Honey and Tea Cookies

More so than others, these cookies were the product of a grand culinary adventure, as well as final degree in a Six Degrees of Separation game I was playing against myself (I won!).  One thing kept leading to another, and, before I knew it, I had some bomb diggity cookies made with some crafty and resourceful ingredients.  Please, allow me to spell out the tale to you.

The year before last, I received an adorable single-serve teapot for Christmas.  I adored it (and still do) and couldn’t wait to use it, especially since it had accommodations for brewing loose leaf tea, which I’d never done before.  I quickly used up all of the tea that I had been given with the teapot, so I went to a local tea shop to restock.  Whilst perusing the shop’s selection of black teas, I happened upon an English breakfast tea called “Sherlock’s Special”.  Being a fervent fan of the detective in all his various incarnations, including Sir Doyle’s original stories, RDJ’s big screen interpretation of the character, and the new BBC series (season premier next Sunday!), I could not resist giving it a try.  Not surprisingly, the tea was delightful, and I’ve kept it on hand ever since.  Then… months passed and I turned twenty-one.  To everyone’s great surprise (most of all, my own), I found beer to be my coming-of-age drink of choice and quickly began exploring all manner and styles of craft beers.  And then, last Christmas, my mom gave my dad and I the most clever gift of a homebrewing kit.  We had a ball brewing our first batch and have made many more since.  In particular, I have made a habit of brewing small, one-gallon batches with increasing frequency, though I’ve been dogged by the problem of what to do with the leftover grains.  I have become particularly fond of one recipe from the Brooklyn Brew Shop’s Beer Making Book titled “Tea & Toast”.  This brew utilizes biscuit malt, giving it a delightfully toasty flavor, as well as a bit of black tea just for kicks and giggles.  As you may have guessed, I definitely used the “Sherlock’s Special” tea and with greatly pleasing results (that’s the finished “Tea & Toast” beer there in the picture).  Now, we’ve reached the end of the chain.  I count only four degrees.  Not bad.

The aforementioned brew book contains a smart recipe for making dog biscuits out of spent grain, which I have made, though I felt compelled to find additional uses for all of the grain.  My dog did enjoy the biscuits, though they made him a bit gassy….  I’ve tossed the grain out into the woods for the deer on several occasions.  However, considering they often munch on any produce we attempt to grow, I am reluctant to provide them with further incentive to frequent our abode (they eat like kings around our house in the summer).  Finally, after a decent amount of thought and consideration, I decided to utilize the grain for selfish purposes, drying it, grinding it, and turning it into flour to be used for many baking adventure to come.

The present recipe utilizes honey, tea, and, should you have the opportunity to do so, flour made of spent-grain from brewing.  The spent-grain flour gives the cookies a toasty, wholesome taste, especially if your original mash contained biscuit malt.  Should you not have any spent-grain on hand (don’t fret, not many people do), whole wheat flour can create a similar wholesome flavor.  Sound like a plan?  Very well, then, onward we go!

Honey and Tea Cookies

Adapted from AllRecipes.com

Makes about 16 cookies

Ingredients:

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1/4 cup honey

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. baking soda

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup whole-wheat or spent-grain flour*

2 tsp. black or chamomile tea, loose leaf or from a tea bag (if using loose leaf, finely chop or pulse a few times in a blender or food processor until finely ground)

Equipment:

1 small saucepan

1 small mixing bowl

1 large mixing bowl

1 stand mixer, hand mixer, or wooden spoon

1 whisk or fork

1 spatula

1 cookie sheet, greased with butter or covered with parchment paper

Preheat oven to 350F.

In the small saucepan, heat the honey, butter, and sugar over low heat.  As the butter begins to melt, gently and continuously stir with the whisk.  Continue to stir until the mixture begins to bubble.  Once the mixture is gently bubbling, turn off the heat and immediately use the spatula to transfer the mixture from the saucepan to the small mixing bowl.  Allow the mixture to cool in the small mixing bowl for5-10 minutes.

While the honey mixture is cooling, in the large mixing bowl, add the lightly beaten egg, baking soda, vanilla extract, and tea, stirring until combined.  Next, gradually add the cooled honey mixture to the egg mixture.  Finally, add the flours, 1/4 cup at a time.  Stir the mixture until just combined.

Scoop tablespoon-sized dollops of the dough onto the greased or covered cookie sheet.  Bake the cookies for 13-16 minutes, until golden brown.

Allow cookies to cool on the cookies sheet for 5-10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.  Serve with your favorite tea or beer, and enjoy!

*To Make Spent-Grain Flour (Use About 2 lbs. of Grains, Enough to Make About 1 Gallon of Beer):

Once you’re finished steeping and sparging the grains, keep the spent grain in a fine mesh strainer to cool for about 20 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 250F.  Line two cookie sheets with tin foil.  Scoop the moist grains from the strainer onto the cookie sheets, spreading the grains evenly across the sheets.  Place the cookie sheets in the oven, and allow the grains to heat for about four hours, tossing the grains every 45-60 minutes to make sure that they’re drying evenly.  After four hours, turn the oven off but keep the cookie sheets in the oven.  Allow the cookie sheets to remain in the oven as it cools, for another hour or so.  Once the grains have completely cooled, scoop them into a food processor (it took me about three batches to get them all ground).  Run the grains through the food processor on low for about a minute.  After one minute, toss the grains about a bit so as to ensure that they’ll be ground fairly evenly.  Run the grains through the food processor for another minute, or until they have reached your desired fineness.  When you’re done grinding the grains in the food processor, sift them into a large mixing bowl to remove any large, unground pieces (I found that torrified wheat put up a good fight in the food processor and was largely sifted out).  Ta da!  You’ve made a usable flour/grain meal from the vestiges of your brewing adventure!  Well done!

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