Savory Cheese Shortbread


January 24, 2021  •  6 Comments

While tea is essential in all months, winter highlights its restorative properties. And with tea comes biscuits—spirits and stomachs need a boost in the twilight hours of the afternoon.

This is a savory shortbread recipe that’s been in my family for at least three generations–I don’t know its origins, but it was a frequent flyer at my grandmother’s table. It typically appeared at Christmas, but it’s good all year around. I made it recently and was reminded why I liked it so much—it pairs well with a strong English Breakfast style tea without being lost or overwhelming the flavor of the tea. In other words, this shortbread has personality.

A note on the cheese:  MacLaren’s Imperial Sharp Cheddar is an iconic Canadian grocery item. In fact, there is an early version of the container in the Canadian Museum of History. For substitutions, keep in mind that it’s very sharp and stiffer than a true cream-cheese style product. The internet recommends Black Creek Sharp Cheddar Cold Pack Cheese as an alternative, but I’ve never tried it myself. If you do, please let me know how it turns out.

Ingredients:

  • ½ pound McLaren’s Imperial Cheese
  • ½ pound butter
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar

Mix ingredients either by hand or in a food processor and knead slightly until it can be formed into a roll and sliced.  Make a ball from each slice and press with a fork.  Bake on ungreased cookie sheets at 250 F for an hour (or until the bottom browns a bit). Cool on a rack before storing in a tin.


Tea and Travel


July 24, 2017  •  No Comments

Last weekend I treated myself to a few days away. I’d just survived a book deadline and was looking forward to baking in the sun at a local music festival. This meant a few hours’ drive up Vancouver Island on a beautiful sunny Friday. Getting there is half the fun, right?

One of the real treats with taking a road trip is the opportunity to stop in interesting places along the way. The very first tea farm in Canada, Westholme Tea Company (www.Westholmetea.com) is just north of the city of Duncan. After a drive down a winding country road, my friend and I stopped in a completely charming oasis that housed not only the farm, but also a charming garden patio, an intriguing shop filled with single origin and blended organic teas, and a pottery gallery.

The tea plants were smaller than I expected and grew in shaggy terraced rows along the hillside. Inside the shop we were offered samples of the tea du jour in tiny cups made from the very funky local pottery. The building was open and airy and filled with wonderful scents and lots of treasures to investigate. The staff was great, too, filled with suggestions and information.

I learned a lot about the differences in taste between first and second flush teas. This refers to whether the tea is gathered from the first growth in the spring or from a later crop of leaves. The first flush has a more astringent taste and the second is mellower. Preference is a matter of taste, although many prize the first flush and often that’s more expensive. Yes, I bought a few things, including a nice second flush Darjeeling.

I don’t follow a hundred mile diet, but investigating locally produced foods is a great excuse to seek out fascinating people doing cool things. Hopefully I’m shrinking my carbon footprint and expanding my horizons at the same time!