Tea of the Week: Spicely Organic’s Sweet Turmeric Kick

Sweet Tumeric If you’re looking for a tea to tip off the start of autumn, Spicely Organic’s Sweet Turmeric Kick will get things moving into full swing. This “tea” actually isn’t tea-based at all. Instead, it combines the warm flavors of ground turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon into a bright and soothing herbal blend that’s completely camellia sinensis free.

Spicely Organics is a San Francisco based company well-known for their huge variety of organic spices, so making a spice-based tea is certainly natural leap for them. Sweet Turmeric Kick’s light, lingering notes of honey-like sweetness come from vanilla powder and stevia. The spicy and sweet flavors meld together to make a snappy yet smooth cup of tea.

After brewing, expect the ground spices to pool at the bottom of your teacup or teapot, so periodically stir the tea if you want the full taste of the spices to come through in every sip. You can also try steeping the tea in regular milk, almond milk, or soy milk for some added heft and creaminess. On a cool fall day and even into winter, the brew will taste delicious this way.

Tasting Notes for Spicely Organic’s Sweet Turmeric Kick:

BREWING TIPS:  A half teaspoon for every 8 ounces doesn’t seem like much but it’s the perfect amount! Brew at 200-210 degrees F and enjoy warm.

THE BLEND:  Bright, auburn-orange powder with the tiniest fibers of ginger flecked throughout.

THE SCENT:  The blend itself smells earthy, slightly mustardy, and peppery. Once it’s brewed, the tea smells lighter and sweeter, and has a honey-like essence.

THE STEEP:  Brews to the most beautiful shade of bright, sunny orange. The brew is slightly cloudy when you first brew it, but it will become clearer once the spices settle. The steep tastes of butternut squash, pumpkin pie, and sweet melon.

GET IT:  The blend is available at Spicely Organics’s website.

FOOD PAIRING:  This would be perfect with Indian foods like a fresh piece of Spice in the City’s Garlic Naan Bread or My Food Tapestry’s Beetroot Parathas. The tea would also be great for breakfast with other hearty breads like muffins and whole grain bread or even french toast or pancakes.

Smoked Salmon Macarons

Every time I think I’ve made my last set of macarons, I come up with some new and interesting flavor that I can’t resist experimenting with. This is probably a good thing, because when it comes to macaron making it’s always a good idea to keep your skills up. It took me months to create my first normal looking macarons and the last thing I want to do is forget all those skills I worked so hard to build!

Smoked Salmon Macarons are an unexpected twist on this classic French sandwich cookie. This time, these elegant shells are filled with a smoked salmon mousse made of Boursin cheese, smoked salmon, and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. This is a savory filling, the type you would typically find in a tea sandwich or even on top of a bagel. While the macaron shell remains sweet, the filling provides salty contrast in each crunchy and chewy bite.

These macarons are perfect for an afternoon tea, bridal shower, or even as a fancy starter for a dinner party. Dress them up with fresh or dried herbs like chives and dill for a pretty finish. Simply mix the herbs into the filling or even just scatter them on top of the shells just after piping them out.

If you are a person who loves the combination of sweet and salty these are the treat for you. A grassy Chinese or Japanese green tea would be delicious with these Smoked Salmon Macarons. The vegetal tasting green tea brew will help all the fresh lemon and herb flavors to shine bright.

Just when you thought you’d tasted the most unique flavors of French Macarons, here’s one more to try that you probably won’t spot in the pastry case of your local pâtisserie! Happy Friday and Bon Appétit!

Smoked Salmon French Macarons

Makes 35 macaron sandwiches.

Ingredients:

{Macaron Shells}

dried chives or dill

{Filling}

4 oz smoked salmon

5 oz package Boursin cheese, at room temperature

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1/2 oz fresh chives or dill, finely chopped

black pepper to taste

Equipment:

food processor

rubber spatula

piping bag fitted with #847 star tip

Directions:

1.)  Make the macaron shells (without the green tea powder). If you’d like to decorate the tops of the shells with herbs, scatter them on just after piping out the macarons in step 8. After baking, match shells into pairs based on size and shape. Set the shells aside to cool.

2.)  Make the filling by placing the smoked salmon, cheese, lemon juice, and pepper into a food processor and processing until everything is evenly mixed. Mix in the chopped herbs gently with a rubber spatula.

