One of my favorite evening drinks is a hot cup of rooibos (“roy-bus”), also known as red tea or African honeybush tea. It has a soft, naturally vanilla-y flavor that reminds me a bit of my grandpa’s tobacco pipe and tends to calm me instantly. It’s delicious plain or with a splash of cream and honey, and it’s purely caffeine free. I never thought I’d love it any more than I already did – until I found a delightful new twist on it.
Speckled with tiny colorful flowers and flavored with vibrant fruit, Rooibos Capetown has quickly become my favorite hot drink. Its beauty is evident at once in three ways: sight, scent and taste. And with every sip of it I’ve savored, I’ve succumbed to vividly imagining it being integrated into a dessert. This has proven to be a deliciously worthy daydream. Here’s my first of many sweet Capetown creations.
Capetown Cookies with Mango Butter Filling (makes about 42 little sandwiches*)
- 3 tablespoons loose-leaf, high-quality, fruit and/or flower-infused rooibos
- ½ cup egg whites at room temperature (about 3-4 whites)
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3.5 tablespoons granulated sugar at room temperature
- 2.5 cups fine almond meal
- 2.75 cups powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- A large pastry bag with large, plain round tip attached
Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Use a mortar and pestle or spice grinder to break up the rooibos finely; set aside. In a large bowl, beat egg whites on high until foamy. With mixer going, add cream of tartar, gradually add the granulated sugar, and keep beating until stiff, shiny peaks form. In a separate bowl, sift together the almond meal, powdered sugar, salt and rooibos. (It’s OK if up to ¼ cup of larger pieces stay behind in the sifter.) With a large rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the egg white mixture one cup at a time. Once all the ingredients are incorporated, press the batter against the side of the bowl as you stir it a few more times. It will be thick and pasty.
Fill your pastry bag and pipe circles of about 1.25” diameter onto the lined cookie sheets, being careful to leave 1.25” between each cookie and to keep the size consistent. Dip your index finger in water and gently flatten the top of each cookie. Let cookies sit at room temperature, preferably in dry air, for at least 30 minutes or until tops no longer feel sticky. Preheat oven to 325 F; bake the dried cookies for about 12 minutes. Let cool completely on baking sheets. The edges will be crispy and center will be chewy, airy, and wonderfully full of fruity rooibos flavor.
Mango Butter Filling (makes about 1.5 – 2 cups)
- 1 large ripe mango (about 1 pound)
- 3 ounces butter (3/4 stick)
- ¼ cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
Cube the mango, discarding peel and pit, then puree it in a food processor until smooth. Melt butter in a small saucepan, whisking in lime juice, sugar, and cornstarch. Keep stirring over low heat until mixture is bubbling and becoming thick, then add mango puree. Stir constantly as you bring it back to bubbling, cooking it for about 3-5 minutes. Immediately push mango butter through a sieve into a heatproof bowl; cover and chill. Use about a heaping teaspoon of the cool mango butter between each set of two cookies.
Tropical, floral, fruity and light, these cookies are abundant with delicious flavor. Their crisp, airy, chewy texture is surely satisfying, and their quick and low oven time lets the taste of the fragrant rooibos come through beautifully. I’m so thankful to live near a friendly coffee roaster that carries this delicious tea (along with another favorite of mine you might remember). I’ve long loved drinking rooibos, and now I’m crazed to bake with its Capetown edition time and again. Rooibos and dessert: a mouthwatering match!
Maybe next time… I chose mango butter filling to echo the tropical hints that come through in this tea, but the cookies would be delicious sandwiched with almost any frosting or perhaps a thin layer of jam or melted white chocolate. I find that rooibos carries hints of vanilla, caramel, and nuts; any filling along those lines would be great. But they are truly scrumptious when unfilled, too. (Note: these are gluten-free as posted here, and without the filling, they’re dairy-free, too.) In any case, I hope you’ll try rooibos if you haven’t already, and I hope you enjoy it whether it’s in your dessert or in a hot mug alongside it.
*You may have noticed that these little sandwich cookies are basically like French macarons. I hesitate to call them by that name because they lack the classic French buttercream filling, and they don’t follow any traditional recipe specifically.