Why to Add Tea to Your Baked Goods

chocolate dipped shortbread baked with tea
Diana L

Image courtesy of @thelifejolie

Tea is a delicious ingredient to add to many recipes, but have you ever tried baking with it? You can, and you should! It’s a tasty way to spice up cookies, cakes, and bread. This recipe for shortbread smells and tastes like chai tea, taking it from ordinary to extraordinary with minimal additional effort. 

Adding the flavor of tea to baked goods can be done in two ways—one method is to melt butter, add tea leaves and steep. This method adds the flavor without any visible trace of the tea leaves. Another even easier method is to mix the dry tea into the batter or dough. (If you are using a coarser, loose tea or tea with whole ingredients such as cloves, you will want to grind it down for smaller pieces with this method.) The flecks of ground chai tea add a nice visual element to these shortbread cookies.

Thank you @laurabradley for this recipe for infused chai tea shortbread. To make this a fast and easy dessert, we are using method two so grind up some chai and get ready to bake!

Chocolate-Dipped Chai Tea Shortbread Cookies
Yield: 12 cookies
Time: 2½ to 3 hours, largely unattended

¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons loose chai tea
⅓ cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
⅛ teaspoon salt
1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Beat ½ cup of the butter and the sugar with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer (or with a handheld mixer in a large bowl) until well combined. (Reserve the remaining butter for another use.)

2. Grind up the chai tea, and mix it directly into the creamed butter and sugar. Add the flour and salt and beat on low until just combined. (The mixture will resemble small pebbles.) If the dough crumbles when you try to form it into a ball with your hands, add a few drops of cold water. Wrap the dough in foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Heat the oven to 350°F. Unwrap the dough and place it on a generously floured surface. Pat the dough into a ½-inch-thick disc with your hands, then sprinkle the dough with flour and gently roll the dough with a rolling pin to smooth the top. Cut into rounds with a 2-inch cookie cutter or glass and transfer to an ungreased baking sheet, leaving 1 inch between cookies. Bake until the cookies are firm and beginning to turn golden, about 10 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer the cookies to wire racks or paper towels to finish cooling.

4. Put chocolate chips in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. (Or put the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until it melts.) Carefully dip each cookie halfway into the melted chocolate, then transfer it to wax paper to cool. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a few days.

Tips for Baking with Tea

TIP 1: Use a colorful herbal tea such as blood orange tea to naturally color your baked goods and frostings. Be careful to mix the butter and tea well for an even color distribution. Or leave it a little random for a swirled effect on the frosting!

TIP 2: Make a tea-infused butter by melting butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add tea (we prefer chai tea). Let steep for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not let the butter brown or burn. Remove from the heat and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Press the butter through a sieve, pressing hard on the tea leaves. You will have some butter that you can't get off of the leaves. Discard the tea leaves and let the butter solidify as it comes up to room temperature. To speed up this process you can freeze it for about one hour until it’s solid but still soft. Use this butter in any recipe that requires butter! 

TIP 3: When making tea-infused butter, use slightly more butter than you need as some will remain stuck on the tea leaves that you discard. As a rule of thumb, use about 1 cup of butter to yield 3/4 of a cup of finished tea-infused butter.

TIP 4: Use 1-1/2 teaspoons of loose leaf tea per tablespoon of butter. Use fresh, loose tea to ensure a more flavorful result. Make sure the aromas and flavors match your recipe and don't compete with the other ingredients.

TIP 5: If your recipe doesn't call for butter, don't worry! You can still add tea flavor by steeping it in the milk or water that is in your recipe. To steep tea in milk, heat the milk on your stove over a medium heat. Add a couple tablespoons of loose leaf tea and let it simmer and steep for 10-15 minutes. Let the milk cool slightly, strain out the tea leaves, and add the milk to your recipe.

TIP 6: Add ground tea to your dry goods. Using a food processor or pestle and mortar, grind your tea into a fine powder and mix it in with your dry ingredients.




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