Chinese Almond Cookies

Almond cookies are a traditional Chinese treat with tea.

Plate of Chinese New Year inspired almond cookies.

The Chinese New Year gives us an excuse to try out more Chinese recipes that pair well with tea, including Chinese Almond Cookies. These cookies resemble American sugar cookies, only with less sugar, and make a great snack to go along with any pot of tea. Traditionally, these are a very popular Chinese sweet and are usually given as gifts to friends and family as part of holiday celebrations. The almond is considered to give good health and lucky to the recipient.

Chinese Almond Cookies (Makes 2 dozen)

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp of almond extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of Almond meal
  • 1 cup of flour (I used an unbleached pastry flour for the cookies in the picture)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 24 whole almonds
  • Egg wash (1 egg beat with a tablespoon of water)

Steps:

  1. Almond cookie dough rolled into small balls before baking.

    Almond cookies ready to go in the oven.

    Beat in a mixer the butter and sugar.  This may require scraping down the sides of the bowl to ensure the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter.

  2. Mix in the salt, almond extract and egg.
  3. Mix in the almond meal, baking soda and flour.
  4. Scrap out the batter onto plastic wrap or wax paper and form into a ball.  Put into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Prepare the egg wash by beating together 1 egg with a tablespoon of water (this is going to create a lot more than you need, but you can turn the leftover into a quick omelette or freeze the remaining for future use as an egg wash)
  6. When ready, pull the dough from the refrigerator and form into a long log.  Cut the log into 24 equal sized pieces and form those pieces into balls.
  7. These cookies will expand a little, so limit the number of cookies on a tray to 12.  Place the balls onto either parchment paper or a silmat on a cookie sheet and then flatten with the bottom of a cup.  Place a whole almond in the center and then brush with the egg wash.
  8. Put the cookies into the oven for 15 minutes or until a nice light brown color appears around the edge.  Pull out of the oven and put on a wire rack to cool before serving.

These sweet cookies make a great addition to an afternoon pot of tea or an after dinner cup of tea.

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestrss

Tea Eggs and the Chinese Spring Festival

The lunar new year is fast approaching and with it a chance to look into the Chinese culture and find new ways to use tea. The Spring Festival, which used to be the Chinese New Year, was renamed in 1913 when the Communist Party took over China and put the country on the Gregorian calendar (this is our modern calendar which was introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII). The Spring Festival corresponds with the lunar new year, which starts this year on February 19th. In Chinese culture, It is considered a time for cleaning, gathering of families and celebrating a fresh start.

Like every family gathering, no matter which country you live in, there is plenty of food. A typical dish, which uses tea in a unique way, are Chinese tea eggs. These are basically spiced hard boiled eggs. The combination and concentration of spices are unique to every family. So while I use one combination below, feel free to modify for your taste.

Chinese Tea Eggs Spicing

Spicing for Chinese Tea Eggs

Chinese Tea Eggs

  • 6 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons of Soy Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of Black or Puerh Tea (traditionally this is made with Puerh)
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • ½ tablespoon anise seeds (3 to 4 Star Anise if you happen to have a good spice shop nearby)
  • 1 tablespoon dried orange peel
  • ½ tablespoon peppercorns

You will need tongs, a bowl with ice and water to cool the eggs and a spoon to crack their shells.

Place the eggs in sauce pan or large pot. You will want the pot big enough to hold the eggs in a single layer and allow you to pour in enough water to cover the eggs entirely. Place the eggs in the pot and fill it with water. Bring the water to a boil and then lower to simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water and put into the bowl with ice water. This will cool the eggs enough for you to handle them without burning yourself.

Chinese Tea Eggs

Completed Tea Eggs

Assuming none of the eggs broke during the initial cooking, just leave the water in the pot as you will be putting the eggs back in it. If one did, drain out the water, it will be foamy, wipe out the pot and fill with fresh water. Pull an egg out of the ice water and use a spoon to crack the egg shell. You are trying to make a lot of small cracks without removing the shell. Don’t worry if you lose part of the shell, just crack the entire shell then place the egg back in the pot. Do this to the remaining eggs.

Once all the eggs are back in the pot, add in the soy sauce, tea and spices. Add more water if necessary to get the liquids above the eggs. Turn the heat back on and bring the water up to a small simmer and allow to cook for at least 2 hours, if you want a darker web on your eggs you can simmer up to 3 hours.

This makes a salted and slightly spicy hard-boiled egg that is also colored by the tea and soy sauce.

Enjoy the lunar new year with a new way to use tea.

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestrss

Black Tea Risotto

As winter seems to keep coming earlier than I want, I went into the kitchen looking for something warm, soothing, and filling. Nothing fits that bill like risotto. Now, I will admit I am usually looking for ways to make the everyday recipes my own and that is why I thought to replace the traditional stock in this dish with tea.

In figuring out which tea to use, it is helpful to remember that risotto gets its creaminess from both the butter added at the end of cooking and the starch released from the rice during cooking. So whatever tea is chosen needs to hold up against dairy and nothing does that better than a good strong black tea. I am sure an Assam black tea or Yunnan would have done fine, but I opted for one of our favorites, Kosabei TGFOP, a black tea from Kenya with both a malty flavor and slightly floral notes.

