Tuesday, November 30, 2010

This with That: Dessert with Tea, Part II

ALTHOUGH pumpkin pies are (by most beginning baker's standards) fairly simple, I would venture to say that most people are puzzled about what libation to pair pumpkin pie with. Liquor or coffee are good bets, but if you're not looking to get soused, a slice of pumpkin pie with a cup of pu-erh tea is the next best thing.

As with all pairings in the Dessert with Tea series, a brief background about the tea is necessary to appreciate the match. Unlike other teas which gradually lose their flavor, pu-erh can be aged for as long or as short as the drinker desires. It can be purchased either raw or ripened. Pu-erh has active bacteria that interact with the leaves and affect the taste of the tea (similar to the beneficial probiotics from fermentation found in yogurt or kefir). Technically pu-erh is considered a green tea, but the ripened pu-erh leaves and tea it produces are dark red/brown and therefore have sometimes been mistakenly classified as black tea. All of the semantics are silly to me, so let's not get bogged down by it. :) If you're at all interested in the production of wine, you may enjoy learning about how pu-erh is made... so feel free to check that out if it moves you.

left: pu-erh, right: pumpkin pie from blissfulbite.wordpress.com

Pu-erh drinkers agree on one thing though--it's not for everyone. It is rich, earthy, and very strong. Earthiness aside, it is similar to coffee. The dark, roasted elements of pu-erh pair so well with the nutmeg and cinnamon flavors in the pumpkin pie. Like most good relationships, when put together, the contrast brings out the best in each.


Monday, November 22, 2010

How I Resist Bacon

A LOT OF PEOPLE are baffled and sometimes angered by my response to the question, "Why are you a vegetarian?" The short answer is, "Because I care." I don't say that with a holier-than-thou attitude, although I do think people get defensive because my answer calls their morals into question. People are entitled to put whatever they want into their bodies, but I wish they would give serious thought to the repercussions before ordering a plate of slow-cooked ribs slathered in sweet, tangy barbecue... OK, where was I going with this?

I was raised eating meat, or what I call "delicious murder", for almost every meal of my life. When confronted with the issue, I always secretly agreed with what vegetarians said but made excuses for meat-eating. "But tonnnns of vegetarians don't get enough protein!" I would chime, not knowing whether this was fact or fiction. I ignored my nagging principles because principles didn't taste as good as meat. I implicitly justified the violent and exploitative treatment of animals for a momentary pleasure.


Do as Lisa does: picture the cutest animal ever as you sit down to eat it.

What I have always known and selfishly suppressed is that animals have as much of a right to life as we do. They have families. They feel pain, happiness, sadness. The fact that they feel should be deterrent enough. I want to note that  my advocacy is nowhere near PETA's level of intensity--how feasible is it to avoid unintentionally killing microscopic mites?--and that if placed in a scenario where my survival was at stake, I would eat meat if it was the only way to survive. Some would argue that this is hypocrisy, and I would rebut that survival is distinct from living.

Few consider the fact that not eating meat is also better for the environment. Dispute this all you want, Sarah Palin, but meat production is responsible for topsoil depletion, consumes non-renewable sources of energy, and requires far more water than plant protein.

I am very interested to hear what you all have to say on this issue. Even if you have no interest in this post, maybe you'll enjoy these broccoli cupcake toppers I made (via Hello Cupcake!).
Eat broccoli (or broccoli candy), spare a cow! 

Monday, November 15, 2010

This with That: Dessert with Tea, Part I

MARMALADE COOKIES, Muenster cheese, and fresh fruit--these are just a few of the things I have discovered pair perfectly with tea. Over the last year or so, Nicholas has inundated me with a data deluge of tea trivia. What I've taken away from talking about and drinking tea is that each person may experience something slightly different or perceive something that another may not--and that's totally okay!

In my mind, this makes pairing food with tea less of a science and more of an art form that is completely dependent on the taster's palate and the extent to which they are willing to experiment. Over the next few weeks I hope to share what I've found to be tasty tea and dessert couplings with you.

Apricot cookies with Oolong Tea

Apricot Cookie Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup room temperature butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup baker's sugar
  • confectioners' sugar to dust cookies
  • grated zest of 1 medium-sized lemon, and a tablespoon of lemon juice to the apricot jam
  • apricot jam

  1. Mix dry ingredients except for sugar in a medium bowl (flour, salt, cornstarch) and mix wet ingredients separately (butter, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar). Refrigerate the dough for 45 minutes and roll out to 1/4" thick on a piece of wax or parchment paper. Freeze this for 10 minutes after placing on a baking sheet.
  2. Cut out cookies and bake for 9-10 minutes.
  3. After the cookies have cooled, spread a bit of apricot jam (feel free to add lemon juice) on a cookie and sandwich. Sprinkle confectioners' sugar on a cookie and eat!
Note: This recipe should make 18-20 cookies. The cookies themselves will not be very sweet, so you can add more sugar, but I like them to be relatively unsweetened; that way the jam packs more of a punch. You can also vary the amount of lemon juice you squeeze into the mix; I favor more lemon in the cookie and less lemon in the apricot jam.

And now onto one of my favorite types of tea! I have tried many types of Oolong tea and have found some commonalities as well as striking differences between the two. The Chinese oolongs taste very earthy and sweet to me, whereas Taiwanese oolongs are not as heavily oxidized and therefore richer, creamier, more flowery. I would even say that they are mildly vegetal. Both Chinese and Taiwanese oolongs initially are very strong and can be bitter, but have a smooth and much milder finish with a very sweet aftertaste.

Because of this, either type of Oolong goes very well with the cookies. The lemony citrus bite of the cookie also highlights the floral notes of the tea. I think the lightness of Oolong lends well to any cookie with a sharp flavor, which makes the Apricot filled lemon cookie and Oolong combination a match made in heaven.

Drop me a line in the comments form; I would love to hear what you think!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Good Fortune

IAM THE KIND of person who is seriously underwhelmed by most love songs and re-evaluates friendships if The Notebook is listed as a favorite movie. That's why every year, my boyfriend and I have a hard time establishing our admittedly fuzzy anniversary date. When it comes down to it, we just approximate the date and do something low-key but celebratory.
I don't think any of that makes me unsentimental; I just feel that we appreciate our together-ness everyday. In other words, because I am evil, I ask Nick to do me favors everyday. And he doesn't question them. His response is always something along the lines of, "As you wish," although I think secretly he wishes I would be abducted by a giant, a swordsman, and a Sicilian.

Princess Bride references aside, I am lucky to have Nick in my life. It would take volumes to describe, but in a few words, Nick's love for me has made the toughest 3 years of my life also the easiest.

This year I was floored when I came home to Nick in the kitchen making fortune cookies from Martha Stewart's Cookies book. The fortune cookies were almond-y, sweet, slightly soft. The best part yet was that Nick made his own fortunes to put inside! I am not ashamed to say I squealed a little.

Chef Nicholas hard at work.

Fortune cookies.

I got some good ones. ;)