Why yes, that is Earl Grey in my cookie!

Less than a year into our relationship TD and I wandered over to Europe on vacation.  I point out how long we’d been dating because we were still in that stage where everyone is polite and both parties still happily do things the other likes.  Even if they don’t.

We spent the first week in London and loved it.  Of course.  We did all the touristy stuff, drank at Punch and Judys (where I couldn’t keep myself from asking several of the locals why they were drinking Budweiser on a continent with far superior beer.  The answer: same reason people drink it in the U.S.–you can drink a lot and still stand) and visited Harrods (we went at least three times that I recall).

One of the visits to Harrods was for the sole purpose of partaking in afternoon tea.  There was going to be tea sipping and crumpet eating and lots of pinky lifting.  Until we walked in and TD discovered that there was an ice cream shop right next to the tea shop.  Somehow by some sort of relationship voodoo, I found myself agreeing to ice cream instead of tea.  Oh, the salad days of early love.  Good thing I don’t hold a grudge.  Ha!  Nearly 12 years later, this is the incident at the top of my, “well, remember the time” list whenever TD attempts to talk me into doing something I don’t want to do.

Anyhow, I do enjoy a nice cup of tea.  Which brings us to this week’s post.  Earl grey shortbread.

I love Earl Grey tea.  Mostly, it’s the way it smells.  But, I also love the word bergamot, one of the tea’s main ingredients.  I love the way berg-a-mot rolls around in my mouth when I pronounce it (or think it).  Bergamot is actually a type of orange (though its yellow) and it is what give Earl Grey tea its brightness.

In this recipe, the tea leaves are first finely ground (I used our coffee-bean-gone-spice-grinder) and then pulsed together in the food processor with dry ingredients and my own special addition: orange zest.

Then, the butter is cut-in until the dough just forms.  The whole thing is rolled into a log and then, because I like a little sparkle, rolled in granulated sugar.

Some time in the fridge (or freezer) and all that is left to do is slice and bake.

This delicious cookie does create a bit of a quagmire.  What do you drink with your shortbread when the tea is actually in the cookie?


Amy Winehouse and her friends on Pandora

Earl Grey Shortbread

This recipe originated from Foodnetwork.com but has been adapted substantially by yours truly.


  • 1 1/2 C all purpose flour
  • 1/2 C rice flour (all purpose can be substituted)
  • 2 TBS loose Earl Grey tea leaves (I’m a fan of Twinnings)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • zest from large orange
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature, cut into cubes


  1. Grind loose tea leaves in a spice or coffee bean grinder until fine.
  2. Pulse together the flour, tea, salt, and orange zest until the tea is just spotted throughout the flour.
  3. Add the confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla.
  4. Pulse-in butter one cube at-a-time until a dough is just formed. Place dough on a sheet of parchment paper or plastic rap, and roll into a log, about 2 1/2-inches in diameter. Roll log in granulated sugar until coated.
  5. Tightly twist each end of wrap, and chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (double wrap if freezing).
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  7. Slice the log into 1/3-inch thick disks. Place on parchment or silpat lined baking sheets, 2 inches apart (2 probably needed depending on size of sheets). Bake until the edges are just brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and cool to room temperature.

If cupid was a bartender

All around me it seems, delicious cocktails have been popping up.  I’m sure it’s a trend.  I’m sure at some point the cool kids who decide such fads will get tired of interesting flavors and turn their fickle taste buds back to the mellower white zinfandel or tasteless Natty Lite (okay, maybe not.  But, you know what I mean).  For now, at this moment at least, it’s almost okay to order something other than a vodka and soda while standing at the bar.  Examples?  I have several.  Let’s start with the Drunken Sow at Batch in Culver City.  Three words: bacon-infused-bourbon.  Too heavy?  How about a Moscow Mule from Tin Roof Bistro in Manhattan Beach.  True, it’s an oldie, but, when was the last time a man (TD) could pull off  drinking a concoction of vodka, lime juice and ginger beer–all served in an oddly effeminite silver cup?  I say, grasp the brass ring while you can.

