GEHC - Making Scottish Shortbread with Raelene Gannon

Making traditional Scottish Shortbread with Tea For All Its Splendour’s Raelene Gannon

Park in the driveway, you will see the car with Tea Boss license plates.

“The door is open.”

This is the text I received from Raelene Gannon just before our meeting at her home in Bradford, Ontario for my next Great Ethnic Home Cooks.

Today is Scottish Day and without a doubt one of my favourites. Well really, they all are. I was greeted in the kitchen by the most stunning homemade cast iron baked bread infused with Areola cherry and fig tea along with whole dried cherries. Why tea? We will get to that through our chat here, but suffice to say,  Raelene is a Master Tea Sommelier and the owner of Tea and All Its Splendour. Rae made one of the most divine dishes I have ever eaten to pair with this wonderful bread. Baked Brie topped with one tablespoon of Tea and All Its Splendour Butter Nut Spiced Tea, which is a black tea, infused with pistachios, cumin, almonds and pink peppercorns and a tablespoon of butter to moisten the tea. . It was baked in an oven proof pot at 350 Degrees F for 20 minutes and out it came - bubbling and so incredible.

 

We will list where to get the tea at the end of the story. Now, this bread and Brie had nothing to do with what we were making. Today it was an offering of welcome and it showed Rae’s two really strong passions:  tea and baking. Baking is what I primarily came for, and my addiction and fear of the famous Scottish Shortbread. Scared because I often find them doughy and dry like a desert. I have eaten thick ones; dolloped ones, those triangles and paper-thin ones, but rarely a decent one. Rae was here to help me with this. . Rae’s family is of Scottish decent but she herself is a third generation Canadian. She grew up in Saskatchewan, which has a strong Commonwealth heritage and learned her love of baking by spending summers with her aunt and grandma. When Rae was discussing her love of baking and bread making she instantly went to memory when all three women were baking what Rae calls “Prairie Dinner Rolls.”

Rae grew up with her dad, who was not a terrific cook. In fact breakfast and Kraft Pizza were his specialties. Rae learned early on if she wanted to eat well, she had better learn how to cook, as there were few parts of the family that she could channel.  Cooking became not so much of a necessity, although it was and always will be a joy and passion.

Raelene’s cookbook, Tea From Cup To Plate, is all about foods infused with tea. There are  about four or more shortbread recipes. As with all Great Ethnic Home Cooks, Rae starts with a great classic recipe and then adapted it to her love of tea. It is a very simple recipe with few ingredients, but the trick is in the mixing which is short and sweet.

 

Classic Shortbreads

  • 1cup, chilled salted butter, cubed into ½” dice
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 325 Degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the butter, sugar and cornstarch into a food processor and process until combined. Now add the flour and again process until a rough ball forms. Turn the dough onto a flat surface covered with parchment or wax paper and form the dough into a log that is approximately 1” in diameter. Place the log in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill and become firm for cutting.

Unroll the dough and slice with a sharp knife into ¼” to ½” medallions. Place in the oven to bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges. Remove form the oven and allow them to cool before handling. Store in an airtight container.

As I said, we also had some fun with these cookies, and because of Rae’s background, we infused a batch with Earl Grey Tea and another with Oolong Tea, Cheddar and Cayenne.

Let’s start with the Earl Grey. Please note that the process is slightly different to combine ingredients but then with both of these recipes the chilling and baking is the same.

 

Earl Grey Tea Shortbreads

Tea Concentrate

Cookies

  • 1 cup chilled salted butter, cubed into ½” dice
  • 3 tablespoons crushed loose Crème of Earl Grey. Crush with a mortar and pestle
  • (a rolling pin also works) 
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour divided

 

Preheat the oven to 325 Degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

To make the tea concentrate, place tea leaves in a bowl or cup and pour boiling water over them. Steep for five minutes, strain and cool. Reserve three tablespoons of the liquid for the cookies.

To make the cookies, place the butter, sugar, tea leaves and cornstarch into a food processor and process until combined. Add ¾ cup of flour and two tablespoons of the tea concentrate, pulse gently until mixture is crumbly. Add the remaining ¾ cup flour and the last tablespoon of concentrate and process until the mixture “balls” into a smooth dough. Turn the dough onto a flat surface covered in parchment or waxed paper. Twist the ends of the paper making it look like a large bonbon. Hold the ends and bang the roll onto the counter rotating so the dough becomes a square log. You can in fact make the cookies as large or small as you like. Process the same way as the plain ones.

 

 

Savoury Oolong Tea Cheddar Shortbreads

Tea Concentrate

  • 3 tablespoons of loose Wuyi Rock Oolong Tea - this is a smoky tea and if you do not want to order it from Rae you can get many loose teas in a variety of places now.
  • ½ cup boiling water

Shortbread

  • 1 ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups shredded Aged Cheddar, the older the better
  • 2 teaspoons loose Oolong Tea
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of Cayenne - I like more bit so I add a ½ teaspoon
  • ½ cup chilled salted butter, cubed into a ½” dice
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts, optional

To make the tea concentrate, place tea leaves in a bowl or cup and pour boiling water over them. Steep for five minutes, strain and cool. Reserve three tablespoons of the liquid for the cookies.

To make the cookies, place flour, tea leaves, cheese, salt and cayenne into a food processor and process until combined.  Add the butter and process until the dough resembles coarse crumbs. Add reserved tea one tablespoon at a time and process until the dough forms a smooth ball.

Now you can as with all the recipes make it square, round or roll it out and use a fork to make crackers. There is a photo of this and it is quite easy to grasp.

Something to note:
this dough freezes beautifully just thaw it enough to cut it without it cracking.

You will also see a picture of shortbread cookies with a cherry on top; these are called 'Whipped Shortbreads' and they are exactly what it says. The dough is beaten and combined. I am really amazed at how versatile this dough is and all the fun, sweet and savoury applications there are.

I learned so much about teas and shortbreads. If the truth be known, many teas should be called “tea infusions” and ones without actual tea, like mint, chamomile and more, are really just “infusions”and not tea at all.

Try the cookies and do try that brie - you will be a hero for sure. I am no longer worried about making shortbread and I look forward to funking mine up with all sorts of things like Stilton, dried apricots and more.

As with all my articles please let me know what your thoughts are. If you are or know of a Great Ethnic Home Cook that I should meet, drop me a line.

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Eat well,

Joanna

by Joanna Sable for Great Ethnic Home Cooks- published January 10, 2016