As we hunker down to the heart of winter (which nonetheless feels like spring in some parts of the country) my thoughts turn to simple desserts that can be gilded with a luxurious finishing touch—whipped cream flavored with tea. Here’s what I suggest as a pleasurable experiment: Select teas from your cabinet – one from each of the following broad categories: Green, oolong, black, and the few flavored ones (Earl Grey, rose, chai, and perhaps lapsang souchong – which is flavored by smoke). The method to make this treat is simple, with only three ingredients and three steps.
Step 1. Instead of infusing the tea leaves in water, here you are steeping them in part of the hot cream.
Step 2. Sweeten to taste (I like to be stingy on the sugar to allow the flavor of the tea to shine). Either a mild-flavored honey such as orange blossom or sugar work equally well here. Just be sure that the steeped cream is hot when adding it so that the sweetener dissolves fully.
Step 3. Then, using a whisk or the whisk attachment of an electric mixer, whip the remaining cream to soft peaks. Be sure to slightly underwhip this as you will be folding the cooled infused cream into this and in manipulating it further, you will be thickening the mixture a bit.
Here are the proportions: To make enough whipped crema for 4 generous servings, you will need:
- 2 cups heavy cream
- .25 oz. of premium whole leaf tea
- 2 ozs (a scant 1/3 cup) white sugar or honey
Place half of the cream (1 cup) into a saucepan with the tea leaves. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the sugar or honey now and stir to melt. Allow to steep for 10 minutes more. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve set over a small bowl, pressing hard on the tea leaves in the sieve to extract the full flavor of the tea. (Note that you will end up with slightly less than the original cup since the tea leaves will absorb some of the cream.) Let this sieved mixture cool to room temperature. When it has fully cooled, begin whipping the remaining cream to soft peaks, whether by hand or by machine. Now carefully fold the infused cream into the whipped cream, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to use in any of the following pairings.
- Dragonwell or other premium whole leaf green tea is a great partner to cored and baked whole apples such as Golden Delicious or any of the new varieties on the market (Cosmic Crisp, Gala, Envy, Opal etc.)
- Floral oolong flavored whipped pairs nicely with oven roasted grapes. Simple divide the bunch of grapes into small bunchlets, about 5 grapes each, leaving stems on. Place these bunchlets onto a parchment- or silicone-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F until the grapes have shriveled some and show some browning. Let cool to room temperature and then serve with a side of this tea-flavored whipped cream for dipping.
- Malty Assam flavored whipped cream pairs a simple chocolate loaf cake or over rich premium quality chocolate ice cream.
- Earl Grey flavored whipped cream with seasonal citrus fruits such as tangerines, Cara Cara oranges, Blood oranges, Pomelo, cocktail grapefruit (AKA Mandelo). I like to peel these with a small sharp serrated knife to remove all peel and the underlying pith along with any seeds. Segment the fruit into clean membrane-free suprêmes by positioning the knife to either side of the now-exposed segments, with quick cuts toward the center and then next away from the center of the fruit.
- Rose petal flavored black tea whipped cream sets fresh litchis or peeled and sliced Asian pears off to great advantage.