And then there is the Old George  at Manhattan Post in Manhattan Beach.  It’s their take on a salty dog with ruby  grapefruit juice, basil and an odd sort of raspberry peppercorn relish deal.  Two of these babies over dinner and I was inspired to come up with a cocktail of my own.  Just in time for Valentine’s Day.

This cocktail begins with the blood orange.  Blood orange syrup to be specific.  They just happen to be in season right now.  But if they aren’t where you live, you can often find blood orange syrup with the other flavored drink syrups in the grocery.

Here I’ve made my own.  Equal parts juice and sugar are brought to a simmer.

Then strained and set aside to cool completely.  Go ahead and put your vodka in the freezer about now. 

No, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this photo–I just can’t seem to get over the color of blood orange juice.  Pantone…are you listening? 

Returning to the Old George.  So, a salty dog is called so because it is a greyhound (vodka and grapefruit) served in a salt-rimmed glass.  Like with margaritas, the salt plays well with the sour of the grapefruit juice.  Blood oranges fall somewhere in between regular oranges and grapefruit on the sour-scale, so I began with a bag of superfine sugar and then slowly added fine sea salt until I had a nice balance of salty and sweet (think kettle corn).  Go ahead and rim each glass with the swalty mixture..

Next comes chilled vodka followed by our blood orange syrup.  It’s all topped with plenty of crushed–almost snow-like ice.  This part is important.  If you don’t have an ice maker that will make crushed iced for you , a similar effect can be achieved with a food processor.  Think Snoopy Sno Cone machine without the interminable hand cranking.  Or, if you happen to have a Snoopy Sno Cone machine, use that.  

 The final ingredient is just enough soda water to give the whole thing a little sparkle.

Have you guessed the name of this little cocktail yet?  I’ll give you a hint, we’ve talked about salty dogs already.  And, what do you call a cocktail with regular orange juice and vodka?  That’s right a screw driver.

And so, on this Valentine’s Day, I give you, the Salty Screw (and TD says I’m not romantic).

The Salty Screw


  • 1 C blood orange juice
  • 1 C water

Combine sugar and juice in a medium saucepan and mix until sugar is dissolved.  Bring to a boil.  Allow to boil for a minute or two.  Take off heat, strain into a head-proof bowl and let cool.  Will save well in the fridge in a covered container.

Sugar Salt

  • 1/2 C superfine or granulated sugar
  • fine sea salt to taste.

Begin by adding in 2 TBS salt, combined and continue until reach desired balance of salty and sweet.


(serves 1 in generous low-ball glass) (yes, I realize the cocktail pictured in this post is not in a low ball glass. I made these babies during the SuperBowl.  The SuperBowl is really long, we needed larger cocktails).

  • 1 low ball glass
  • 1.5 oz chilled vodka
  • 2-3 oz blood orange syrup (depending on your taste)
  • Crushed ice
  • Soda water

Rim glass with sugar/salt mixture.  Combined vodka and syrup.  Top with crushed ice (fill glass to top as ice will melt quickly to start).  Top-off with soda water.  Mix.  Syrup can be drizzled on top of completed cocktail for a little fancy fancy.



A country lacking

I know I’ve talked about my good friend Mel who went on sabbatical to South America, met a boy, fell in love, moved to Argentina, got married, had one baby boy and then a second one.  Right?

Well, if I haven’t, Mel and I went to college together and then, along with our other friend Amber, we  lived together for another three years after graduation.  Three years, three different apartments and way too many adventures to recount here.  But let me just say, I can think of at least three weddings Mel and I went to as each other’s dates (well, technically, Mel and TD were dates for one of those, but thats because I was in the wedding).  Obviously, this was well before the part about Argentina.

Anyhow, Mel was in the U.S. a few weeks ago and I flew up to hang out with her for the day.

Now, Argentina seems like a great place and Mel seems very happy on her new continent with one notable exception.  For all its charms, Argentina is a country devoid of peanut butter.  Not only is it absent from market shelves, you can’t even send it in a care package  (well, you can try).