3.)  Place the smoked salmon cheese filling into the piping bag. Fill one macaron shell from each pair with a 2 tsp dollop of the filling, then top with the other matching macaron shell.

4.)  Ideally, let the macarons set in the fridge in a covered container for a few hours before serving. This way, the flavors of the filling have a chance to meld with the shells.

Matcha French Toast Sticks

There’s something about French toast that I find so delicious, homey, and comforting. My mom would always cook French toast for us when we were kids, so this breakfast time treat brings me back to the good old days.

Now that I’m older, wiser, and in need of a caffeine boost to get through my day, I’ve revamped my mom’s simple French Toast recipe into one that’s loaded with an extra boost of nutrition.

My recipe for Matcha French Toast Sticks with Blueberry Yogurt Dip is where fun, kiddy finger food meets an extra dose of good health. The recipe uses 2 types of coconut milk and honey as the base for an eggy custard soak. Traditional spices like cinnamon and nutmeg are then mixed in with a healthy dose of eye-opening matcha and antioxidant-rich flax seeds for an added layer of flavor and vitality.

Blueberry Yogurt Dip makes the perfect dipping partner for these French Toast Sticks–it’s creamy, tangy, and naturally sweet without being overly cloying like maple syrup. The dip gets it’s sweetness from both blueberry jam and honey, which loosen the Greek yogurt into a thinner, more dunkable consistency.

I have to admit, I don’t think this is the best looking recipe, but I can assure you that it will absolutely deliver on taste, healthfulness, and simplicity. These French toast sticks will get you through the busiest of days while satisfying that little kid in you who loves their breakfast time to be fun, festive, and very, very yummy!

Matcha French Toast Sticks with Blueberry Yogurt Dip

Makes 12 sticks.

Ingredients:

{Matcha French Toast Sticks}

4 pieces of thick cut white or wheat bread

2 eggs

1/3 cup coconut or almond milk (the light kind, from a carton)

2 Tbsp coconut milk (the heavy kind, from a can)

1 Tbsp honey

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

2 tsp matcha powder, sifted

2 Tbsp ground flax seeds

coconut oil, for cooking

{Blueberry Yogurt Dip}

1/2 cup Greek non-fat yogurt

3 Tbsp low-sugar blueberry jam

1 Tbsp honey

{Garnish}

1 tsp confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp matcha

Equipment:

serrated knife

shallow bowl or casserole dish

large skillet

spatula

cooling rack

medium bowl

whisk

sifter

Directions:

1.)  Using serrated knife, cut each slice of bread into 3 equal, long slices (sticks). Set aside.

2.)  In a shallow bowl or casserole dish, mix eggs, coconut/almond milk, heavy coconut milk, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, matcha, and flax seeds together using a whisk. You may have to whisk vigorously to get the honey mixed in.

3.)  In a large skillet, heat 2-3 teaspoons of coconut oil on med-high heat. Cook 6 French Toast Sticks at a time, making sure to cook each piece on all 4 of it’s oblong sides. Remove the sticks from the skillet when all sides have cooked to a golden brown. Set them aside on a cooking rack, then repeat this process with the other 6 pieces. Set French Toast pieces aside to cool.

4.)  Make the Blueberry Yogurt Dip by mixing the yogurt, jam, and honey together in a medium bowl. Garnish French Toast Sticks with some sifted confectioner’s sugar and matcha powder. Serve Matcha French Toast Sticks with Blueberry Yogurt Dip and enjoy!

Tea of the Week: Mandala’s Noble Mark Ripe Pu’er 2011

Welcome to my first Tea of the Week post! There are so many wonderful (and not so wonderful) teas out there, so I thought it might a good idea to start being a bit more purposeful about sharing my favorites with you. Each week, look out for my Tea of the Week posts to learn more about unique teas, what they taste like, and how to get them. Like wine, tea is difficult to judge from a mere photo, so I’m here to take some of the mystery out of the process. And if you have a tea that you simply love, please drop me a line…I’d love to hear about it, and maybe even introduce it to my readers! Now, on to our Tea of the Week…Mandala Tea’s Noble Mark Ripe Loose Leaf Pu-er Blend 2011.

Pu-erh is a tea for serious tea lovers. Nothing fruity or floral here–just earthy, mellow taste and aroma that’s one-of-a-kind and distinctively Chinese. Mandala Tea’s Noble Mark Ripe Loose Leaf Pu-er Blend 2011 is ideal for those who have never tried this unique fermented dark tea before. The brew is medium-bodied and well-balanced with creamy, woody notes of sweetness. Another wonderful characteristic of this tea is that it isn’t overly earthy like other pu-erhs can be.

