Tea and cream are a marriage made in heaven. Moving away from my long-observed Indian tea habit, lately I have been tasting teas from Kenya, full bodied and fruity with a scotch colored liquor readily achieved. Whether CTC or orthodox premium full leaf, these teas, thanks to Joy M. W’Njuguna of Royal Tea of Kenya, a good source for some of the best and freshest leaf. The plants are grown by small farmers living in the east of the Rift Valley, in the foothills of Mt. Kenya – about 5,000 feet above sea level.
In addition to complexing the tea with cream, there’s another layer of flavor to add in the form of fruit. In this case, citrus fruits, which are abundant at the farmers’ markets now and through the winter. I have been tasting the Kenya teas au naturel, amped up with some fragrant fresh orange or tangerine peel. Never content just to limit my enjoyment of the teas in a cup, I have drawn upon their affinity to dairy, and have created a simple but delicious dessert for the season which I call Panna Kenya. Inspired by panna cotta, the classic Italian dessert named so because its base of heavy cream. The panna, is cooked, cotta, slightly sweetened and set with gelatin. My version is capped off with a tea gelée made from slightly sweetened Kenya tea. With each spoonful, one experiences the pleasure of the tea and the citrus-edged creamy dessert beneath it.
The base is comprised of just four ingredients (see Recipe below) and takes just minutes to prepare. And if you’d like, while you are making the tea gelée, brew some extra tea to enjoy a cuppa.
2 sheets of gelatin or 2 tsp powdered unflavored gelatin
8 ounces heavy or whipping cream
1-1/2 ounces (scant ¼ c.) granulated sugar
Zest of 1 orange or tangerine, grated
Prepare the gelatin as follows. If you are using sheet gelatin (available at specialty food stores), place the sheets in a small bowl and cover them with ice and water. If you are using powdered gelatin, place it into a microwave safe container with 3 T. of water. Heat on high setting for 10 seconds and then stir. Return the container to the microwave again and heat for another 10 seconds on high. Carefully remove it from the microwave and stir to be sure that the gelatin has fully melted. The mixture should be clear and not grainy. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes while you heat the cream. Place the cream, sugar and zest into a small saucepan and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring briefly to be sure that the sugar has dissolved. Add the gelatin and stir to dissolve, being sure that all of it has fully melted into the cream mixture. Allow the mixture to cool to lukewarm and then pour into 4 glasses or serving dishes of your choice. Now place into the refrigerator on a level shelf. Depending on the size and depth of the glasses or dishes, the mixture may take one to two hours to set fully. In the meantime make the Tea Gelee as follows:
1 t. Kenya whole leaf black tea
4 ounces good quality water
1 t. granulated sugar
1 sheet gelatin (or 1 t. powdered gelatin)
Brew the tea by bringing the water to 212 F. Add the hot water to the tea in a heatproof vessel and allow to steep for 3 to 4 minutes, tasting until the tea is well flavored and colored. Pay close attention to the tea as it brews to avoid overextraction. Pour the brewed tea through a fine meshed sieve, add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Now prepare the gelatin.
If you are using sheet gelatin (available at specialty food stores), place the sheets in a small bowl and cover them with ice and water. When ready to add it to the hot tea, remove the gelatin from the ice water bath and squeeze out any excess water. Then add it immediately to the hot tea and stir to dissolve.
If you are using powdered gelatin, place it into a microwave-safe container with 1 T. of water. Heat on high for 10 seconds and then stir. Return the container to the microwave and heat for another 10 seconds on high. Carefully remove it from the microwave and stir to be sure that the gelatin has fully melted. The mixture should be clear and not grainy. Add it immediately to the hot tea and stir to dissolve.
Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature and then divide it evenly pouring it over the top of each now-chilled cream mixture. Keep the Panna Kenya refrigerated until ready to serve. You may serve with suprêmes of citrus fruit or a crisp cookie, or both, if desired.
Images courtesy of the author.