Mel likes peanut butter.  Mel is sad Argentina does not have peanut butter.

So, I knew I had to bring her something with the ubiquitous (well, in the U.S. at least) legume paste when I visited.  Enter the chocolate peanut butter French macaron.

I also used Mel as an excuse to try a different chocolate macaron shell  I came across at Cannelle et Vanille while hunting for the pink peppercorn recipe.  I didn’t think she’d mind.

The peanut butter filling is unequivocally fantastic.  The shells.  Well, it is probably baker error, but the tops came out wrinkly.  Weird right?  Bake shorter: wrinkles.  Bake longer: wrinkles.  I’d wonder about the weather but made the pink raspberry shells the same afternoon and those were beautiful and smooth.  I’ve also had good success with David Lebovitz’s chocolate macaron shells–so I know it isn’t a normal characteristic of chocolate shells. Hmmm.


Typical fickle French macaron.

But, Mel and I had fun.  One afternoon is never enough to catch up and I am a grossly negligent Skyper.  I think I’m just going to have to go to Argentina to get me fix.


Etta James.  Oh, Etta.  The world is a much less beautiful place without you in it.  Mel and I were lucky enough to see Etta James in the late 90s(?) at the House of Blue on Sunset.  TD and I were supposed to see her again a couple of summers ago at the Hollywood Bowl with Adele.  But, Etta was ill and  replaced at the last minute by Chaka Kahn.  I know, seriously?

My favorite?  Fool that I am. Thank you Ms. James!

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Macarons

Because I am obviously missing something what, with the wrinkles and all, I’m going to link directly to Cannelle et Vanille.  Hers are definitely not geriatric looking so I think it better you follow her directions than mine.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Macarons

Love and peppercorns (pink of course)

As I explained around this time last year, the pink peppercorn has played a contentious role in TD’s and my relationship.  In fact, the pink peppercorn has taken on its own meaning in our little parlay.  One might, if one wanted, consider the phrase, “does it have pink peppercorns?” part of our marital code.  At its most simple it is what TD says when he means, “what kind of crap did you put in this that I potentially will not like?” Its uses have extended beyond food though.  For example, when faced with a request to see what he thinks could be a romantic comedy, TD will say, “no, that movie looks too pink peppercorny.”  Alas, in our matrimonial sphere, the pink peppercorn has become synonymous with dislike.

Poor thing.

So, I thought I’d prove TD wrong–or maybe right–and actually make something with pink peppercorns in it. French macarons to be specific.  That’s right, we’re back there again.  

But before we get to the peppercorns, we’ll start with some freezed dried raspberries.  Trader Joes has a variety of freeze-dried fruit that would work well in a French macaron recipe.  Part of the concern with flavoring macaron shells is that flavor in liquid form has the potential to, well, make the cookie grumpy.  To use a technical term.

I wish I had thought of using ground dehydrated fruit first, but I didn’t and in this recipe, I take my inspiration from Aran Goyoaga,  hostess of the intimidatingly beautiful blog, Cannelle et Vanille.  I did think of making the powder on my own (though I’m sure I’m not the first).  To make the raspberry powder, the already brittle berries easily pulverize in a spice or coffee grinder.

The raspberry powder then gets added to the almond flour and confectioners sugar.  My preference is to grind the three elements together in a food processor and then sift them through a mesh strainer.

Because there really isn’t enough raspberry powder to turn the shells pink, I added a couple of drops of gel coloring to the meringue mixture.

I know folding the dry ingredients into the meringue can be tricky.  Here is a trick that has turned-out to be very reliable.  After you have folded the batter enough that everything is incorporated, give it a few more turns (and by this I mean 5-10).  Then, scoop out a little onto a plate and watch it move.  If it keeps its shape like in the photo below,  the batter needs another few folds, again, start with 5-10.

If the batter spreads very  slowly (the comparison is usually like lava)  and just barely evens out, like in this picture, you are ready to pipe.  Of course,  if your batter runs all over the place, you’ve over-mixed and, well, you’re pretty much screwed.

