Welcome back everyone! I haven't posted a recipe in a few weeks because I have been so extremely busy with my other job and we are also moving at the end of this month so things have been quite hectic! I also have some really wonderful news to tell you all and it's only apropos that it happened the week I made my Valentine's day treats. The big news: Jacob and I got engaged! 💕 Yay! I am so excited to start this new journey with someone who I love so dearly. Quick story on how he proposed: We were at home on a Friday night, eating pizza, watching Seinfeld (our shared favorite show), and playing cards. We had just finished our game of cards when Jake disappeared into the room. I didn't think anything of it and we just continued our conversation. It's a little blurry to me what we talking about but I do remember the moment when he said, "I really love being your boyfriend, but more than that, I want to be your husband." And at that exact moment he walked out of the room and got down on one knee, opened a box with my ring in it, and asked, "Will you marry me?". I just about melted! I said "Yes!", of course! I had NO idea he was going to propose to me... he's so sneaky. It was honestly such a surprise and I couldn't be happier!
Okay, now that I have shared the big news let's get on to this weeks recipe. Valentine's Day Black Tea Sugar Cookies with multi-Berry Frosting! These are SO delicious and believe it or not, they are naturally flavored and colored using blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries. I love frosted sugar cookies and some of my fondest elementary school memories was getting to decorate sugar cookies on Valentine's Day with my classmates, and hey, it's still just as fun at 21!
First, the sugar cookie. This starts out at a basic sugar cookie dough but of course, I had to put my own spin on it. I decided to add loose leaf black tea leaves to the dough. I chose to do this because I love the taste of black tea. Its sweet and also gives you the tinniest bump of caffeine! Honestly though, you can barely taste the tea leaves but I love seeing the little specks of black in the cookies. It creates a nice contrast and is very aesthetically pleasing.
Also, black tea (and other types of teas) contain powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols. These antioxidants are thought to have various health benefits, such as being able to prevent some types of cancer! Why not get some health benefits whilst eating a sugary cookie? ;) If you don't consume caffeine or don't have black tea leaves on hand, feel free to omit them. They won't alter the over all flavor of the cookies.
If you do want the black tea leaves in the cookies, find loose black tea leaves. I have seen loose leave black tea in the bulk spice section at Whole Foods and other specialty shops. However, it can still be a little pricey. If you can't find it in bulk I recommend buying a regular box of black tea (earl grey or english breakfast work too) and cut one or two tea bags open and dump out the contents. You only need about one teaspoon. I have tried both and I didn't notice a difference between the two.
Next, the frosting. I started out by making a Swiss Meringue Buttercream (my favorite kind of BC). I absolutely love the silky texture of the Swiss meringue. It's rich and light all at the same time. I don't particularly like American buttercream because it seems too dense and too rich in my opinion. Also, the sweetness of Swiss meringue is much more subtle than a traditional American Buttercream in my opinion. This type of buttercream takes a little longer and requires more ingredients and tools but it is 100% worth it in my opinion. Try it and see for yourself! You will not be disappointed, I promise.
I made a classic vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream and divided it into thirds. I then made my own berry-sauce with frozen berries from the grocery store. I opted to use frozen berries because they aren't in season now where I live. Frozen fruits and vegetables are frozen at the peak of the season so they are a good alternative if you can't get fresh ones. However, if they are in season, go for fresh! The process took a little while but they turned out wonderful and were totally worth it in my opinion.
All you do is add about a cup of berries (one berry variety at a time), a splash of lemon juice, and a pinch of lemon zest to a small saucepan, give it all a smash with a fork, and simmer over medium heat for about 5-10 minutes. You will see the juices from the berries start to release and that's what you use to flavor and color you frosting! It is so easy and tasted delicious. It's sweet and also refreshing from the tanginess of the lemon juice + zest. Once you make the three flavors of frosting, you will see that they create a natural ombre color-way that is so beautiful!
Once the cookies are rolled, cut, and baked, I transferred each color of frosting into a piping bag and pipe a thin border of frosting following the shape of the cookies. Then I fill the inside with more frosting and use an offset spatula to smooth it out. And that's it! You can add sprinkles, fresh berries, or anything else to it that you would like. These cookies are delicious and beautiful! They are perfect for handing out as Valentine's treats or giving to your special person.
Black Tea Sugar Cookies with Berry Frosting
Black Tea Sugar Cookie Dough
(Makes 18-24 Cookies)
12 Tablespoons Butter, softened
1 Cup Granulated White Sugar
1 Large Egg
1 Egg Yolk
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
½ Teaspoon Almond Extract
2 1⁄4 Cups All Purpose Flour
½ Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Loose Black Tea Leaves (alternatively you can cut open black tea bags and remove the contents to equal one teaspoon)
* You can use fresh or frozen berries for this recipe
1 Cup Blackberries
1 Cup Rspberries
1 Cup Strawberries
Juice of one Lemon
Zest of one Lemon
Berry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
(Adapted from this recipe)
½ Cup Egg Whites (from 3-4 eggs roughly)
1 Cup White Granulated Sugar
1 Vanilla Bean Pod, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out
1 ½ Cups Butter (24 Tablespoons), softened and cut into 1 inch cubes
½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 Cup of Each: Blackberry Sauce, Raspberry Sauce, and Strawberry Sauce
1. For the cookie dough:
In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (you can also do this by hand or with a handheld electric mixer), cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Add the egg and egg yolk and mix until combined. Now add the vanilla and almond extract and mix again until combined. Now add all of the flour mixture and mix on low-medium speed just until combined-- do not over mix! Now add the tea leaves and give it one more quick mix on low speed just until the leaves are evenly dispersed.
