custom cakes/cookies

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Indoor S’mores

I contribute recipes to the blog of my friends' tea company, Arbor Teas. This sophisticated treat incorporates a smoky Lapsang Souchong tea to simulate a bonfire and a mellow-spiced Thai Iced Tea blend to add warm notes of vanilla, cardamom, and anise for a novel twist on a classic.

 Although likely an oral tradition passed along at campfires for quite sometime, the first published version of the “some mores” recipe can be found in a 1927 handbook: Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts. By now everyone knows the formula: crunchy cookie + melty chocolate + gooey marshmallow, charred with a bit of smoke. There’s plenty of variations on that theme... The candy bar at Liddabit Sweets got me thinking about a sophisticated indoor version using Arbor Teas. Here, the cookie base is a toasted pecan shortbread laced with black tea, vanilla bean, cardamom, and anise, all care of Arbor Tea’s organic Thai Iced Tea blend. To invoke the requisite bonfire, a soft chocolate ganache layer is infused with their organic, smoked Lapsang Souchong. All is topped with a homemade marshmallow, singed by the flame of a culinary torch.

Indoor S’mores

Thai Tea Pecan Biscuit

makes ~28 cookies

2½ cups flour
1 rounded teaspoon Arbor Tea’s Organic Thai Iced Tea leaves
½ teaspoon coarse salt
4 ounces toasted pecans
½ pound (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
¾ cup sugar

  1. Pulse flour, Organic Thai Iced Tea leaves, salt and pecans in food processor until finely ground.
  2. In a stand mixer bowl, beat butter with sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture to the butter and sugar. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together, about 1 minute. Cover bowl and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350℉. Wipe muffin pans with softened butter. Press 1½ tablespoons of dough into each cup, packing firmly with the bottom of a juice glass.
  4. Bake until edges are brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely in pans on a wire rack before topping with smoked tea chocolate ganache (recipe below).

Smoked Tea Ganache

22 ounces semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
2½ tablespoons golden syrup (or light corn syrup in a pinch)
1 teaspoon Arbor Tea’s Organic Lapsang Souchong Black Tea leaves
¾ teaspoon salt

  1. Place chocolate and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
  2. Combine the Organic Lapsang Souchong Black Tea leaves, heavy cream, and golden syrup in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a strong simmer, cover pan, and turn off heat. Allow tea to steep for 20 minutes.
  3. Strain cream to remove tea leaves and return it to the saucepan. Bring to a boil.
  4. Immediately pour over chocolate and let rest for 5 minutes before stirring. Stir gently for about 2-3 minutes until ganache comes together.

Putting it all together:

Working quickly, pour one heaping tablespoon of warm ganache on top of each cooled biscuit while still in muffin cups. Shake the pan from side to side and tap lightly on counter to level the ganache, and then press a marshmallow (see recipe below to make your own) into the center of each. Allow ganache to set until firm, about 1½ hours. Loosen s’mores from pans with a small offset spatula. Torch the tops of marshmallows with a small culinary torch or under a broiler before serving.

DIY Marshmallows

4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
1¼ cups cold water, divided
¾ cup golden syrup (or light corn syrup in a pinch)
2¾ cups sugar
3 egg whites at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
powdered sugar for rolling

In a small bowl sprinkle the gelatin over ¾ cup cold water and let dissolve at least 5 minutes. Add remaining ½ cup water, golden syrup, and sugar to a 4-quart saucepan. Stir until combined, then bring to a boil without stirring, until the mixture reaches “firm-to-hard-ball” stage, or 250° F on a candy thermometer.
 This should take about 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Once the syrup reaches the necessary temperature, pour it down the side of the bowl into the whites while the mixer is moving at low speed.
  3. Next, add the softened gelatin and turn up the speed of the mixer to high, continuing to whip until stiff, thick and almost tripled in volume.
 Beat in the vanilla extract.
  4. Quickly spread the marshmallow cream across a large sheet pan lined with a piece of buttered parchment paper. The marshmallow should fully set in about 30 minutes.
  5. Cut out desired shapes and roll the marshmallows in powdered sugar to prevent sticking.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Holy Basil Shortbread: an offering of love

I contribute recipes to the blog of my friends' tea company, Arbor TeasThis unusual shortbread cookie, which incorporates their new Tulsi tea, has a unique effect in kindling friendships since you'll want to share it with the people around you.
Holy basil (or Tulsi, which is sanskrit for “the incomparable one”) is an aromatic herb that, depending on the variety, grows either with green (Sri or Lakshmi tulasi) or purplish leaves (Krishna tulasi). This perennial shrub is traditionally cultivated for religious uses and as a medicinal in Ayurvedic practices. Tulsi is integral to the worship of the Hindu god Vishnu and his avatars Krishna, Rama, Hanuman, Balarama, and Garuda. This sacred plant is considered by some to be an incarnation of Lakshmi, Vishnu’s wife. Thus, a ceremonial offering of the leaves at the feet of Vishnu embodies an offering of love to the deity. A tea made from steeping the herb is also traditionally given to the dying to raise their departing souls to heaven.

