The Final Proof: Baking Outside the Tea Cup
One of the oldest and most popular ingredients for beverages, tea also has many applications for bakers that are worth exploring
By Jane Dummer
Tea has a long history originating from its Chinese and Indian heritage. It’s known as a comforting beverage, but well-publicized research about its health benefits has also helped its popularity.
Therefore, if you’re only drinking your tea, you’re missing out. Tea enthusiast and home economist Wendi Hiebert describes a recent contest organized by Dilmah Tea to encourage baking and cooking with tea. Hiebert entered one of her chocolate mousse recipes.
“In addition to drinking your tea, there is a trend to explore baking and cooking with it,” she says. “From Earl Grey to chamomile, and mint to rooibos, baking can become more creative when you add tea. My award winning recipe was created with Dilmah mint tea. I used the infusion method of the mint tea in the 35 per cent crème simmering on the stove top. It was simple and delicious with the mint complementing the chocolate very well. The contest encouraged innovation and I’m looking forward to receiving the Dilmah Tea prize package!”
The entire tea category from loose leaf to ready to drink is forecasted for growth. According to a January 2017 article by Elizabeth Crawford in FoodNavigator.com, titled “Tea sales climb steadily on product development, emergence of tea houses & innovative marketing,” the U.S. tea market grew 5.9 per cent in 2015 over the prior year. Packaged Facts, a market research firm, predicts that trajectory will continue until U.S. retail sales of tea exceeds $9 billion in 2020. New flavours and products combined with shifts in marketing strategies will continue to engage consumers in the tea category and fuel ongoing growth. We know there’s more that can be done with tea than just drinking it. The characteristics of tea that make it ideal to brew – its range of flavours, versatility, and aromatics – also make it perfect to bake with.
Raelene Gannon, a certified tea sommelier and founder of the website (and book of the same name) Tea and All Its Splendour, agrees. “An entire movement has begun using tea as an ingredient in baking, cooking and garnish in Canada,” she says. “Tea is quite a versatile ingredient. There are many people experimenting with tea, from baked cookies, cakes but also chocolate.”
Gannon explains there are a variety of methods to incorporate tea into baking. “There is the whole leaf. It is best to use a mortar and pestle to grind it down a bit, [but] not too much. You don’t necessarily need a powder but [you don’t want any] pointy bits in the baking. Then there is the concentrated infusion method into oil, vinegar, or dairy. With dairy, the viscosity of it makes it a bit more challenging, as it’s better to warm it up slightly to help infusion; however, if your recipe calls for the temperature to be cold, you will have to let it cool.” Gannon is also observing incorporating tea into flavoured whipped crème, flavoured butter for a scones or muffins, and flavouring ganache for cakes. These options add the essence of tea to the baked good without directly incorporating it into the cake, cookie or scone mixture.
I first wrote about baking with matcha in 2010; fast forward seven years later, it continues to be on trend and one of the favourite varieties of teas used in baking.
“Matcha green tea powder is a very popular ingredient for cakes in Japan,” says Chieko Yamaoto, vice-president and COO of AOI Tea Company based in Huntington Beach, Calif. “There are beautiful, high-end matcha cakes to the production of single-serve matcha cakes for convenience. If the baker wants the true flavour of matcha, then I recommend a high-quality variety, as the flavour is more subtle with less bitterness. However, if there are many competing flavours in an every day cake, then the baker can experiment with a lower grade matcha – just watch out for some bitter notes. The matcha cake trend is catching on here! Cakes, along with matcha doughnuts and matcha ice cream are popular in larger centres including New York City and Los Angeles.”
Using tea in baked good creates new flavour combinations and complexities. I believe tea is still unexpected in cakes, cookies and other sweets for the North American consumer, leaving bakers and chefs lots of room to explore!
Jane Dummer, RD (www.janedummer.com), known as the Pod to Plate Food Consultant, collaborates and partners with the food and nutrition industry across North America.