The tea leaves themselves will look almost dusty when you see them, but surprisingly, they will brew to the most beautiful color of clear coppery amber. With successive infusions, the color of this brew will continue to darken to a chestnut-brown without becoming too bitter or musty–a characteristic that can be off-putting to first time Pu-erh drinkers.

Unlike raw purer, this blend is ripe, which means that it has undergone a fermentation process called piling. The piling process involves dampening the tea leaves while controlling factors like humidity and heat to encourage oxidation (i.e. flavor development). It’s a lengthy process, and if you can get your hands on some of Mandala Tea’s Noble Mark Ripe Pu’er 2011 you’ll be able to taste the satisfying results of all that labor.

Tasting Notes for Mandela Tea’s Noble Mark Ripe Loose Leaf Pu’er 2011:

ORIGIN:  Southwest China

BREWING TIPS:  1st infusion: 30 seconds @ 212 degrees F. Add 15 seconds to each infusion afterwards. Leaves are good for up to 4 infusions.

THE LEAF:  Dark, twisted leaves in various shades of brown. The leaves have a dusty appearance, as if they’ve been laced with reddish looking clay.

THE SCENT:   Savory and woody, like damp leaves.

THE STEEP:  Brews to a coppery amber-like mahogany. Rich and medium bodied. Mellow and mildly earthy.

GET IT:  The blend is available at Mandala Tea’s website.

FOOD PAIRING:  Serve this hot with Chicken Curry Puffs for a truly Cantonese dim sum tea treat!

Dim Sum Recipe # 9: Chicken Curry Puffs

Without a doubt, there are many subjects that my mother-in-law and I don’t see eye to eye on. Luckily, our mutual love of cooking is what usually leads us back to friendlier, more lighthearted territory. Just when our conversations start heating up, I default to asking her about which recipes she’s been working on or meaning to try. She’s a talented and passionate cook, so this method of diversion works every time, and my hubby (who’s breathing a huge sigh of relief at this point) fully encourages it.

One of the specialties that my mother-in-law is well-known for are Chicken Curry Puffs, a spicy baked dim sum treat. My husband grew up on these, and they are hands down his favorite food. Anytime he realizes that there’s a tray of these flavorful puff pastry pockets coming out of the oven, my usually reserved hubby instantly becomes unabashedly greedy, like a grabby little kid.

The most common places to find Chinese-style curry puffs are dim sum restaurants and bakeries. During a dim sum tea lunch, the baked triangles arrive on the same cart that other baked goods like char siu bao and dan tat come rolled in on. If you get caught up in the chaos of yelling out your dim sum order, you might accidentally skip over these simple-looking pockets not realizing that they have a yummy, savory curry filling tucked inside.

My mother-in-law has a secret non-Chinese ingredient that she uses to give these puffs an extra boost of vibrant curry flavor–Thai red curry paste. Thai red curry paste is more pungent and hotter than plain curry powder is, and adds fullness, moisture, and a tinge of orangey color to the flavorful ground chicken filling.

If you are in the mood for buns instead of turnovers, you can easily swap out this filling for the pork filling in my Honeyed BBQ Pork Bun recipe. As always, don’t overfill turnovers and buns. This way, the filling and flavor stays put in the center of the pocket, right where it should be.A traditional drink to enjoy with these Chicken Curry Puffs is a bold, rich cup of fermented black Pu-erh tea, a brew strong enough to stand up to all the big aromatic curry flavors here. Another option is to serve these golden turnovers with a chilly glass of Thai Iced Tea. If you love the combination of sweet and spicy, this is an incredibly satisfying tea and food pairing that you really shouldn’t miss!

Dim Sum Recipe #9:  Chicken Curry Puffs

Makes 18 puffs.

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground chicken

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

1/2 brown onion, finely chopped

2 Tbsp red curry paste

2 Tbsp Asian curry powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp sesame oil

2 Tbsp sugar

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 Tbsp rice wine or sherry

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

3 green onions, green parts only, thinly sliced

1-1 lb package puff pastry, thawed

1 egg mixed with 1 tsp of water

2 Tbsp sesame seeds

Equipment:

large wok or skillet

large plate

work surface

2 large sheet pans fitted with parchment or silicone baking mats

1 Tbsp measure

pastry brush

Directions:

1.)  Heat 3 Tbsp of oil in a large wok on medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions, and cook for a few minutes until the onions are slightly softened. Add the curry paste, curry powder, and salt and cook for another few minutes until the onions are soft. Increase the heat to high then add the ground chicken, and mix in with the onions until thoroughly incorporated.

