There’s really nothing I love more than working with interesting ingredients. In fact it’s sort of my motto with my blog, to use interesting ingredients for new twists on basic confections and baked goods. This motto has led to my life as an ingredient hoarder. It’s actually quite serious, with an overflowing pantry as one of the many side effects. Many of my recipes need at least one unusual ingredient that I have to go out and buy. Things like rose water, matcha, and fleur de sel salt can be difficult to find in a small town with limited grocery resources. Luckily Potsdam has one saving grace, and that’s the Potsdam Food Co-op. This little gem has saved me on many occasions. I was able to find rosewater here, and it’s where I always go to get whole vanilla beans and dried herbs and spices. I really don’t know what I’d do without it.
My obsession has led to many wonderful gifts. My mother gets me gifts like sea salt from the Bahamas and similar items from her vacations. The most exciting gift thus far has been a bag full of dried hibiscus flowers all the way from Senegal, Africa. They came from a friend, who actually was my first babysitter. I’m not sure if she realized how wonderful a gift they were. It’s slightly embarrassing, but I get so excited about thinking up ways to infuse new ingredients into a recipe.
Since I have a whole bag, I’ve decided to make a few different things with them, starting with tea cookies. To infuse the flavor of the flower I’ve steeped them in the butter, as well as grinding them into the sugar. Since hibiscus flowers aren’t readily available, you can use whatever flower or spice you’d like. I would suggest dried juniper, lavender, or rose petals.
To explain the flavor of hibiscus is difficult. It’s like trying to describe the taste of a fruit. There’s a sweetness to it but also a slight tartness, almost like a lemon. The cookie itself is simple and buttery, but then there are bursts of tart fruitiness when the hibiscus bits hit your tongue.
- 2 sticks of butter
- 3-5 dried hibiscus flowers (or whatever ingredients you’re using)
- Heat butter over medium until it comes to a simmer
- Turn heat to low
- Add hibiscus flowers
- Let sit for 10-15 minutes
*to taste test, dip a spoon in the butter and then in sugar. This will give you a better idea of how the flavor will come out in the actual recipe. If the flavor isn’t strong enough, continue to infuse until desired result is achieved.
Simply crush up a few hibiscus petals until fine and mix with sugar. Exact amounts are not important. Let this sit for a chance to infuse and then bake with it or use for finishing touches. Can also be done with any other herbs or flowers. The longer the mixture sits, the more the sugar will infuse with the flavor of the ingredient.
Shortbread Tea Cookies
1/2 cup infused butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon crushed hibiscus
3/4 teaspoon salt
Hibiscus sugar for sprinkling (optional)
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg and beat until incorporated.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together both kinds of flour, salt, and crushed hibiscus.
3. With the mixer on low, gently add dry ingredients into butter mixture. Mix until ingredients are well combined and a stiff dough is formed.
4. Wrap dough tightly in the plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 375°. Line baking sheets with silpat mats or parchment paper.
6. Remove dough from the fridge and roll out to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out small circles and place on cookies sheet.
8. Sprinkle with hibiscus sugar.
7. Bake until cookies are just golden at the edges, about 10 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on wire racks. Store cookies in an air tight container for up to 4 days.