Spring has come and nearly gone with summer on its way. Iced tea season is almost upon us, though even on the hottest days a hot cuppa soothes. But what I crave at this moment is something luxurious and rich and creamy…

If you guessed ice cream, guess again…

Give up? I am thinking about Bavarian cream AKA crème bavaroise. It’s a classic combination of dairy (milk and cream), egg yolks, sugar, gelatin, and flavoring. The base is crème anglaise (English cream) – the classic mother sauce of the dessert world: Infinitely variable and versatile. Here I suggest flavoring it with a hauntingly muscatel-scented Darjeeling. And then lighten the whole mixture with softly whipped cream. Pour it into a dish or a mold (it will unmold beautifully onto a plate) and, if you like, celebrate the beginning of the stone fruit season by serving it with a sauce made from fresh peaches or apricots. Peaches echo the beautiful delicate flavor notes in the tea.

Here’s how to do this. Make it the day before you wish to serve it, so it has plenty of time to set and mellow in the refrigerator.

Tea Bavarian Cream

Yield: 8 servings (the recipe may be halved, if desired)

  • 4 ounces whole milk
  • 4 ounce heavy cream
  • 2 T. good quality Darjeeling whole leaf tea (muscatel, peachy—its flavor only comes from the leaves, nothing added) 
  • 2 ounces granulated sugar
  • 4 egg yolks (scant 4 ounces)
  • ½ ounces gelatin (either sheets or powder)
  • 14 ounces heavy cream, softly whipped

Start by scalding the milk and first quantity of the cream. Stir occasionally so that it does not scorch. Add the tea leaves and remove from the heat. Allow to steep for about 10 minutes. Pour the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl, pressing hard on the tea to extract as much of the liquid as possible.  It should taste subtly but noticeably like the tea. 

Now beat the sugar and egg yolks in a bowl until the sugar is nearly dissolved, and the mixture is light in texture and color. 

Soak the gelatin sheets in enough ice water to cover them. When softened, remove and squeeze excess water out of them and place them into a small bowl. If using the gelatin powder, mix the powder with about ¼ cup of cold water. Set either aside for now. 

Reheat the infused milk and cream mixture until hot. Pour a small amount of it into the yolks and sugar, whisking constantly. Now add the remaining milk and cream and transfer the mixture to a heavy bottomed saucepan. Stir, don’t whisk, until the mixture reaches 180 degrees F (don’t exceed 185 or the mixture will curdle). When done, the mixture now should coat the back of a spoon. Now while the mixture is still hot, add the prepared gelatin and stir until completely melted (it will disappear into the mixture). Set this over a bowl filled with ice water and stir the mixture constantly with a spatula until it thickens some. Stir vigorously along the bottom of the bowl and make sure the whole mixture is one texture, not lumpy. 

Whip the second part of the cream using a whisk or whisk attachment on an electric mixer just until lightly thickened and holds a soft shape. Do not overbeat. 

Now fold the cream into the cooled and partially set custard base. Pour into molds or small bowl, as desired. Chill until set, at least 3-4 hours or overnight, well covered. 

Dip the molds briefly in hot water to release (you may wish to use a small thin knife to free the mixture from the sides of the mold.) Invert onto plates and serve with a fresh fruit puree or simply slices of perfectly ripe and aromatic peaches or apricots – whichever you prefer.

Photo “honey panna cotta” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License to the photographer Stu Spivack and is being posted unaltered (source)