(IT WOULDN’T KILL) ME TO SWAP 1/2 OF THE CHOCOLATE WITH PEANUT BUTTER. SO INSTEAD, IT KILLED THE BROWNIES
HERE’S the thing. I am not particularly built for baking.
I know this sounds like false modesty… unappetisingly pretentious, especially after a consistent offering of bakery recipes in the past 2.5 years, ranging from simpler things like an imploding honey custard cake or blueberry muffin-french toasts, to more elaborate things like a gateau a la sour cream or a laminated Nutella morning bun. Sorry if I forgot to mention my relentless pursuit of everything-biscuits, and right, you’re absolutely right, this deep-fried apple/persimmon pies, despite of myself, were eeeeeeh-pic~~
Uh-hem, ok now seriously though, truth aside (….), that when it comes to baking, I struggle with a high precipitation of unnatural disasters with only a slight chance of prevalence. Not to mention that either ways, the day will only end sadly in tears, or, happily in fat thighs. Baking, is a no-win situation.
But let’s just say, we don’t have problems with fat thighs. Just saying… then why the struggle? Well… I was born, with a medical birth defect, which disallows me to follow recipes… precisely. There. It’s a chemical imbalance in my brain creating an illusion that makes me believe I am, at the very least, marginally smarter than a cookie-dough. Turns out… I am not. No one is. But this condition has grown resistant even to such keen awareness, to a point that… I can’t even follow my own recipes! At this very moment as we speak, a batch of brownie lies mutilated on a white sheet of parchment, recipe of which was tested, then tested, and thus theoretically foolproofed for people like myself, who’s really good at fucking up a recipe… yet I still did. Would it have killed me to swap 1/2 of the chocolate with peanut butter? No, no it wouldn’t at all. So instead, it killed the brownies. Certainly not the only dead thing here… A runny banana bread batter – not a pie-filling makes. Ricotta pastry cream – yikes.
I’m bringing this up at a very carefully timed juncture, a serene and orderly period right before the tsunami of holiday-pastry-season hits, so I have enough chance to reflect and ponder on my illness. Who am I but a good-hearted amateur baker – guided by presumed logics, set out to make the recipe-world more interesting, if not tastier – only to be haunted by unintended consequences. A walking cautionary tale marked with a bloody scarlet A-for-effort, and the stain of broken whipped cream. But if to tackle this illness fundamentally, means to obey a recipe unquestionably, then what is my trickling value in recipe-blogosphere without adding personal inputs?
So here, an opportunity to answer came promptly, where I have to create 5 recipes based on one single shortbread cookie-dough. A rare chance where I will try and master walking the fine line in between original recipe and artful adaptions, and as a good omen I hope, the first offering came encouragingly smooth – aka: success at 1.5 trial.
No tear was shed over the shortbread cookie-dough, adapted from the already-promising Bouchon Bakery cookbook, with the incorporation of almond flour to make this butter-laden cookie feel borderline socially responsible. But the jasmine tea powder buttercream-filling, utilizing one of my favourite kitchen-techniques of powderizing tea leaves to infuse into pastries, to no one’s surprise, proved to be slightly trickier. But like I said, only slightly. With just one minor adjustment, these sandwich cookies were buttery and flaky, with the elegant and floral essence of jasmine tea leaves and enough childish nostalgia to match.
At that moment, even if the buttery sheen on my finger tips reminded me how dangerous was this no-win dilemma that I was about to plunge in, the light of my baking-future, shined particularly hopeful again.
Makes: 13 ~ 16 cookies
Jasmine tea is a mild and faintly bitter variety, so to help the fragrance and flavour come through more prominently, some improvements are made after the first testing. First, the sugar in the cookie-dough and the icing, is both reduced significantly (without disaster that is…). I for one, am not a big fan of super sweet cookies, and this cookie is plenty sweet for my taste. Secondly, the jasmine tea powder is first mixed with a bit of milk to form a paste (instead of being added directly into the icing). The tiny amount of liquid plays a big part in releasing the flavour of the tea powder (think of it as steeping). So your icing will appear slightly greener than in the photographs.
Almond shortbread cookie-dough: adapted from Bouchon Bakery’s cookbook
- 13 tbsp (184 grams) unsalted butter, soften
- 1/3 cup (62 grams) light brown sugar
- 1 tsp (6 grams) vanilla paste, or vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cup (210 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (75 grams) almond flour/ground almond
- 3/4 tsp (2 grams) kosher salt
Cream/beat the unsalted butter in a stand-mixer with pedal-attachment (or in a large bowl with handheld mixer), until pail and fluffy, approx 5 min. Then add the light brown sugar and cream/beat again until fluffy, approx 5 min, scraping the bowl a few times in between. Add the vanilla paste (or vanilla extract) and mix until even, then the all-purpose flour, almond flour/ground almond and salt. Mix on low speed until the dough is very evenly incorporated.
Divide the dough in half and transfer to a large sheet of parchment. Fold the parchment over the dough so it doesn’t stick to your hands, then shape it into a flat, rectangular disk. Wrap the dough in the same parchment and chill in fridge for 30 ~ 1 hour. You want the dough to be firm but pliable. If it’s too cold, it will crack during rolling. Or freeze the dough until needed and thaw until pliable before rolling.
To bake the cookies: Preheat the oven on 325ºF/165ºC.
With the cookie-dough positioned in the center of parchment, dust both the top and bottom with some flour. Lay another large sheet of parchment over the top, and roll it out slowly into 1/8″ (3 mm) thick sheet. During rolling, it’s very important to flip the dough and the parchments together a few times, and dust flours in between dough and parchments to prevent sticking (this will make cutting much easier). Cut the cookies out with a cookie-cutter, then transfer with a small spatula or small knife (to keep the nice edge of the cookie) onto a parchment-lined baking-sheet. The cookies don’t expand much so no need for too much room in between. Gather the scraps and repeat to get as many cookies out as possible. If the dough, at any point, is getting too soft to work with, pop back in the fridge for 15 min.
Bake for 15 ~ 17 min until lightly browned on the edges. cool completely on a cooling-rack before icing.
Jasmine tea buttercream icing:
- 2 tbsp jasmine tea powder (see instructions below on how to make it), plus more for dusting
- 2 tbsp hot milk
- 6 tbsp (85 grams) unsalted butter, soften
- 1 cup (128 grams) icing sugar/powdered sugar
To make the jasmine tea powder: Powderize jasmine tea leaves in a spice-grinder for at least 1 min. The powder should be super fine like icing sugar. Keep in an air-tight jar until needed.
Mix 2 tbsp of jasmine tea powder with 2 tbsp of hot milk, then stir to form a paste. Set aside. Beat the unsalted butter and in a stand-mixer (or with handheld-mixer) until light, creamy and fluffy, approx 5 ~ 6 min. Sift the icing sugar/powdered sugar directly into the bowl, and add the jasmine tea and milk paste. Mix on low speed until evenly incorporated, then beat on medium-high speed for a min.
Apply about 1 1/2 tsp of filling for each cookies, then dust with more jasmine powder over the top (like dusting sugar). Keep the cookies in air-tight container.