The approach of autumn in San Jose brings with it cooler weather, brisk breezes, alternating rain and clear blue skies, and the scent of woodsmoke from fireplaces. Many home cooks feel the urge to bake during this time of year. A hot cup of tea and a lovely piece of bread, cake or other treat, still warm from the oven, are one of the most comforting food combinations, but did you know that you can bake with tea as well as drink it?
Tea is not only a good accompaniment, but it is a tasty ingredient in many delicious recipes. Both sweet and savory dishes can benefit from the addition of tea to the recipe: tea leaves can be ground and added to the dry ingredients, along with the spices and other flavorings, or it can be infused into any liquid that is already part of the dish. Since there are a very few commercial bakeries that are using tea as an ingredient, you’ll likely need to buy your own tea and do your own baking if you want cakes, cookies or pastries that contain tea. Check my list of San Jose tea vendors to find some great sources for good quality tea!
To use tea leaves as a dry ingredient, take good-quality loose tea (preferable) or good-quality tea from tea bags, and grind it in a spice grinder until it is almost powdered. You can store it in an opaque air-tight container for future use (it will loose its flavor oils very quickly if exposed to air and light), or add it to shortbread, cake, and cookie recipes,
keeping the amount of tea in proportion to the other spices and flavorings. A tablespoon of ground tea leaves can also be added to savory rubs and marinades for meat, with good results. The tea will add some extra tenderizing power and a subtle flavor to the cooked meat; unflavored black or oolong tea, Lapsang Souchong (smoked black tea) and tea flavored with citrus are especially good additions.
Tea liquor, or tea infused into liquid can be used in many recipes. Water, milk, juice or wine for plumping fruit, making custards, glazes and sauces, can be flavored with tea. Simply measure out the type and amount of liquid indicated in the recipe, heat it almost to the boil in a saucepan, and add one tea bag or 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves for every cup of liquid. Remove from the heat and let steep 5 to 10 minutes, then remove the tea bag or strain out the tea leaves, and let cool. Substitute the tea-flavored liquid for the plain liquid, cup for cup, in the recipe and you’ll have a new and delicious variation on the original!
Copyright 2011, Elizabeth Urbach.
For more info: “Fall recipes: Cinnamon raisin cream cheese bread pudding”
“Fall recipes: Apricot-oolong compote”
“Barbecue with tea”
“Chocolate and tea: the perfect match?”
“San Jose area tea vendors”
Torn Ranch Original Tea Cookies
Flower Flour in Willow Glen (could make a tea-infused cake)
Apple Cinnamon Glazed Baked Ham
Gourmet Thai Chicken Pizza (yes, it contains tea!)
Mango Orange Slow-Roasted Beef
Earl Grey Shortbread