When I was completing a semester in England, I learned that the every Brit knows the "correct" way to make tea, and that all those ways are different. Well, acknowledging that they had been steeping their brews long before my country was, well, a country, I acquiesced and learned all the variety of contradicting rules: let the kettle cool, pour it piping hot, tea in kettle, tea in cup, steep time two minutes, steep time forever, two sugars, one sugar, no sugar, milk. Lemon was never even an option. But what happens when you take the tea out of the cup AND the kettle? What happens when you put the tea, say, on the plate? Yes, I'm talking about cooking with tea.
"Tea is tea and food is food," I can see my British professor saying. Well, what if they mix. It's not as crazy as it sounds. If you've ever been in the foodie realm, you've probably heard of such exotic things as chai flavored chocolate or Green Tea ice cream. But the reality of tea cooking is that it's can be used for sweet, savory, meat rubs, salad garnishes, and even marbling hard-boiled eggs.
Because at its most basic, tea is made up of plants: herbs, spices, and sometimes fruit, which are exactly the sort of things that make up meat rubs, spice packets, and herbed spreads. If you're looking for ways to incorporate tea into your kitchen meals, there are many great books on the topic, I suggest Culinary Tea: More Than 150 Recipes Steeped in Tradition from Around the World by Cynthia Gold and Lise Stern.
But if you want some quick tips about cooking with tea right now, look no further:
-Use high quality loose-leaf tea and grind it up. The tea we sell at Sacred Grounds from Great Lakes Tea and Spice Co. would be perfect for cooking as it's high quality, loose leaf, and organic! Grinding the tea helps make the right consistency which you can incorporate into baking and cooking so that you get the flavor without risk of any unwanted crunch.
-Use your instincts. Most cooks have a basic idea of what flavors go together: fruity flavors are good with pork, "green" flavors pair well with poultry and salads, etc. Experiement and follow your nose and tongue!
-Try throwing tea in soups. Everyone knows that sad state of a soup without spices, make sure your broths have bold flavors by tossing green or brown teas in as spice packets.
-Never underestimate the power of chai. Though "chai" simply means tea in India, the specific blend of ginger, cardamum, and cloves which we call chai in America is perfect with all things sweet and delicious. Try it in baked goods, oatmeal, or to add an extra oomph to nut butters.
-Consider the options: smoothies, sorbets, soups, meat rub, marinades, oatmeal, cookies, cakes, icing...the possibilites for tea are endless. Have fun in the kitchen and let us know what you concoct.
In a food processor, pulse together the flour, tea, and salt, until the tea is just spotted throughout the flour. Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and butter. Pulse together just until a dough is formed. Place dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, and roll into a log, about 2 1/2-inches in diameter. Tightly twist each end of wrap, and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Slice the log into 1/3-inch thick disks. Place on parchment or silpat lined baking sheets, 2 inches apart (2 probably needed depending on size of sheets). Bake until the edges are just brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and cool to room temperature.
Origins: Great Lakes Tea and Spice Co.
March 23, 2014
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