chew my tea. Those almond shortbread cookies look delicious, on the other hand. I've saved the recipe and it's at the top of my list for the next baking day.

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    Replies
    1. No chewing involved! It's panna cotta! But a lot of people are just not into it. I understand. I feel that way about avocado desserts.

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  7. Years ago I had a dream about putting earl grey tea in a creme brulee, so I did it and it was wonderful. Later that year I visited New York and ate earl grey ice cream. I know I didn't start the trend, but I did invent it on my own. I am always careful to not put too much of things like tea of floral essences into desserts. You don't want them to taste like face cream/soap/shampoo. There's a wonderful book called The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten that starts out with a quote about a dessert that tasted like "unguents, cosmetics" and he wanted to "fall upon the cook" in protest.

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    1. I remember that book well. Was that quote in reference to Indian desserts? I think he disliked Indian desserts. And he had something against blue food. I would love earl grey creme brulee or ice cream.

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  8. The almond shortbread cookies remind me of Schweizer Nusstaler (Swiss nut cookies). Before cutting the roll of dough, you roll it in cocoa.

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  9. OH, Jennifer, I just made the almond shortbread cookies today. They are superb. My husband and I cannot quit eating them! And they are so easy and quick to make. I like them much better than the oatmeal cookies. Thank you so much for the review. I am going to have fun playing with this recipe. I foresee many sweet and savory variations on this combination of ingredients.

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