2.)  While the chicken is still cooking, add the soy, sesame oil, sugar, and black pepper and stir those ingredients in. When the chicken has fully cooked and is no longer pink, add the rice wine and let it cook out. Turn off the heat and place the chicken filling mixture on a large plate to cool.

3.)  When the filling has cooled to room temperature, mix in the chopped cilantro and sliced green onion.

4.)  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Unfold the puff pastry out into one layer on a work surface. Cut into 9 equal squares, each about 3″ x 3″. Fill each square with 1 Tbsp of the filling, being careful not to overfill. Lightly dab the inner edges of the pastry square with water, then fold one side of the square onto the other to create a turnover. Pinch the edges together firmly to seal them. Place the turnovers on a large baking sheet, about 1″ apart from one another. Repeat this process for all 18 turnovers, placing 9 on each tray.

5.)  Brush each turnover with egg wash (an egg mixed with 1 tsp water), then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake turnovers for 15 to 17 minutes or until pastries are puffed and golden brown.

Lemon Matcha Mints

A few years ago I came across green tea flavored mints. At the time, I remember thinking “Wow, how fancy!” Of course, I had to get a box, but after trying them I was disappointed…where was all that promised earthy green tea flavor? With some gumpaste leftover from my cake projects and good quality matcha on hand, I decided to take a shot at making some tea mints of my own today.

Why would you bother making mints at home? The simple answer is that these are a perfect treat for the matcha enthusiast. You’ll be able to use only the best quality tea here, and it’s an added bonus that these portable matcha mints make it easy for you to enjoy the refreshing taste of matcha anywhere you want!

Today I’m using Mizuba Tea’s Daily Matchaboth in these mints and also to coat them. It’s not the cheapest to use drinking quality matcha in a recipe, but because the matcha here is eaten straight up in a peppery mint, it’s flavor can be fully appreciated. The moment the mint hits your tongue, you’ll taste pure powdery matcha, just the ingredient you need to give your mints a clean, bright tea flavor.

The hardest part of this recipe is punching the mints out. Since you have to do this one at a time, the task can feel quite mechanical, but it’s also relaxing (and faster) once you get a good groove going. The best part of the mint-making process is dusting them with a small bowl of fresh matcha powder in the finishing step. No sifter needed here, just use your fingers to shake of any excess matcha from the mints…the more matcha that clings on to the candies, the better!

Once the mints have dried completely hard, you can place them in small metal tins. I found these round tins in the wedding favor section of my local craft store, where you’ll find many other shapes and sizes of tins choose from in addition to these. A tie of baker’s twine around a clear tin filled matcha mints creates an instantly charming and colorful little party favor.

Remember to make these Lemon Matcha Mints with only the best matcha you can find! When your taste buds need a bit of freshening during the course of the day, these mints deliver a bright and lively pop of pure tea flavor.

Lemon Matcha Mints

Makes 1 cup of mints.

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. gumpaste

4 tsp matcha powder (I used Mizuba Tea’s Daily Matcha)

2 tsp lemon juice powder or a few drops of lemon oil

1/2 tsp peppermint extract

Equipment:

small bowl

rolling-pin

mini fondant cutters or sharp knife

straw

work surface

parchment paper

Directions:

1.)  Knead 2 tsp of matcha and 2 tsp of lemon powder into the gumpaste. If the gumpaste is too stiff, put it in the microwave for 10 seconds to soften it. Knead until the powders are evenly incorporated into the gumpaste.

2.)  Add the extract to the gumpaste, then knead it in thoroughly. If the gumpaste gets too stiff, you can again place it in the microwave for 10 seconds to soften.

3.)  Roll the gumpaste out with the rolling-pin on a work surface lighty dusted with matcha. Roll the gumpaste to a thickness of 1/4″. Place the other 2 tsp of the matcha in a small bowl. Dust each cutter into the matcha. Punch out mints from the rolled gumpaste. If the mints stick to the cutters, use the end of a straw to push them out. You can also cut the mints out with a sharp knife into 1/4″ squares.