Experiments with Risotto using Black Tea

Black Tea as Stock for Risotto

Black Tea Risotto

  • 4-6 tablespoons room temperature butter*
  • 6½ cups water
  • 1½ tsps of Kosabei TGFOP (Yunnan Sunrise, Classic Assam, or other bold black tea would work too)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1½ cups Arborio rice or another short grained rice
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

*You can use oil, just use a lighter oil like corn or safflower, olive oil will overpower the tea flavor

First you will need to brew up your tea. Using a small stock pot or sauce pan, bring 6 ½ cups of water to a boil. Once it reaches a boil take the pot off the burner and then drop in all the tea. Allow the leaves to steep for 5 minutes and then pour everything through a strainer into a pitcher. Wipe any residual leaves out of the pot and then return the liquid to the pot. Put it over low heat so it stays warm while you are cooking the risotto. The best way to guarantee success with risotto is having warm liquid to pour over the rice.

Dice the onion into small pieces. Put a medium to large sauce pan (2 quarter sauce pan will give you more room to stir) on the stove at high heat. Put in 2 tablespoons of the butter and allow to melt. Add the onion to the butter and allow to cook for 3 to 5 minutes (the onions should look translucent). Stir periodically so your onions don’t brown. Then add the rice to the pan and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Stir occasionally to get the butter over all the rice and to evenly incorporate the onion. If using Arborio rice, when the kernels become clear around the edges it is the signal to start adding the tea.

Using a ladle, scope in one ladle of the tea and then stir until the liquid disappears. Then add the next ladle and repeat. Keeping going until you have roughly ½ cup left of the tea. Your rice should look plump and by in a slightly creamy sauce (it should not look soupy and the rice kernels should be apparent). Now add in the remaining butter 1 tablespoon at a time. If you cut the tablespoon into quarters it will melt faster. Also, this is where it is time to take a small taste of the risotto and see if you like the creaminess. It is not necessary to add all four tablespoons, it is more of a personal preference. Next, stir in the cup of cheese until it is fully incorporated.

Black tea risotto with some peas and garnish.

The Finished Black Tea Risotto Dish

Now is the time to judge if the remaining ½ cup of tea is necessary. If the risotto is looking dry, try adding a little at a time until it looks shiny. You can also skip the last half cup and save it for the morning if you like the taste of the risotto and how it looks. Salt and pepper to taste and if you want you can stir in ½ to ¾ cup of your favorite vegetable and a couple teaspoons of herbs (rosemary and green peas is one of my favorite combinations in this dish).

I was surprised at how the warm malty flavor of a good black tea adds unique note to this creamy dish. Not to mention, it turns it a warm wheat brown color almost like a loaf of bread. I hope this inspires you to try using tea in one of your favorite recipes.

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestrss

Matcha: Drink Your Tea and Eat it Too (Part II)

Photo of a single matcha green tea cookie.

Matcha Green Tea Cookie

I left off the last matcha blog with green tea ice cream.  However, there are many other ways to use matcha in cooking.

The first recipe is salad dressing.  Matcha adds a surprising kick to salad dressing, that even my five year old likes. Since you are making the salad dressing you can adjust the number of servings below to what suits your needs.  If you store this overnight in the fridge, it will separate, so store in a container where you can shake it back into its intended form before pouring over your next salad.

Matcha Salad Dressing

Serving Size 2

2 tsp. matcha

¼ cup olive or avocado oil (if you keep around other oils, walnut oil is surprising good as well)

2 tbsp. rice vinegar

½ tbsp. soy sauce

½ tbsp. lemon juice (lime juice also works here)

Start by whisking all the ingredients together except the matcha.  Then whisk in the matcha about a ½ tsp. at a time.  It may clump on you so whisk hard (or if you have one of those nifty salad dressing containers with a tight lid, shake hard).  Allow the dressing to sit for about 5-10 minutes before pouring, it allows the matcha to really incorporate its flavor.

This next recipe is for cookies.  This one took a while to get right.  I learned that matcha does not play well with most flours.  Its grassy flavor has a tendency to amplify the wheat like flavor of most pastry flours so you end up with very bland cookies that are also not that sweet.  So here I thought I would make a shortbread cookie and ended up with more of a snickerdoodle type cookie to get the tea flavor I wanted.  The recipe below includes an option for chocolate chips as my son, as one of taste testers, firmly believes it isn’t a real cookie without chocolate chips.

Matcha Cookies -With or Without Chocolate Chips

Photo of matcha green tea cookie dough in the blender.

Batter for Matcha Green Tea Cookies

2 tbsp. matcha

1 ½ cups sugar

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)

2 tsps. cream of tartar

2 eggs

1 tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

2 ½ – 2 ¾ cup Brown Rice Flour

Turbinado sugar for topping (large granules, raw cane sugar)

Oven temperature:  375 degrees Fahrenheit

Bake time: 7-8 minutes per tray, makes around 3-4 dozen cookies

Photo of twelve freshly baked matcha green tea cookies.

