When it comes to getting in the mood to write, the process isn’t a lot different, at its core, than getting ready to go to sleep. Consider the bedtime ritual: changing into pajamas, washing your face, dimming the lights, and crawling into bed to read can cue your body that it’s almost time to sleep. Similarly, clearing clutter from your workspace, responding to a couple of nagging e-mails, and finally settling in with a cup of your favorite tea and a cookie can help your brain transition to the creative task of writing.
Of course, every writer’s ritual will differ, and yours may even vary a little from day to day or change considerably from one year to the next. The important thing is consciously eliminating mental distractions and optimizing creative power. For both Sarah and me, tea is a staple in our writing ritual. Whether we’re retreating to our home office spaces or cozying up on the sofa with a blanket and laptop, having something pleasant like tea helps to set the mood.
The truth is, writing is work, no matter how fun it may be at times. So we as writers deserve a little something special to indulge in while we work. And that brings me to what I’ve been wanting to share with you: salted rye cookies. I baked a batch of these cookies a couple of weeks ago and was stunned by the range of flavors dancing in my mouth in one bite. At once, the bright flavor of citrus exploded on my tongue, accentuated somehow by the crystals of salt on the rim. As the initial flavor subsided, it morphed into a warm, soft orange and the foundation of rye gently came through.
These cookies are not for the faint of heart. But if your palate appreciates cookies and pastries with a savory touch, you may find that your first bite leads to another and then another and another. As I kept coming back to these cookies it occurred to me that they would be a perfect pairing for lapsang souchong, an ancient Chinese tea imbued with the aroma and flavors of the smoking pine fire it is dried upon. Lapsang souchong is bold and serious, and not for everyone, however. If your tastes lean more toward floral or citrus teas, the bergamot streaming through a cup of Earl Grey would also complement the cookies.
Salted Rye Cookies
Adapted from Epicurious and Liana Krissoff (Whole Grains for a New Generation)
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus a pinch
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 1/2 cups whole (dark) rye flour
3 tablespoons demerara sugar
Cream the butter and granulated sugar together until light and fluffy, using an electric mixer. Add the egg, a pinch of salt, and the orange zest, and continue to beat until combined. Mix in the flour, a little at a time, and then turn out the dough and shape it into two logs about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and chill for about an hour until firm.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare your baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper. Combine the remaining kosher salt and the demerara sugar and spread it on a clean workspace. Unwrap the cookie dough and roll each log in the sugar and salt mixture to coat. Slice the logs into cookies approximately 1/8-inch thick and place them on the cookie sheets about 1 inch apart.
Bake for about 16 minutes until the cookies start to turn light brown around the edges, rotating the pan midway through baking if necessary. Remove the cookies from the pan immediately and allow to cool on a wire rack.