Have you ever had High Tea? My first time was with friends at the Fairmont Victoria Empress Resort in Victoria B.C. I liked the idea of tea time but had never experienced it. In America, we’re always in a rush and I usually grab coffee on the go. It was during that first “tea time” that I was introduced to a cascade of tiny sandwiches and treats served on silver dessert towers. I was hooked.
After stuffing my face, and feeling very fancy while doing it, I returned home and researched recipes. I was living in Seattle at a time when the internet was still somewhat new so my apartment had stacks of food magazines and cookbooks. I was a bakery manager then at the Uptown Espresso on Queen Anne hill. Our focus was scones, muffins, pies and cakes…not many cookies other than chocolate chip. It was the time of “grunge” and the coffee movement was just gaining momentum. We were catering to artists and musicians who came in at all hours to sink down into our comfy velvet couches and create their next big masterpiece. We were open from 5am to midnight with little time to develop a line of cookies to sell. It wasn’t until I moved back to Los Angeles a few years later that I started creating a tea party spread for friends.
This Orange Chocolate Chip Shortbread has become a favorite and it’s the top request by friends for any gathering. It’s a nice combination of orange zest, vanilla and mini-chocolate chips that don’t overpower the cookie. I found this particular recipe on Mondo’s site, I bake he shoots. Mondo is a self-taught baker, food stylist and the owner of Mondo’s Morsels. There are lots of great recipes on her site and beautiful photographs by David Mayerhofer. She has slightly adapted this recipe from Shop Girl, who adapted from Ina Garten.
Mondo’s recommendation for mashing the orange zest into the sugar is right on. It makes all the difference in taste. This recipe yields 16 cookies but it depends on the size of your cookie cutter. I used a scalloped square that’s about 1 ½ inches and produced 32 cookies.