Tips and recipes for cooking and baking with tea
Many years ago, our old Italian neighbour gave me one of the best pieces of cooking advice I’ve ever received: She told me that I should never cook with water if I could possibly avoid it.
Of course she didn’t mean never to cook with liquids — just that I should use some liquid other than water, to improve both the taste and texture of whatever I was preparing.
Although it’s not always possible to substitute for plain old water, I did take her advice (she was a smashing good cook!) and generally try to come up with alternative liquids whenever I’m cooking or baking.
The obvious choices for savoury cooking are broth and tomato or mixed vegetable juice. With sweet dishes I’ve dabbled in various types of fruit juices, milks, and on one or two occasions even gave soda pop a go (highly not recommended except in the punch bowl!).
When I “discovered” tea as a cooking and baking ingredient my whole life changed. Okay, maybe not my whole life, but certainly my whole culinary repertoire.
At my Cat-Tea Corner website, which features a 400-plus recipe collection, there’s a good-sized section for Cooking with tea and teatime treats. You’re invited to take a look, browse through, choose a recipe or two, and give it a go in your own kitchen.
You’ll also find some general tips for incorporating tea into your own dishes. Here are a few more that I’ve developed after experimenting with the original recipes, which have been published over the past ten years:
- If you’re cooking rice for a Mexican/Spanish rice dish, try using Lapsang Souchong tea for part of the liquid to add a smoked flavour. Works with millet, too. (Actually a lot of savoury dishes, including soups, are enhanced with LS’s smokiness. But if it comprises more than a third of the required liquid it may overpower the rest of the dish, so don’t overdo it.)
- Over the years I’ve used a number of teas for holiday cranberry sauce. Formosa oolong, with its inherent spiced/baked peach quality, works really well. But even better was the tea I used this year: Fortnum & Mason’s Wild Strawberry. Now that was some good cranberry sauce!
- Cold Sesame Noodles are good with black tea, but a non-grassy green tea (Gunpowder, for example) and a “neutral” type of dark-roasted oolong (like Ti Kuan Yin) are also excellent.
- When strawberries are in season, puree a pint or two (sweeten to taste if necessary) and freeze the puree in ice cube trays. Once frozen, transfer the “strawberry cubes” to a plastic bag or container. Keep them in the freezer and drop one or two into your glass of iced tea. Adds a nice flavour but doesn’t water down the tea like … well, water ice! (Good in lemonade, too.)
- If you’re baking a cake from a mix, always substitute tea for at least part of the liquid. The lighter the cake, the lighter the tea you should use. For a white cake, for example, use white tea (that was kind of a no-brainer, huh?); for yellow cake try a second-flush Darjeeling or a Nilgiri; and maybe a rich Assam or Breakfast Blend for chocolate cakes. For spice cake or apple cake? I’d go with chai!
Got a good tip for cooking or baking with tea? Want to share it with other readers? Send it as a Comment using the form below.
Whether it’s in your cup or on your plate, happy tea-ing!
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