I really, really love Earl Grey tea cookies. There's nothing better on a cold afternoon. So when I saw the vanilla contest pop up, I figured I'd try to make a recipe for vanilla tea cookies. I cobbled together a recipe with inspiration from my favorite Earl Grey tea cookie recipe (vintage The Kitchn) and from Heidi Swanson's tip to use the whole bean in cookies. Since rooibos tea goes so well with vanilla, I swapped that in for the Earl Grey. The result is a crisp, buttery cookie with a seriously sultry flavor. My officemates gobbled them up in no time. As you can see from the photo, the first time, I tried to use whole rooibos leaves both in the cookies and mixed with the turbinado crust. Texture? Not so lovely. Much better ground up, which is what I recommend here. This also makes for a beautiful, toast-colored cookie: perfect for fall and winter. —Rivka
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: Rivka is a cookie-addicted Food52er who is health consultant by day, food blogger by night.
WHAT: A cookie that captures tea time all in one bite.
HOW: Whip up a shortbread-style dough, roll in sugar, and wait impatiently by the oven door.
WHY WE LOVE IT: For the tea time twist, Rivka has you toast Rooibos leaves until they're beautifully fragrant -- this perfumes your kitchen (and your cookies) from the very first step of this recipe. —The Editors
Heat a small stainless steel pan over medium heat. When pan is hot, add rooibos leaves, and shake pan to distribute tea into a single layer. Toast for about 2 minutes, until tea is fragrant but not darkened. Depending on your leaves, this may happen much more quickly; watch it carefully. When leaves are fragrant, transfer them to a bowl and let cool for a couple minutes.
Combine the sugar, vanilla bean, and rooibos in the bowl of a food processor and pulse for about 2 minutes, until there are no chunks of bean left in the bowl. Add the powdered sugar, flour, and salt to the bowl and pulse a few times to combine. Then add the milk, vanilla, and butter and pulse several times, until a dough forms.
Turn dough onto a very lightly floured surface, gather it together, and roll it gently into a log 1.5-inches in diameter.
Sprinkle turbinado sugar on a plate or work surface, and roll cookie dough log in the sugar, making sure to cover the entire surface of the log with sugar. Wrap log in plastic or wax paper and transfer to the fridge or freezer for at least 30 minutes to chill. (You can leave the log in the freezer and slice off cookies one by one, whenever the urge strikes.)
When ready to bake, turn on the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment or silpat.
Remove log from fridge or freezer, and cut 1/3-inch slices off the log, rotating the log as you go to ensure that cookie slices stay round. Transfer cookies to the prepared baking sheet, leaving 1/2 inch between each (they don't really spread, but they need breathing room to crisp up). Bake for 12 minutes, until cookies are just starting to brown. Leave on the cookie sheet to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to racks.
Cookies will keep in an airtight container for several days.
I'm a healthcare consultant by day, food blogger by night, and I make a mean veggie chili. I'm eat a mostly-vegetarian diet, but have a soft spot for meat, especially braised short ribs. And this profile wouldn't be complete without an admission that I absolutely am addicted to cookies and chocolate. Finally, I love the idea of food52 and can't wait to share and read my and others' favorite recipes!