A Rich Tea Morning & Chocolate Cocoa Nib Shortbread

The other morning I received an email from an English colleague who was translating a cookbook from English to American. She frantically needed to know if there was an equivalent biscuit in the states to the good old English Rich Tea. It was 7 am on Saturday morning and I, slouched in bed, was not feeling the same biscuit urgency as she. Before you ask why on earth I was up this early on a weekend- I wake up at 4:45am for work, so, 7 am is now referred to as a lie-in. But then I began to think about the good old Rich Tea biscuit- crisp and plain with a hint of malt, dunk it in your tea, count to five and it melts on your tongue. Some would dare to call it bland, dry or merely a ‘base’ biscuit that ought to be covered in chocolate or filled with cream. I would suggest it as ‘unblemished’. It is a pure and simple dunking biscuit – as biscotti goes with a cappuccino; a Rich Tea goes with a nice cuppa brew. I digress.

It was going to be a challenge to uncover a biscuit close to such simplicity- but I was willing to make a few changes in my schedule, which today included lying in bed, eating a bagel (that I’d sent my boyfriend to buy) and lying in bed some more. I emailed back accepting the task stating that I would need a few days in order to complete this challenge in a thorough manner. In other words, nursing my throbbing head after last night’s vodka sodas was going to take all of today, please come back again tomorrow.

The author of this book was my first culinary idol- my copy of her book covered in stains and crumbs from so much use. A domestic goddess indeed and the inspiration behind so many of my own recipes, I was not going to let her down- I just wasn’t going to do it today. I instantly received a message back-“great, thanks. Can you let me know by the end of the day- the book needs to go to print.” I had a pounding head and a craving bacon- getting my taste buds to change course was not going to be easy. I removed myself from bed and propping myself up over the bathroom sink I stared into my dishevelled reflection. Today, I was super-rich-tea-woman and no salt was going to get in my way.

I began devise a plan to weed-out anything that wouldn’t be necessary to test. Chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, Oreo cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, peanut butter cookies, shortbread cookies, and wafers could all be overlooked. But amongst all this sweet junk did anything plain- almost but not quite savoury exist? I have to admit- I don’t regularly go down the cookies’ aisle in my New York supermarket- I only ever seem to find sweet disappointment with whatever I pick up. In fact come to think of it- I rarely find myself picking up a desert menu in a New York restaurant and have my eyes light up at what I see. Perhaps my sweet tooth just isn’t cut out for America. I digress.

I made a stop at Gristedes Supermarket. Usually I have an inner monologue that sings a song referring to it Gross-tedes, but on this day I put my snobbery aside- I was super-rich-tea-woman and supermarket design was not on my agenda. I was on a mission and I had to get in and get my dizzy head back to my bed.

I got home, filled my favourite oversized Starbucks mug with PG tips (milk in first) squeezed out the tea bag and began ripping open the packaging of the biscuits. I dunked, sipped and paired each one with cheddar. By 9 am I had already consumed half a days calories and two days worth of caffeine- I was a sight scarrier than that of two-hours ago. I narrowed it down to three and then two- both made by Nabisco, the ‘Social Tea’ biscuit and the “National Arrowroot”. I concluded from the packaging of the ‘National Arrowroot” that not only does it have a bizarre name it’s also for teething babies- probably because it has very little sugar. Further to that conclusion, I concluded that Nabisco only promotes products that lead to cavities and diabetes only to Americans’ who actually have teeth to ruin and not to those without.
I digress.

To my surprise, there are such products in this land of sugar-a-plenty that come close to an unblemished Rich Tea- but whilst I ran on a higher treadmill setting that evening and then scrubbed my teeth with even more care that night I decided that my opinion on the American cookie aisle really hadn’t changed all that much. I like a little salt in my sweet.


Chocolate Cocoa Nib Shortbread

I got the idea for this recipe from another food blogger who made cookies similar to these at work one day. They were totally divine- but being my impatient-self I didn’t want to weigh out tons of ingredients, wait around while the dough chilled and then form into rounds and bake in batches so I made a few ingredient cuts, skipped the chilling and pressed the dough into a tin.

Cocoa nibs (roasted, unshelled chopped cocoa beans) can be bought in gourmet shops- if you can find them, it will be worth the effort, if not replace with chopped nuts. You have to try this recipe- the amount of salt is not a mistake, like I said before, I like a little salt in my sweet.

Makes 24

280g/10 oz bittersweet chocolate (preferably 70 %), chopped and divided
225g/8 oz unsalted butter, softened
140g/5 oz light brown soft sugar
300g/10 oz plain flour
50g/2 oz unsweetened good quality cocoa powder
1 tsp salt (1/2 tsp if it’s fine salt)
50g/2 oz cocoa nibs (or chopped nuts)

1 20 x 30 cm baking tin

1/ Heat the oven to 350F/180C/Gas 4. Melt half of the chocolate (I microwave for 1 minute and then stir until it’s fully melted) Beat the butter (ideally in a kitchen aid with the paddle beater) until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until fully combined and creamy (about 1 minute with the mixer, 2 minutes by hand).

2/ Add the melted chocolate and mix until evenly combined. Sift over the flour, cocoa and salt and mix until almost combined. Fold through the cocoa nibs and remaining chopped chocolate by hand. If the mixture is really wet, then add another tablespoonful or two of flour. If not, press mixture into tin evenly and poke all over with a fork.

3/ Bake in the oven for 25 minutes- it will continue to cook as it cools. After 10 minutes, cut the squares with a knife but leave in the tin. Allow to cool then store in an airtight container- if it’s warm outside then store them in the fridge.

8 Responses to “A Rich Tea Morning & Chocolate Cocoa Nib Shortbread”

  1. 1 Anonymous June 27, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    was it Nigella?? x

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