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Infusing tea for desserts

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Let's say you are trying to infuse Earl Grey in a dessert--like an ice cream or a souffle. What is the proper way to do it? It doesn't seem like you would go about it the same way you would when trying to properly brew tea. (i.e bringing the water to the right temperature and then pouring the water over the leaves in a heated teapot and infusing for the appropriate time) I've tried making a tea souffle once. I steeped teabags in milk. It didn't seem like I used enough (though I was worried about the tea leaves absorbing too much of the milk), and it seemed like milk doesn't extract the flavors as well as water. Also, would you use tea bags or loose tea leaves? (Of course you wouldn't want to use too expensive of a tea.)

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  1. You want to steep the tea in the liquid that will be used for the recipe - for a souffle or ice cream, steep in the heated cream first, and let the tea remain in the liquid until it is cool before straining. It doesn't matter whether you use tea bags or loose tea, but a stronger infusion will probably result from using loose tea. And you'll need to use more tea than you would if making a pot of tea for drinking.

    3 Replies
    1. re: janniecooks

      There's no need to worry about overbrewing or anything, right? Also, how do you make sure you get enough flavor out of the tea? I find that cream doesn't draw out as much flavor as water, but if I use more tea leaves, it just soaks up more cream. Is it OK to squeeze out the liquid from the tea leaves?

      1. re: michaelnrdx

        It will take some experimenting on your part to determine the amount of tea and the steeping time, if you're winging it (that is, not following a recipe). Just realize that early attempts may not have the depth of flavor you want. Nevertheless, begin tasting the cream after half an hour of steeping, and if not strong enough keep tasting every ten or fifteen minutes until it's cool. Certainly, squeeze out the cream from the tea leaves--use a fine mesh strainer and press down on the tea leaves with a wooden spoon to extract the liquid.

        1. re: janniecooks

          When steeping into cream the reason you get less extraction is your not reaching as high a temperature as boiling water. I will often scald the cream more than once with the loose tea in it and leave it covered in between each scald for half hour at least. This takes long but I do it while I'm doing other things (heat it, cover it, go shopping, come back, heat it again, you get the idea). I do squeeze every last drop when straining. Don't be afraid to use your good tea - it makes a huge difference. I've used my Takashimaya loose teas this way.

          I use the same technique to infuse other flavors into the cream such as saffron, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and even chili peppers. Minced ginger plus jasmine tea leaves steeping in cream can be the start of a wonderful dessert.

          I also read somewhere where a recipe called for brewing tea in boiling water then reducing the whole pot of tea over the stove down to a single teaspoon of liquid then adding that liquid to the cream. Sort of like a do it yourself instant tea. I've never tried that method.