In ayurvedic traditions, holy basil is considered a rasayana, which translates from sanskrit to “path of essence”, a kind of "elixir of life" that is believed to promote longevity. Taken as an herbal tea, dried powder, fresh leaf, or mixed with ghee (clarified butter), it is used as an adaptogen, promoting a healthy response to stressors. It also is thought to remedy common colds, headaches, stomach problems, and even heart problems due to its purported anti-inflammatory, antihyperlipidemic, antibacterial, and cardioprotective effects.

Because it is sacred, most Vaishnavite Hindus do not encourage the use of holy basil in culinary preparations (although Tulsi leaves offered to Lord Vishnu may be eaten raw by themselves). Even uprooting or cutting a branch from a living Tulsi plant is considered to be quite offensive, according to Hare Krishna followers. That being said, if you’re not adverse to the inauspicious, incorporating holy basil into recipes can impart a complexity of aroma and taste. Tulsi leaves are comprised of a long list of beneficial phytonutrients that lend both healing and aromatic (flavor) attributes. These include oleanolic acid (birch), ursolic acid (apple peels), rosmarinic acid (rosemary), eugenol (clove), carvacrol (oregano), linalool (floral spice), and β-caryophyllene (black pepper spice). Here I use Arbor Tea’s Organic Holy Basil Tulsi (which is the Krishna purple-leaved variety) in a special shortbread recipe. The dried Tulsi leaves are toasted to intensify the flavor of the essential oils before being mixed into the butter-laden dough. Once baked, a layer of tempered chocolate is poured over the cooling shortbread, creating an incomparable cookie meant to be offered devotedly to your beloved.

Holy Basil Shortbread

  • ¼ cup plus 1 TBS sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Arbor Tea’s Organic Holy Basil Tulsi loose leaf tea
  • 1¼ cups flour
  • ¼  cup powdered sugar
  • ¼  teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 2 teaspoons milk
  • ½  cup unsalted butter
  • 8 oz chocolate, chopped into pieces for tempering

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Lightly butter shortbread mold and sprinkle with 1 TBS of sugar.
  2. Heat a small pan over medium heat. When pan is hot, add tulsi leaves, and shake pan to distribute tea into a single layer. Toast for about 2 minutes, until tea is fragrant but not darkened. Depending on your leaves, this may happen much more quickly; watch it carefully. When leaves are fragrant, transfer them to a bowl and let cool for a couple minutes.
  1. Combine the remaining sugar and toasted tulsi leaves in the bowl of a food processor and pulse for about 2 minutes, until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, flour, and salt to the bowl and pulse a few times to combine. Then add the milk, vanilla, and butter and pulse several times more, until a dough forms.
  2. Turn dough onto into shortbread mold and press into an even thickness. Use a fork to prick the dough all over.
  3. Bake the shortbread until it is a light golden brown, about 35 minutes.
  4. Melt chocolate and bring to proper temper (see instructions below). Pour on top of baked shortbread and allow to cool completely before cutting into squares. 

    Makes 9 2”x 2” cookies.

Tempering chocolate

  1. Set ⅓ of the chocolate aside. This will be the “seed” chocolate needed in the second step. Place the remaining chocolate in a clean, dry bowl over a simmering double boiler. Insert a thermometer and heat the chocolate to 115°F. Do not allow the temperature to rise over 120°F, which will burn the chocolate making it unusable.
  2. Once the chocolate melts to 115°F, remove the bowl from the heat (don’t allow condensation to enter the bowl, which can cause seizing if water comes into contact with chocolate). Add the remaining ⅓ seed chocolate. Stir very vigorously until the thermometer reads 80°F. As the chocolate cools it will change in thickness and texture.
  3. Once it reaches 80°F, place the bowl back over the simmering double broiler briefly and rewarm to 88-91°F. Remove any seed chocolate that remains and pour over the shortbread. Allow to cool.