It is no secret that I am passionate about tea and that I consume a considerable amount daily, whether at home for pleasure or while working, in a tumbler in my car or in a sports bottle on my bike. I have also always loved baking since childhood. I love combining my French heritage with all the amazing cultures that I have encountered along my path and that have enriched my culinary repertoire.
Cooking and baking with tea is very trendy but does it really work? How do you extract the flavors of tea that are by nature subtle and delicate while showcasing them in the baked goods?
There are a few principles that one should keep in mind while experimenting. The key to baking with tea is extracting the most flavor from tea without releasing unnecessary astringency or harshness.
There are 3 main different ways of extracting tea flavor:
· Cold extraction (cold brewing),
· Hot extraction (infusing in hot water, milk, heavy cream for a maximum of 10 minutes),
· Addition of leaf in its powdered form (use a spice grinder or crush tea in a ziplog bag with a rolling pin)
Depending on your recipe, here are 3 groups of ingredients that will help you tame or enhance the flavors:
· Fat –Using vegetal or dairy fat to carry tea flavors is ideal as fat allows for the distribution of intense flavored tea while enrobing tannins and astringency in a creamy mouthfeel.
· Acidity – naturally acidic products enhance the addition of tea. Using the acidity of fruits or citrus brings the delicate tea flavors to the forefront.
· Sweet - sweetener like sugar and maple syrup tame all acidity and tannins and bring out the fruity and herbaceous nuances of tea in your baking.
And then there is what you learn with trial and error: not all teas are meant to be used in baking.
I highly recommend premium loose-leaf teas for daily drinking but also for baking with tea. Avoid lower quality teas like mainstream teabags as they will not yield enough flavor and will not be worth your hard work as a baker.
In other words, use good quality tea but not your finest. Just as you probably wouldn’t use a Château Lafitte bottle of wine in your cooking, I don’t recommend using your most artisan high-end teas for baking.
Some teas are meant to be sipped slowly and voluptuously by themselves rather than being used as a baking ingredient.
Let’s keep in mind that we will be using a small amount of tea compared to all the other ingredients and so you will want to choose a tea with a nice strong flavor.
Nepal black tea will work great with stone fruits while matcha will do wonders in buttery cupcakes and frosting.
Flavored teas bring a strong boost and can be combined with similar flavors (marigold orange tisane marries well with orange zest in cookies and cakes) or you can choose to bring contrast (a hojicha roasted green tea enhances vanilla and maple notes). Floral teas like jasmine and orange blossom, fruity teas like mango/berries, citrusy teas like earl grey or orange burst as well as spicy Chai (with a black tea or rooibos base) can lend their extra layer of flavors while also adding their tannic or vegetal notes.
The possibilities are endless but here are a few recommendations with printable recipe cards (see below).
You could add jasmine pear preserve to your holiday cheese board. It goes well with Brie and goat or sheep milk cheeses such as Sainte-Maure or Ossau-Iraty.
Finish the meal with our chai pumpkin flan. It is creamy and light as a cloud with the richness and depth of the chai spices.
Share matcha raspberry mini muffins and earl grey madeleine with your family for tea time or brunch with a nice pot of tea.