Hibiscus Tea and Poppy Seed Shortbread

Yield: Twenty four 3-inch cut-out cookies                                                       

First, make the hibiscus tea butter:

1 pound, 8 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into pieces
¼ cup Republic of Tea Hibiscus Superflower (about 20 bags)
  1. Place butter in a medium saucepan over low heat.  When butter begins to melt and pool in the bottom of the saucepan, pour in the loose tea. Stir occasionally.  When butter is completely melted and mixture is hot, remove from heat source.  Allow the tea to steep for several minutes until it is a bright, red-pink.
  2. Place a large sieve over a bowl and line the sieve with a tea towel (one that you don’t mind getting stained).  Pour melted tea butter through the towel-lined sieve and let stand for a few minutes.  Gather the towel together at the top and squeeze out as much of the melted butter as possible (you may want to use gloves, as this tea will stain hands). 
  3. Place bowl of melted butter in the refrigerator until partially firm, then stir until the butter is a consistent color.  Cover and keep refrigerated until ready for use.  The shortbread cookie recipe requires one pound of tea butter, be sure to measure it out before you begin making the cookies.  You will have a small amount of tea butter left over. 

Make the cookies:
1 pound prepared hibiscus tea butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup poppy seeds plus extra for sprinkling
2-4 tablespoons cold water
  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and granulated sugar until fluffy.
  2. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until incorporated.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and mix again.
  4. Add 2 cups of the flour and the salt and mix on low speed until crumbly. Add the remaining 2 cups of flour and mix again on low speed.  Stir in the poppy seeds on the lowest mixer setting. Mixture will be crumbly.  Add cold water 1 tablespoon at a time until a stiff dough forms.  Dough should not be sticky.
  5. Gather the dough together with your hands and place on parchment paper. Divide into two pieces. Roll each piece of dough between sheets of parchment until flattened to about a 1-inch thickness.
  6. Wrap the dough in plastic film and place the pieces on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. This dough will firm up quickly because of the high butter content.
  7. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  8. While it’s still cold, roll out the dough to a ¼-inch thickness. If the dough is difficult to roll, let it stand at room temperature for a few minutes until it is pliable. Use rolling-pin guide bands for evenly rolled shortbread.
  9. Cut the dough into desired shapes and place them on cookie sheets spaced 1 ½ inches apart.  Sprinkle cut-outs with extra poppy seeds. Transfer the pans of cut-outs to the freezer and chill until frozen solid.  This will help the cut-outs keep their shape while baking.  Remove pans from freezer and bake until fragrant:
• 7 to 10 minutes for small cookies
• 12 to 15 minutes for medium cookies
• 17 to 20 minutes for large cookies