The clever inventor of shortbread teabags may be forever lost in the mists of time, but their creation has spread, virus-like across the internet. Why? Because they’re ridiculously easy.
I whipped up a batch of my own in honor of Sherlock’s third and final season. You may be tempted to substitute orange juice for the orange extract. Resist. The amount of juice you need to give it a strong orange flavor waters down the batter and changes the texture. These crisp, buttery cookies would make Mrs. Hudson proud.
Sherlock Shortbread Teabags
2 cups (4 sticks) softened butter
1 cup sugar
4 cups all purpose flour
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp orange extract* (optional)
2 cups dark melting chocolate
4 feet cooking twine
1 drinking straw
Toss the sugar and butter into your stand mixer. (You can also use a hand mixer.) Keep beating it until the butter is nice and fluffy. The more air you get into the mix the better, so let the mixer whir away for at least 4-5 minutes.
Once your butter is fluffy, add in the kosher salt and orange extract. Let it continue mixing for another minute. Once the flavors are well integrated, add your flour and keep beating until the ingredients magically transform into a batter.
Some people like to cut out complicated patterns, but really, a teabag is just a rectangle with the top corners nipped off. Skip the extra work and just unwrap one for inspiration.
Once you’ve admired the simplicity of your teabag, lightly dust a clean surface with flour. Roll your shortbread dough out to no more than ¼ inch thickness. Cut the dough into two inch wide strips, then go back and cut those strips until they’re 3 inches long. Scrape up any unruly dough scraps and knead them into the next batch. You should end up with next to no waste when making these cookies.
Now it’s time to transform your rectangles into teabags. Carefully lift the rectangles onto a well buttered cookie sheet. Once they’re in place, use a butter knife to cut a triangular notch out of the top corners. Gosh, it looks more like a teabag already. To complete the effect, use the straw to punch a hole near the center top. Look at your teabag. Look at your cookies. Feel good about yourself.
Bake the shortbreads in a 375F oven for 10-12 minutes or until they just barely start to brown.
Once all your cookies are baked, melt your chocolate. For these cookies, I just use the easy microwave meltable chocolates you can find in the baking aisle of your grocery store or at craft stores. Follow the package instructions (usually melt for 30 seconds in the microwave, stir, and keep melting for 10 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until you have a dipable texture.)
Once you have cool cookies and hot chocolate, dip the bottom of your cookies in the chocolate then arrange them on a cooling rack to dry. After they dry, string some cooking twine through the holes, tie it tight, and trim the edges. If you’re feeling fancy, you can save actual teabag strings and labels to reuse on the cookies. If you want to make yours extra Sherlock-tastic, print up some Sherlock smiley face wallpaper and cut that out for the teabag labels.
Try adding a sprinkle of kosher salt to the back side of the cookies. (That way they’ll still look like teabags from the front.) The orange, chocolate, and salt are amazingly good together.
* If you’re not a fan of the classic orange flavor in many shortbreads, you can substitute any extract of your choice. I’m personally fond of lemon, but if you want to get away from citrus then hazelnut, almond, or even vanilla work just fine.
If you want to try something a little different, you can make mint chocolate shortbread by substituting 3/4 tsp clear creme de cocoa and 1/4 tsp clear creme de methe for the orange extract. If you do, add a 3:1 splash of both to your chocolate to enhance the flavor.
WHAT IF I CRAVE CHOCOLATE DIPPED SHORTBREAD BUT DON’T HAVE ANY MELTING CHOCOLATE?
Put down the double boiler and stop grating your imported European baking chocolate. You only need three ingredients, five minutes, and a microwave in order to make anything from chocolate dip to chocolate ganache. It’s all the same stuff in different proportions.
For a cookie dip that will harden nicely later, you’ll need:
* 2 cups generic store brand semi-sweet chocolate chips
* 1/2 cup whole milk
* 1/2 tsp vanilla or other flavor you want to embed.
Mix it all in a microwave safe bowl. Nuke for 20 seconds. Stir aggressively. Put it back for another 20 seconds. Stir again. Keep this up until everything is smooth. That’s it.
Want a crunchier bottom crust coating for a pie or a stiff, glossy chocolate layer on top of a tart? Use less milk. Want a fluffier chocolate layer for a pie or tart filling? Use more milk.
I have slaved over fussy double boilers full of uncooperative ingredients before, and y’know what? None of the fancy pants James Beard award winning chocolate recipes I’ve made got a fraction the compliments I get from microwaving chocolate chips with milk and a dash of extract. Which is kinda awesome, because whoa, this trick is so easy yet impresses people so much.
Need more edible Sherlock Goodness in your life?
Kitchen Overlord’s Sherlock Holmes Illustrated Geek Recipe
The BBC Sherlock Geek Cake Friday.
Non BBC Sherlock Holmes Geek Cake Friday.