4.)  Place mints into the small bowl with the matcha and roll them around. Remove the mints from the bowl, shaking off any excess matcha back into the bowl. Place the mints on a sheet of parchment to dry until completely hardened, preferably for at least 12 hours or overnight before packing.

Chocolate Earl Grey Faux Soufflés

Chocolate Earl Grey Faux Soufflés are the dessert you need when you’ve spent way too much time focusing on dinner, and not enough time thinking about Part Deux. These cakes are easy-to-make, perfectly portioned, and most importantly…they’re delicious!

A few months ago, I shared a recipe for Matcha Mug Cake that showcased the earthy taste and beautiful green color of matcha. Today’s recipe uses another one of my favorite teas, Earl Grey, in a recipe that will transform your everyday chocolate mug cake into a dessert that’s sophisticated, homey, and deliciously unique.

The main flavoring that makes a good Earl Grey tea distinctive is bergamot. The bergamot citrus fruit is bright and fragrant like a sour orange is, although it’s not as sour as a lemon and not as sweet as an orange. Typically, the essential oils found in the rind of this fruit are extracted and then added to black tea leaves to give the steep it’s characteristic floral taste.

According to the Twinings site, the tea was given to the 2nd Earl Grey, the British Prime Minister, in the early 1800’s by “a Chinese mandarin.” Earl Grey loved the blend so much that he asked the tea maker, Twinings, to recreate what came to be known as “Earl Grey’s mixture,” a bergamot-infused black tea. As the blend’s popularity grew, it later became available to others and has since become one of Twinings’ best selling teas.

In this easy recipe, rich dark cocoa powder provides a base for the Earl Grey tea to shine. I create an infused tea milk in the first step so that the tea leaves soften and release more of their bergamot flavor. To enhance the same citrus taste, I also add fresh orange and lemon zest to these tender, chocolatey cakes. A few stirs and a quick spin in the microwave, and the cakes cook up light, fluffy, and incredibly moist.earl grey souffle_

Serve these Chocolate Earl Grey Faux Soufflés at the end of a meal as an after-dinner tea and dessert all wrapped up in one cute little package. If you love the fragrant combination of orange and chocolate, then you’ll love these cakes. What you’ll love even more is how fast this recipe comes together…seriously, 5 minutes and you’re in chocolate heaven!

For cakes this beautiful and tasty, it almost feels strange how simple this recipe is. So, if you prefer a fancier finish and have time to plan ahead, place a few of the same Earl Grey tea bags in with some heavy cream to cold-steep in the fridge overnight. Simply whip the cream to soft peaks right before serving, add a small mound over each cake, and you’ll have a yummy Earl Grey whipped cream to bring all the fragrant flavors together. Unadorned, these decadent cakes are amazingly delicious, but served warm with a dollop of Earl Grey whipped cream? Just incredible!

Chocolate Earl Grey Faux Soufflés

Makes 2 medium size ramekin cakes.

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp milk

1 Earl Grey tea bag (I used Twinings)

3 Tbsp butter, cut into small cubes

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp orange zest

1/4 tsp lemon zest

1 egg

4 Tbsp flour

2 Tbsp cocoa powder

4 Tbsp sugar

1/4 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

3 Tbsp chocolate chips

1/4 tsp confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Equipment:

large microwave safe liquid measuring cup

2 medium-sized ramekins

fork

zester

Directions:

1.)  Pour the milk into the measuring cup and microwave for 30 seconds. Tear open tea bag and pour the tea leaves into the milk. Steep for 2 minutes, then add butter and mix in until it melts.

2.)  Add the vanilla, zests, and egg, then stir vigorously with a fork. Add all the dry ingredients, then mix them in until the batter is homogenous.

3.)  Evenly distribute the batter into the 2 ramekins. Cook 1 cake at a time in the microwave, for 1 minute each. For a decorative touch, dust with confectioners’ sugar right before serving or top with tea-infused whipped cream (see below).

***Optional: Make a tea-infused whip cream to go over cakes by soaking 1/4 cup heavy cream with 2 Earl Grey tea bags overnight. When ready to serve the cakes, discard the tea bags and place the cream in a large cold bowl. Add 1 tsp granulated sugar, then whip the cream with a whisk until you get soft peaks. Spoon a large dollop of whipped cream on each cake. Sprinkle the cream with small Earl Grey tea leaves, orange zest, or lemon zest to finish.