Lay out a piece of plastic wrap on a work surface and dump the dough on top of it. Gather the dough into a rectangle roughly measuring 4 inches by 6 inches. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least two hours to overnight. I find that the dough turns out the best when you chill it overnight and take it out 10 minutes before you are going to roll it out.
When the dough has finished chilling, unwrap it, and place it on a lightly floured (and clean!!!) work surface. Dust your rolling pin with flour and start rolling out the dough until it is approximately ¼-½ inch thick. Use any shape of cookie cutter (I chose a heart-shaped one for Valentine's Day) to cut out as many cookies as you can get. I got 18 cookies but my cookie cutter was quite big. Once you cut out as many cookies as possible, gather the dough into a ball and roll it out again and cut more. Repeat once more with the remaining dough. I only recommend re-rolling the dough two times or else the dough will become over worked.
Preheat the oven to 325°f and line two baking trays with parchment paper or silicon baking mats. Lay the cookies about one inch apart-- they don't rise so they don't need very much space in between. Bake them for 15-18 minutes or just until the edges turn golden brown. Once they are done baking, transfer them to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
2. For the Berry Sauces:
In a small saucepan, combine the blackberries, one third of the lemon juice, and one third of the lemon zest. Give everything a mix. Using a fork, smash the berries to release their juices. Turn the heat to medium and simmer the berries for about 10 minutes, or until the berry juice has slightly thickened.
Place a fine mesh sieve over a small bowl and dump the berry mixture into the sieve. Use the fork to press out as much juice as possible. Set aside and let cool to room temperature. Repeat the same process with the raspberries and then the strawberries.
3. For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
In a bowl, combine the the sugar and egg whites and whisk until fully combined. Create a double-boiler by getting a medium-sized saucepan and placing an inch or two of water in it. Now place the bowl with the egg/sugar mixture over the saucepan. Check to make sure that the water isn't touching the bottom of the bowl. If it is the water will scramble the egg whites and we don't want that to happen! Turn the heat on to medium-low (just to a simmer) and whisk constantly until the mixture reaches approximately 155° on an instant read thermometer. If you don't have thermometer (you should get one!!!), this takes about 10 minutes. You will know the mixture is ready when it's hot to the touch and all of the sugar is dissolved. I test this by dipping a spoon into the mixture and then rubbing a little between my fingers. If you can't feel any sugar granules then it is ready!
Transfer the egg + sugar mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed (6 or 8 speed-level on my KitchenAid) for about 8-10 minutes or until the meringue is shiny, has soft peeks, and is cool to the touch. It's very important for the mixture to cool to room temperature or else the butter will melt or curdle once you add it. Add the vanilla bean pod seeds and turn the speed to medium. Start adding the butter, one cube at a time, and mix for about 20-30 seconds before adding the next cube. Once you have added all of the butter, turn the speed to high for about one minute just to make sure everything is well combined.
Evenly distribute the buttercream into three medium-sized bowls. Add as much or as little of the blackberry, raspberry, and strawberry sauce as you would like* and using a clean whisk, whisk the buttercream vigorously until it is combined. The buttercream and berry sauce will seem like it wont homogenize, but just keep whisking and everything will come together. Repeat with raspberry and strawberry buttercreams.
If you are having trouble getting everything to combine, start with the blackberry buttercream (darkest to lightest berries here) and add the ingredients to the bowl of your stand mixer and whisk it on medium-high speed until it comes together--about 20-30 seconds. Repeat with the raspberry and then the strawberry.
Transfer all of the buttercreams into their own piping bags and cut off the tips. On one third of the cookies, pipe a thing layer of blackberry buttercream around the cookie, leaving about a 1⁄4" border around it. Once you have outlined the cookies, go back and fill in the cookie, piping a thin layer of buttercream inside. Smooth out the frosting with a butterknife or offset spatula. You can keep the cookies smooth or use your offset spatula (or a small spoon) to create a "rustic" look like I did. Just "swoosh" around the buttercream until it looks good to you. Repeat the same process with the raspberry and strawberry buttercream.
Keep the cookies in an airtight container. They will stay fresh and tasty for about 3-4 days at room temp and up to a week in the fridge!
*The exact amounts of berry sauce you use will vary depending on how sweet your berries are and your personal taste preference. I used all of the raspberry and strawberry sauce but only 3⁄4 of the blackberry sauce because the sauce turned out much thinner than the others. So use as much or as little as you prefer.