A celebration of the British institution of tea and biscuits
Are you a dunker? Of course, you are. Who isn’t? Biscuits are one of those rare things that spans social class. They are enjoyed by everyone from HRH and her Viennese whirl to your local Mancunion with his cup o’ builders and a rich tea.
“A quick snack after work, the perfect wind-down treat, a gift, a gesture of apology or support to a friend, or even to show off when your in-laws are visiting.”
With the events that have occurred in our hometown this week, we think we could do with a little of national pride and community spirit. Of course, we understand that food does not solve anything or heal the pain, but it has the uncanny ability to bring people together. Open your doors Manchester, stick the kettle on and dunk some soft, tea soaked shortbread with your neighbours and show those bastards that their attempted reign of terror will not break our spirit. Thus, this post becomes an ode to biscuits; the single greatest symbol of British solidarity, long may it live.
Lucky for us Brits, there is so much choice down the biscuit isle in the supermarket to fuel our national addiction. One can wonder aimlessly, eyes wide, reflecting the bright packages and moreish descriptions. We love a good custard cream, or Tunnocks caramel log, don’t get us wrong but nothing beats homemade biscuits. Cutting out cookies is indicative of childhood for us; a sugary floured surface of playful nostalgia. It’s something we have missed as we are yet to have little ones of our own. Due to the fact that is it so easy to get hold of a plethora of delicious shortbreads, cookies and wafers, and perhaps a little inherent laziness, we had forgotten how bloody easy it was to make biscuits in your own kitchen. Equally, we forgot how useful they were; a quick snack after work, the perfect wind-down treat, a gift, a gesture of apology or support to a friend, or even to show off when your in-laws are visiting.
“Cutting out cookies is indicative of childhood for us; a sugary floured surface of playful nostalgia.”
This week, we went all out English and created the ultimate nod to tea and biscuits with a little twist of G&T. Shortbread flavoured with Earl Grey tea leaves and lemon and sandwiched together with zesty lemon buttercream, like the posh-est Oreo you ever did see. They are beautiful and indulgent, and would make a fantastic prop in any period drama, if we may say so ourselves.
It would make the most sense to serve these with Earl Grey. We are obsessed with a company we have just come across called Joe’s Tea Co. They’ve gone nice and simple with the name, it’s exactly what it says on the tea caddy. Their ‘The Earl of Grey’ (£4.50) is a great choice; it is an elegant blend of black tea, bergamot and orange oil. Simple as that. It’s organic too, which is always a plus for us. We made our biscuits with these tea leaves, and it really makes a difference. Remember, everything you cook is worth the very best ingredients. We understand that Earl Grey isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, quite literally, but there are plenty more out there that would complement these sophisticated biscuits. Fragrant Orange Blossom (£6.00) from Whittards tastes like a bouquet of flowers and is a lighter choice. It has rich notes of orange which would go well with the citrus tones in the biscuits.
In an odd sort of way, sometimes it takes tragedy to bring a community, family or relationship back together, and there is no better way to celebrate that togetherness than with a steaming cup of tea and a biscuit.
We love you Manchester, and we are proud to call you our home.
See you next Tuesday over on side dish,
*illustration credit Dick Vincent
Earl Grey shortbread with lemon buttercream
Makes 24 biscuits (48 halves)
For the shortbread
200g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
300g plain flour, sifted
100g caster sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of one lemon, juiced into a small bowl
3 tbsp. Earl Grey tea leaves (three teabags emptied)
For the buttercream
85g soft unsalted butter
175 sifted icing sugar
1 tbsp. milk
Zest and Juice of ½ lemon
Method A: (aka the lazy method) Place the butter, flour, sugar, zest and tea in a food processor and blitz until it forms a fine breadcrumb texture. Add a spoon of lemon juice at a time until it comes together into a dough. Take out the processor and form a ball.
Method B: (traditional AF) Place the butter, flour, sugar, zest and tea in a large mixing bowl. With clean hands rub the butter and dry ingredients between your fingers until it forms the breadcrumbs. Add a spoon of lemon at a time and bring the dough together into a ball
Method A&B: Wrap the shortbread dough in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180° and line an 18 x 24 cm baking tin with parchment, held in place by a knob of butter at each corner.
On a heavily floured surface roll out the pastry to a thickness of 2mm. It might be easier to do this in two halves. Using a 3cm round cutter, cut the first 24 shortbreads and place them on the tray. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until crisp and slightly golden.
Place them on a wire cooling tray, and repeat the process. You will need 48 individual shortbreads, and if you have any mixture left over, gather it up, wrap in cling film and freeze for up to a month.
As the biscuits cool, make the buttercream. In a mixer, whisk the sifted icing sugar and butter together. Add the milk and it should come together into a fluffy icing. Add the zest and juice and give it a final whisk to bring it together. If it isn’t still enough, add a little more icing sugar.
With a knife spread a little buttercream on one half of the shortbread and sandwich together with the other. Place back on the cooled baking tray, dust with icing sugar and place them back in the fridge to allow the buttercream to set. Serve cold or at room temperature.