For this version of my little frenemy, I tried wedging a wooden spoon in the oven door so that the steam could escape.  I alos back a pan or two with the over door completely closed.  In both methods, I did not have any cracking.  

You thought I’d forgotten about the pink peppercorns, didn’t you.  Here is where they come in.  For the filling, I pulled together a buttercream.  Egg whites, sugar and some pink food gel were warmed over a double boiler until warm-to-the-touch.

Then, whipped to Ten Buck Two with the addition of butter.  Lots of butter.

And finally, the piece de resistance, two teaspoons of ground (same method as the raspberries) pink peppercorns.

A little dab on half the shells.

A little dusting of raspberry powder.

And  I give you, the raspberry pink peppercorn macaron. The peppercorn, while subtly spicy adds a wonderful floral aroma to the fruity raspberry.   Who could resist this pretty little cookie as a Valentine’s offering of love?

TD, that’s who.

Hated them (but I think it’s just on principle).

Luckily, others thought they were strangely delicious.


Thievery Incorporated

When I make French macarons, I like to set up stations in my kitchen.  The island: weights and measures.  To the left of the sink: food processor for grinding.  To the right of the sink: standing mixer for whipping the egg whites.  Actual sink: tableau for stacked baking sheets and piping.  Dining room table: piped shells, aging.  Kitchen table: completed shells.  Sort of like…a…lab.  Thievery Incorporated just happened to be on my iPhone when I plugged it into the speaker dock.  The result? Total CSI montage music, French macaron style.  It was seriously awesome.

Raspberry Macarons with Pink Peppercorn Buttercream

Adapted slightly from Cannelle et Vanille

  • 130 grams egg whites
  • 3 grams egg white powder
  • 80 grams sugar
  • 180 grams almond flour
  • 240 grams powdered sugar
  • 2 grams salt
  • 15 grams freeze-dried raspberry powder (this is the adapted part, I wanted a stronger raspberry presence than the original 7g)
  • 2 drops red food coloring


  1. Make sure that the egg whites have been separated from the egg yolks at least the night before. If the weather is cool and you are brave, leave them out, covered in plactic wrap, overnight.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, salt and raspberry powder.  Process for 30-60 seconds until thoroughly combined.  Sift into a large bowl.  Discard bits that don’t go through sieve.
  3. Whip the egg whites with the egg white powder until very fluffy, almost fully whipped. Start adding the sugar slowly while whipping. Add the red food coloring and continue whipping to stiff peaks.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the meringue and fold with a spatula until a shiny mass forms. We want to achieve a batter that makes ribbons. You might have to test it to see if it’s done. Pipe a small amount on your sheetpan. If it keeps a little bit of a top when piped, then you have to mix it a bit further, if it spreads really fast, you have gone too far and your macarons will turn out flat.
  5. When you have the right consistency, place the mass in a pastry bag with a number 5 tip (to be honest, I just snip the tip of the bag to about a 1/8-1/4 inch and pipe without the tip) and pipe small rounds onto sheetpans lined with parchment or silpat. Let them dry at room temperature for at least 45 minutes to an hour. The tops must be dry when you touch them.
  6. Have the oven preheated to 350F degrees. Place one sheetpan in the oven at a time and reduce the temperature to 300F degrees. Bake for 8 minutes and rotate sheetpan and bake for another 5 minutes.
  7. Let the macarons cool on the sheet pan.

Pink Peppercorn Buttercream


  • 100 grams egg whites
  • 200 grams sugar
  • 300 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tsp (or to taste) finely ground pink peppercorns


  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together egg whites and the sugar lightly. Place over a water bath until sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.
  • Bring bowl to the electric mixer and whip until stiff peaks form.
  • Continue whipping until the bowl feels cool. Add butter, a tablespoon at a time while whipping. It might look like it is separating but continue whipping and it will come together.
  • Add the ground pink peppercorns and taste.
  • Pair up shells of like-sizes and then line all up.  Pipe or spread buttercream on to on-half of each pair.  Carefully top with second shell.
  • Can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for 3-5 days.