Baking With Tea
Want to garnish a cake with a sweet cream? Add a little brewed black or flavored black tea for a umami edge.
Icings beg for a taste of tea. Fruity blends or fragrant tisanes like hibiscus or mild chamomile are wonderful. Use crushed tea leaves (or dustings from a tea bag) and savor the flavor.
Flavor butters, creams or other fats with your favorite teas to use with flours in cakes, cupcakes or cookies. The tea adds a mystery of flavor that's both intriguing and delicious — yet never overwhelms.
Substitute brewed tea liquor for liquids. Or, use half tea, half suggested liquids (water, milk, etc.)
Let your imagination go wild! If you'd enjoy a particular tea with the planned dessert, add a little of that tea to the dessert itself. One teaspoon to one tablespoon should be more than enough. Because the amount of tea used is so small, use the best you can afford for the best results.
TEA-INFUSED POACHED FRUITS
YIELD: 4 servings
Tea makes a divine poaching liquid for white or yellow nectarines or peaches, as well as for plums and similar stone fruits. (Trust us, summer will come. But if you can't wait, jarred or canned fruits in their own juices, no sugar added, will work.)
It's critical to use spring or well-filtered water here for the cleanest, purest taste. This will bring out the best flavor of your chosen fruits. Although pears are not considered a stone fruit, they would work well here, especially Boscs.
Use a fragrant, full-bodied tea — like a full-leaf Darjeeling, or a dark Oolong like Ti Kuan Yin.
Equipment needed: a wide-mouth shallow bowl, a slotted spoon, two saucepans, and a strainer or fine-meshed sieve.
1 qt. water
1T tea leaves
1 c. granulated sugar
4 large stone fruits
Boil the water in a large pot. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and slowly add tea and the sugar. Stir until the sugar completely dissolves, about 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and carefully and slowly pour through a strainer or sieve into the second saucepan. (Discard the sweetened tea leaves.)
Add the fruit into the pan, and cook at a slight simmer...only until the fruit is very tender to avoid them falling apart. Gently turn over the fruit while they simmer to assure even cooking.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Once it has cooled, use a slotted spoon to lift out the fruit and place into a wide shallow bowl. Slowly pour the poaching liquid over the fruit. Then, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate.
To prepare, place one fruit in a serving bowl and top with poaching liquid.
Other ways to serve: Add a dollop of Greek yogurt, vanilla ice cream or a garnish of fresh mint.
Excess poaching syrup is great over ice cream or plain yogurt, stirred into iced or hot tea, or to add a touch of sweetness to cooked grains or rice. Cook once, use twice, we say!
This recipe easily doubles. It is best to cook the fruits whole, but they can be halved and the stones removed, for smaller portions. If cutting the fruit, pay extra attention to the simmering process, so the fruit does not fall apart.
MATCHA CHOCOLATE BITES
Matcha, the powdered green tea of Cha-no-yu, adds brilliant color and a bite to the sweetest of flavors. We loved this recipe from Namiko Chen of www.justonecookbook.com, a site for Japanese recipes. The bitterness of matcha and the smooth sweetness of white chocolate makes a baking marriage supreme.
Fine, bright green matcha for drinking is a bit pricey, so seek out culinary matcha if available. Or, think of this as a splurge dessert and use only the freshest matcha possible. You won't regret a penny spent. This recipe is easy-peasy, and best of all, only requires four ingredients!
Equipment needed: parchment paper, rubber spatula, 8" x 8" baking dish, sifter, sharp knife, clean counter or block of granite or marble.
YIELD: 36 bite-sized pieces
14 oz. white chocolate (commercial white chocolate bars are fine as they are sweetened.) If using baking white chocolate — make sure it's made with cocoa butter, not vegetable fat, or the recipe simply will not work.
1/2c. heavy whipping cream (38% fat)
2T unsalted butter
2T matcha for the candies + 2t more for dusting
1. Line baking dish with parchment paper and set aside. Do not grease, as this will adversely affect the flavor.
2. Sift the matcha powder and set aside.
3. Chop the white chocolate into small pieces.
4. Cut the butter into small pieces.
5. Pour the heavy whipping cream into a small saucepan, and heat over medium heat only until you see bubbles begin.
6. Remove pan from heat, and slowly stir in the white chocolate and butter. Mix until all three ingredients are incorporated. A rubber spatula is best for this.
7. When the mixture is smooth, add 2T of matcha and combine until the entire mixture is green and smooth.
8. Pour the mixture into the clean, absolutely dry baking dish, lined with the parchment paper. If bubbles appear, tap the dish a few times on the countertop (gently!) Smooth mixture flat with the rubber spatula.
9. Refrigerate 4-5 hours or overnight.
10. To serve, lift the parchment paper to remove the green tea chocolate from the baking dish, and place the chocolate on a very clean and dry wood block, or a marble or granite countertop.
11. Run hot water over a sharp knife, wipe it dry completely, and use it to slice the blocks into 4 blocks. Then, cut each block into 9 smaller pieces using two horizontal and two perpendicular cuts.
12. Dust all the pieces with the remaining matcha (2t or more).
13. Store the chocolate, covered, in the refrigerator until serving.
14. Serve chilled. They will, absolutely positively, melt in your mouth.