Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cook the Books: Death by Darjeerling

With the hectic wrap-up of the school year, I skipped the Cook the Books' selection of United States of Arugula by David Kemp. Well, I bought the book, fully intending to participate, but the months got away from me and I didn't read it, much less cook anything inspired by it. There it sat, on my nightstand, with an army of other tomes I intended to read the past few months. I will dust it off this summer. I promise!

When I saw that the June-July pick was a breezy mystery - for tea lovers - I thought: "that's do-able." Death by Darjeerling by Laura Childs. It was a breeze.

I used to love mysteries. I think I devoured every single Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys book before I was nine-years-old; a childhood friend and I even fancied ourselves detectives and started our own detective agency, the JCM Detective Agency; and through high school, I adored Agatha Christie's Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. Needless to say, I had high hopes for this book, my first summer-vacation read.

But, I have to admit, I struggled to get through Death by Darjeerling. Childs' flowery descriptions were more distracting than image-provoking and her characters felt cardboardy and cliché. I just didn't like this book and am fully aware that I may be alone in my opinion. Oh, well.

I did learn, however, that I have been oversteeping my tea. At one point, Drayton Conneley, instructs, "Green and white teas are best at between one and two minutes.... A Darjeerling, which we all know is delicate and fruity, shouldn't be infused for longer than three minutes. And that is a hard and fast rule." Good to know. I've definitely been oversteeping mine.

While I didn't care for the book, I do like tea-infused treats. Here are a couple of sweet tea creations from my kitchen to yours...


10 T butter
1/2 C packed organic brown sugar
2 T loose leaf mint tea
1 egg, beaten
1-3/4 C white whole wheat flour
granulated sugar and more loose leaf mint tea

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in tea leaves until well combined. Beat in the egg, then carefully fold in the flour.
Roll the dough into a long cylinder. Flatten the cylinder into a rectangular shape, pressing granulated sugar and more mint leaves into the sides. Put the dough in plastic wrap and chill for about an hour, until the dough is firm enough to slice.

Using a sharp knife, cut the dough cylinder widthwise into 1/4" slices and place, slightly apart, on the baking sheets. Bake for 15-18 minutes until slightly browned. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

These are dense, moist, and have just a hint of exotic...and took me multiple tries to get the right texture and flavor combination. When at first you don't suceed, keep on cooking!
2 C chipped unsweetened dark chocolate
1/2 C (1 stick) butter
2/3 C organic buttermilk
1-1/2 C organic brown sugar, packed
2 t date liqueur
2 eggs, separated
1 C organic whole milk yogurt
2 T olive oil
2 C white whole wheat flour
1 t baking powder
3 earl grey tea bags, opened

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter your baking dish. I used a 9" x 13".

Place chocolate, butter, and buttermilk in a saucepan. Stir over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in loose earl grey tea, sugar, and date liqueur.

Beat in the egg yolks, yogurt, and olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the chocolate mixture. Beat with a hand mixer to aerate.

Sift in the flour and baking powder, folding in until just moistened.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate batter.

Scrape the batter into pan and bake for 45 minutes or until firm to the touch. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack. Pour a layer of lavender ganache over the top and cool to set. Cut into serving-size squares. This is rich, so make them small.

If you want to join the fun, you still have time to squeeze in Death by Darjeerling. The posting deadline isn't until the end of July. Seriously, it is fun. Even though I didn't love the book, I love this group!

Or, if you want to join in for next time, we're reading and cooking from Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen. That post isn't due until the end of September.

Click here for more information about how to participate in Cook the Books.

Happy reading and happy cooking!


  1. Sorry Death by Darjeeling wasn't your cup of tea, but am glad that you were inspired to whip up those gorgeous tea time treats. Thanks for submitting a post to Cook the Books this round!

  2. Absolutely truly inspired and creative. I know I will try your brownie recipe. I usually am not a mystery fan but I did like this one. Have you started Home Cooking? I can't put it down.

  3. I know what you mean...sometimes a book or movie just doesn't flip my switches. I'm glad you got some inspiration nonetheless, because these treats look fabulous!

  4. You can't win them all with book selections but you managed some great tea-inspired dishes anyway. I love the mint in that shortbread especially--perfect for dipping into tea.

  5. Check out the roundup for the Cook the Books Death by Darjeeling round. I think you will be interested to read it.....


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