Tray of Matcha Green Tea Cookies

Start by putting the matcha and sugar into your mixer or whisk together by hand.  This needs to be mixed until all the sugar is uniformly the same color green.  This will kick up a lot of dust, so put this on the lowest setting your mixer will go.  This step is critical to getting a uniform green cookie, otherwise you will end up cookies with green streaks in them, which is not very attractive. Next drop in the butter in half stick increments and beat until the butter is uniformly green.  You will need to stop mixing and scrap down the sides and the beater to make sure the sugar uniformly gets into all the butter.  Next put in the cream of tartar and the eggs.  Follow with the baking soda, baking powder, salt and then flour.  Incorporate the flour in ¼ – ½ cup increments.  Once you get to 2 cups in the mixer watch closely as you go to incorporate your last ½ – ¾ cup as you do not want the batter to get too dry.  The batter should remain shiny and sticky to both the beater and sides of the bowl.  Scrap down the sides one last time to ensure all flour is in and then pour out onto wax paper.  As this point, you can cover the mound of dough in wax paper and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour to harden (less stickiness to work with).  If the sticky dough doesn’t bother you, pinch out about two tablespoons size amount and roll around in a ball and then lightly roll in a bowl with turbinado sugar.  Press the ball flat into about a ¼ – ½ inch thick cookie.  Leave a good inch to two inches in between cookies as these spread as they cook.  No more than 12 cookies per tray.  Place in the oven for about 7-8 minutes, you should see light brown around the bottom edges of most of the cookies on the tray.  When you pull the cookies out of the oven allow them to cool on the tray – about 10-15 minutes.  The dough stores well in the refrigerator or freezer, so you do not need to make all the cookies at once. Just keep wrapped in the wax paper and in a container so it doesn’t pick up odors from other items in the refrigerator.

Optional:  Chocolate chips – if you are going to put these in the full batter, use about ¾ to 1 cup of chips, and 1 tsp. of vanilla extract.  I split the batter and mix in the chips to half of the batter, so I use about ½ cup and ½ tsp. of vanilla extract.

I hope these recipes inspire you to also explore eating your tea too.

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestrss

Nilgiri Tea Ice Cream (Vegan Friendly)

There is no better way to celebrate summer than to combine two of my favorite things, tea and ice cream. This would seem easy; there is green tea ice cream already. So why aren’t there black tea ice cream recipes all over the place?

The short answer is that green tea ice cream is made with matcha powder, so the tea is blended in with the cream allowing for a nice flavor, texture, and neon green color. When you are eating green tea ice cream, you are literally eating the tea. Black tea is not made into a powder like matcha, so to make black tea ice cream we have to borrow from the coffee ice cream recipes.

Photo of Nilgiri flavored ice cream being poured into churn.

Pouring Nilgiri Flavored Ice Cream into Churn

The trick behind good ice cream, thank you Alton Brown for this bit of information, is to find a nice balance of fat and sugar. If you want less fat, you need more sugar to help keep a smooth texture on the ice cream. It is also handy to note that the human tongue is not very good at picking up flavors in frozen items, so concentration of flavor is key. Keeping that in mind, I set out to find a simple ice cream base that could hold a strong cup of tea. Below is the recipe I came up with for Nilgiri Tea Ice Cream.

Why Nilgiri? It is the usual base to most iced teas in the USA. Its flavor holds up to ice, so it seemed like the easiest place to start.

1 quart Nilgiri Tea Ice Cream Recipe:

Ingredients

6 grams Nilgiri tea
8 oz of water
1 15oz. can of coconut milk (low fat coconut milk is fine, but double the arrowroot)
12 oz. of SILKEN tofu
¾ cup Brown Rice Syrup*
2 Tbsp of Vanilla Extract
½ Tbsp of Arrowroot powder (can use corn or potato starch here)

*Since I am not heating this mixture, it is safer to use a syrup than granulated sugar in this recipe. I am not a fan of high fructose corn syrup, which is why the brown rice syrup is here. Feel free to substitute the corn syrup, but the brown rice syrup adds a slight nutty flavor that compliments the tea in this recipe.

Directions:

Nilgiri flavored iced cream churning away.

Churning Nilgiri Flavored Ice Cream

Brew 6 grams of Nilgiri tea in the 8 oz of water for the typical 5 minute steeping time and set aside to cool slightly. Combine the rest of the ingredients and the tea in a blender and run the blender until the ingredients are combined and smooth. If you are like me and not very patient, the tea will have raised the temperature of the rest of the ingredients too high to immediately pour this into your ice cream machine. So put the contents of the blender in the refrigerator. It will probably need to sit there between 4-6 hours to drop it down to around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Then follow your manufacturer’s instructions for pouring the mixture into your ice cream machine and churning it. It will come out a soft-serve consistency but will harden into more solid ice cream after about 4 hours in the freezer.

A hungry family is ready for dessert.

Nilgiri Tea Is Served

I hope you enjoy this as much as my family did. Have you tried using tea to flavor your homemade ice cream?

Follow Dominion Tea: Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestrss