I am a firm believer that we all have the same 24 hours in a day. We spend it differently. There are certain things—work, school, commuting—that are fixed in our schedules, eating up allotted hours the way health insurance costs and rent checks consume our salaries. But there’s almost always some give, some wiggle room. What we do with that extra space is what defines us.
Just like I can manipulate my budget to pay for dinner out when I really want to, I can always find time to talk with my best friend on the telephone. It doesn’t matter if I’m on vacation or if I’ve got a million tasks on the day’s to-do list. Certain things get priority.
It’s why my teacher friend, Jackie, comes over to watch a movie with me, hauling her grading records and fourth-grade papers with her on a Saturday night. It’s the reason I can stay updated with Facebook throughout the week. It’s why I’m usually in bed by 11 PM.
And, also, it’s the story of me and my kitchen.
There are a lot of people who say things about not having time to cook—they have kids or they work too many hours or they are just too busy, in that vague way we like to use when our high-pressure schedules finally work to our advantage, providing an excuse out of anything we don’t want to do.
But these cookies—yes, another cookie recipe and yes, there will be another coming soon—won’t take longer than an episode of The Office to assemble, after which you pop them in the freezer. What could be easier? When you find a minute (really, whenever you feel like it), pull out the frozen log, let it thaw a bit, slice into cookies and place them on a sheet in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes—less time than it takes for me to drive to work, how about you?—and you’ve got something pretty amazing.
Buttery and sweet, with the unmistakable punch of Earl Grey (from bergamot, which is a sort of orange) flavor, these shortbread cookies get credit for being the first Martha Stewart recipe I ever tried and loved, after which I’ve never looked back.
I say this (and mean it!) about a lot of cookies, I know, but: you truly can’t eat just one Earl Grey cookie. For one thing, they’re teeny-tiny, the size of silver dollars, at least the way I roll the logs. But also, the beautiful dough, all dotted with crumbled bits of tea, sends this fragrant citrus smell out of the oven, and, one bite in, the flavor proves addictive. I’m telling you: however you choose to spend your time these next few days, let these cookies be a part of it.
Earl Grey Cookies
from Martha Stewart’s Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons finely ground Earl Grey tea leaves (from about 4 bags)*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
Whisk flour, tea and salt in a small bowl; set aside.
Put butter, sugar and orange zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture until just combined.
Divide dough in half. Transfer each half to a piece of parchment paper and shape into logs. Freeze the logs until firm, 1 hour (can be frozen longer and used at your convenience—I’ve been known to freeze the dough for a few weeks).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut logs into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment or Silpat.
Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through until edges are golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 5 days.
*It’s really important to crush the tea leaves thoroughly, so you won’t have big, wiry pieces in the cookies. You could use a food processor, but I prefer putting the tea in a plastic baggie and mashing it with a rolling pin or a hammer.