At this time of year, when spring has arrived, the air at dusk in Los Angeles is a cocktail of orange blossoms and honeysuckle. It’s now when I am inspired to seek out the best of the seasonal bounty of citrus fruits. Time and again, I return to kumquats: Those tiny bursts of sunshine in a sweet-tart package (their skins are sweet while the inside flesh tends to be very tart) as the basis for a tea-enhanced dessert. My thinking has led me to layering the cooked kumquats with lightly sweetened whipped cream in a glass and then topping off the whole confection with a layer of black tea gelée. Taking my cues from the best Earl Grey teas–where black tea is perfumed with true bergamot, that Calabrian citrus fruit grown for the fragrant oil in its skin–I decided to combine kumquats with black Chinese tea for this dessert.  I enjoy the meditative process of halving and pitting these tiny fruits (while enjoying a cuppa) and then cooking the prepared fruits in water first to tenderize their skins before simmering them in a sugar syrup. This step takes only about 30 minutes. Then I tackle making the tea gelée (brewed tea lightly sweetened with honey, and set with dissolved gelatin). Here are the particulars.

Tea and Kumquat Parfait
Serves 4

  • 8 oz de-seeded kumquats, halved
  • 1 c. granulated sugar

For the tea gelée:

  • 1 sheet of gelatin (3 grams) or 1 t. of powdered unflavored gelatin
  • Approximately 8 oz brewed black tea (1 generous tea spoon of leaves into 8 ozs of water, steeped for about 3 minutes and then decanted—you will end up with slightly less than 8 ozs after decanting—that’s fine)
  • 1 T. honey

For the whipped cream layers and top garnish:

  • 8 oz heavy cream
  • ¼ c. granulated sugar

For the crunchy garnish:

  • 2 ozs. store-bought or homemade ginger snaps or other spice cookie of your choice, crushed into small pieces

To prepare the kumquats: Bring a small pot of water to the boil. Lower the heat and place the kumquats into the water, simmering them until their skins are tender. Drain and now place them into a clean pot with the first quantity of sugar and enough water to prevent the mixture from burning. Bring the mixture to a rapid boil and then turn off. Allow the fruit to cool in the pot.

Prepare the tea gelée as follows: If using sheet gelatin, place the sheet into a small bowl filled with ice water. Let stand for about 5 minutes or until the sheet is softened but not disintegrating. Remove from the ice water and squeeze out excess water and place the prepared gelatin into a small bowl. Set aside.

If using powdered gelatin, mix it with 5 t. of cold water. Then heat the mixture in a bowl placed over a small pot of hot water, stirring until the liquid becomes clear and no granules are undissolved. Keep the mixture warm.  

Heat the brewed tea and honey and then add whichever form of the gelatin you are using, stirring to dissolve. It will dissolve and disappear immediately. Allow to cool. Do not refrigerate at this point.

To whip the cream: Place the cream and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer, outfitted with a whisk attachment (alternatively, you can hand whip the cream in a bowl using a whisk). Process until soft peaks form. Do not overbeat. Chill until ready to assemble the parfaits.

Just before serving, assemble the parfaits:

Divide the whipped cream into thirds. Spoon the first third into the bottom of each of four glasses. Spoon one quarter of the kumquats over the cream in each glass. Sprinkle some of the gingersnaps or other cookie over the kumquats. Spoon in the second third of the cream, dividing it equally among the four portions. Now chill, covered.

Remove the parfaits from the refrigerator and pour an equal amount of the cooled but still flowing tea gelée (about 2 ounces for each) over the chilled parfaits. Chill until the gelée has firmed a bit, spoon (or pipe using a pastry bag) the remaining cream over the gelée in each glass and serve with long spoons. Finish the dessert service with cups of the steaming hot tea of your choice.

Photo “Kumquats” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License to the photographer “foodmuse” and is being posted unaltered (source)
Photo “Kumquats” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License to the photographer Tim Reckmann and is being posted unaltered (source)

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