Tea Baked In


Putting Tea in the Palm of Your Hand

What could be a more convenient form of tea-on-the-go than a cookie enhanced with tea? Your favorite cookies can take on new depth, complexity and life with the addition of tea.

Because baking is a careful balance of wet and dry ingredients, tea is rarely added in its full liquid form. Instead it may be steeped in one of the liquid ingredients or added as finely ground dry leaf. The tea is ground to a fine powder for flavor without added texture. It can be ground more coarsely if you want added crunch and mouth feel.

There are countless other ways tea can be included. Consider filling your sandwich cookies with a tea-infused ganache made by infusing tea leaves into the cream in your favorite ganache recipe. Do you enjoy making cookies filled with preserves? How about using tea preserves. Tea can be infused into your butter, as when making the brown butter for the Smoky Financier. After you strain your butter of the tea leaves and the browned butter solids, you can go on to use that wonderfully complex and flavorful butter in its liquid form in a financier, or chill it down to use as a solid for other recipes.

“Tea Cookie” has long described a cookie that is ideal to serve with tea, but these words may take on an entirely new meaning once you’ve seen the subtle, but complex, impact a little bit of tea can have in making portable treats.

Photos by Julian Landa

Cookie Recipes

Smoky Bacon Financiers

Financiers are small teacake style cookies that are defined by the inclusions of ground almonds and browned butter. The name is believed to have come about because these little treats first became very popular in Paris in the area around the Stock Exchange. Another theory is that they were originally baked off in miniature loaf pans and resembled small bars of gold bullion. The rectangular shape is still quite traditional, and while financier molds may be purchased specifically, these treats may also be baked off in miniature muffin tins, barquette molds, or any convenient small mold.

Pastry Chef Jared Bacheller at L’Espalier in Boston created this variation on the French classic financier, and they have been showing up recently as a special treat during afternoon tea. The smokiness of the Lapsang Souchong tea really plays up on the hint of smoke, richness and depth that the bacon provided.

Yield: 24

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cups almond flour
  • 2/3 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 tablespoons liquid bacon fat, warm
  • 7 large egg whites
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped cooked bacon
  • 1 tablespoon ground Lapsang Souchong tea leaves

Spray your chosen mold with non-stick spray, or grease by hand. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until brown bits begin to form, scraping up with a rubber spatula. Continue to simmer until fragrant with a nutty aroma and golden brown, around 6 or 7 minutes. Strain out the dark bits of sediment and set the golden browned butter aside.

Combine all dry ingredients in large bowl. Whisk in the egg whites until smooth. Fold in 1/3 cup of the warm, strained browned butter and all of the bacon fat. The batter may sit for up to several days at this point. Since these are fabulous when served fresh out of the oven, you might want to consider baking off in small batches as needed. Pour into your chosen mold to just shy of the rim and bake at 375 degrees until golden brown and cooked just through. The time will vary by the size and shape of your chosen mold but should be between 10 and around 16 minutes.

Note: If Almond Flour is not available you can easily make it by processing almonds with 1 teaspoon of cornstarch in a food processor until very finely ground.

Note: Browned butter is very handy to have around. It adds a wonderful nutty depth to baked goods and sauces, pretty much anywhere that you would use regular butter. Consider making extra to keep in your refrigerator.


These marvelous treats are common around the holidays, but can (and should) be enjoyed year round! Traditionally they have quite a bit of candied fruit in them, especially candied cherries and angelica, but I usually prefer to use less sweet dried fruit and peel. Consider a combination of dried apricots, cranberries, golden raisins and candied peel. A combination of almonds and hazelnuts work nicely as well. Vary the additions to suit your own personal taste. Also feel free to substitute flavored teas if preferred for the black tea, fruit flavors can work nicely. If loose leaf tea is not available, two teabags may be substituted.

Yield: about 2 dozen, 1 dozen if sandwiched

  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon Keemun, Assam or other full bodied black tea
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped almonds
  • 3/4 cups candied orange peel and dried cranberries, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream with 1/4 cup sugar and the tea leaves until it just comes to a boil. Set aside to steep for 30 minutes. Strain, discarding the tea leaves, and return to the saucepan with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons butter. Bring back to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the 1 1/4 cups chopped nuts, your chosen combination of dried fruit and candied peel and 1/3 cups flour. Mix well.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and spoon 1 tablespoon of the batter at a time onto the sheet. Flatten and round the batter with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Repeat to make 6 rounds per sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for roughly 10 to 12 minutes until lightly browned around the edges. Let stand for 5 minutes then slide the parchment off of the baking sheet and replace with fresh parchment to bake off the remaining batter.

The cookies may be left as is, but are also delightful when finished with chocolate. Melt the chopped chocolate with 2 tablespoons butter in a metal bowl over just steaming water. Do not let the water boil. By melting the chocolate as gently as possible, you will keep it in temper and it will set easily for you and keep its texture and shine. Spread the flat side of the cookie with the melted chocolate. You may sandwich them, or keep them single layered. Let cookies cool completely to set.

Nilgiri Tea Cakes

A classic Russian Tea Cake is actually a cookie. They are also often called Mexican Wedding Cakes and are very similar to shortbread. In this variation, the tea cakes are made with ground tea. The tea adds depth of flavor and additional texture. This version of the recipe was created as part of a series of recipes for the wedding of the daughter of a wonderful Nilgiri tea grower, Uday Kumar, who had hosted me on a visit to his Estate. This recipe originally used 3 teabags of his own Glendale Masala Chai Tea, but here I have substituted ground loose black tea plus a few spices. I love a hint of bourbon in cookies made with black tea, but if you don’t have bourbon already handy, simply substitute vanilla extract.

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

  • 2/3 cups lightly toasted pecans
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon bourbon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 4 teaspoons black tea, such as Nilgiri or Assam, ground to yield 2 to 3 teaspoons
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Confectioners’ sugar, to finish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toast pecans lightly, around 6 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. When cool, toss nuts with a tablespoon or two of the flour and chop well. If using a food processor, pulse until fine but not pasty. If chopping by hand, get as fine as is convenient. Set aside.

Beat the butter and 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the bourbon. Add the remaining flour, spices, tea and salt. Beat in nuts. Chill and roll into balls, around 2/3 inches in diameter. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake around 15 minutes or until the edges just start to brown. Let cool then toss in additional sugar to finish. If not served immediately, roll in or sprinkle with additional confectioners’ sugar before serving.

note that this article was previously published on Feb 27th 2013


About Author

Cynthia Gold, Tea Sommelier, has discovered her true passion for tea after taking exciting journeys into the tea fields of China and Sri Lanka, where she uncovered the pure beauty of tea culture. Cynthia strives to bring "a culinary approach to tea" to the United States.

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