tea and ginger infused lemon tart

tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table

There are several things about winter that make it interesting after Christmas and the holiday season has passed. Citrus is a big one! From blood oranges to big, bright and yellow Meyer lemons, there are a lot of interesting colors to spot in what might otherwise be a pretty drab and cold season. So every winter, I make myself some sort of lemon or orange curd. A jar or two! 95% of the time it ends up in tart or a bar because that's one of my favorite ways to eat it. 

In many ways this filling is an ode to Indian tea, one specific version that is my favorite and includes freshly grated ginger root. It's perfect on a cold wintry day and it goes beautifully, in this lemon tart. I infused the lemon curd with freshly grated ginger root and black darjeeling tea in an odd way. The tea is made up in a concentrate (which is not your normal way to make tea) but it helps to control the water volume in the final ratios when you prepare the lemon curd. The strands of shredded ginger give this filling a nice little kick in every bit but you can strain it out, if you prefer a smooth and even texture. 

I had some issues baking a complete nut crust solely made with sugar, butter and nut flour. The longer you bake the higher the risk for the fat to melt out and drip. The water in the lemon curd starts to get absorbed by the nut and the end crust becomes soggy. To be honest, I'm not completely satisfied with this crust either, it tastes good but the issues I experienced testing different versions made me a little curious. My goal was to make an only nut flour based tart crust but my final version of this recipe ended up with oat flour to act as a binding agent. There's something to be said for the texture and taste of sweet toasted coarsely ground walnuts with lemon curd, it's delicious. The texture of this crust still needs a lot of work and perhaps, I can get some suggestions and help from you. I added oat flour to absorb some of the oils and liquid but waterproofing the  tart base with melted white chocolate is one trick I use often with pies and tarts. A thin layer will work well in this tart without compromising the taste of the lemon curd. My other issue with the only-walnut tart crust, was trying to release it from my tart pan after I chilled it. It's easier to release the tart from the pan while it is at room temperature rather than when it's chilled. 

So far, my experience with nut based crusts has been OKAY! Taste wise excellent but in terms of how it releases from the tart pan or how it absorbs liquid, has me curious. For those of you that bake with nut crusts, do you have any suggestions or tips or even a favorite recipe you like to use. Leave a comment below and I will check it out! I'm going to revisit this crust recipe in the near future because there has to be a way to make it work perfectly! 

tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this dessert;

  • Use fresh ginger root. If you don't care for the texture of fresh ginger, strain the lemon curd once it is cooked and use the strained curd for the filling. 
  • This is not a normal method to prepare tea but I prefer to use this method to get a concentrated form of the flavor and in a small volume. 
  • You can use any tart crust you want. I add the oat flour to bind any liquid that might be present in the walnut dough while the sugar not only sweetens but also helps bind the crust together. 
tea and ginger infused lemon tart | A Brown Table

tea and ginger infused lemon tart

yields: one 9 inch tart

ingredients

for the lemon curd

1/4 cup boiling water

4 darjeeling tea bags

1 tablespoon cornstarch, powder

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (I used the meyer variety), squeezed

4 large eggs

1 cup superfine sugar

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, fresh

1 teaspoon grated ginger root, fresh

1/2 stick butter, chopped and softened to room temperature

for the crust (or you can use your favorite/preferred tart crust)

14 ounces whole walnuts

1/4 cup oat flour

4 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature + a little extra for greasing

4 tablespoons fine sugar

a little confectioners sugar to dust (optional)

1. Pour the boiling water over the darjeeling tea bags in a cup and let it steep for 10 minutes. Squeeze the bags and discard. Place the extracted tea liquid in a small saucepan and reduced the volume to 2 tablespoons. It will be very dark and concentrated. Cool completely. Once the liquid is cooled, whisk in the cornstarch to form a slurry and keep aside.

2. Prepare a pot of boiling water. Place a large glass bowl over the pot, the level of the boiling water must be an inch below the base of the glass bowl. This allows the steam to heat the eggs evenly. Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl and using a hand whisk or handheld electric whisk, whisk at high speed for about 5 minutes until the eggs become pale yellow and light and fluffy. Whisk in the lemon juice, lemon zest, ginger, butter, and tea-cornstarch slurry. Whisk continuously, until the mixture transforms into a thick custard. Remove from heat and transfer to container. Keep aside until ready to use. The lemon curd can be prepared a day ahead in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.

3. To prepare the tart crust, place a wire rack at midlevel in the oven and preheat to 325F. Pulse for a few seconds to grind the walnuts along with the sugar in a food processor to form a coarse powder. Remove the ground walnuts and transfer to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Fold in the oat flour and butter and mix using your hands to form a dough. Lightly grease a 9" fluted tart pan with a little butter. Line the base of the pan with parchment paper cut to size. Place the dough in the center of the pan and spread it out to cover the pan and the edges in an even layer, using your fingers. Place the prepared tart pan in a baking tray lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat, remove and bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and pour the lemon curd into the tart shell. Level the filling using a small offset spatula. Return the tart to the oven and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the edges of the filling start to get firm while the center of the filling jiggles slightly when shaken gently. Remove the tart pan from the oven and allow to cool completely to room temperature before releasing it carefully from the tart pan. Refrigerate  to chill the tart for at least 3 to 4 hours before serving. Dust with a little confectioner's sugar if desired. 

seared paneer with tea and pineapple dressing

seared paneer with tea and honey vinaigrette| A Brown Table

I've fallen in love with Netflix's new documentary called The Chef's Table. It's one of the most inspiring cooking documentaries, I've seen in a long time. I don't really care for the food competitions shows and rarely watch them but this is one show that has had me glued to the TV. It's easy to get repetitive when it comes to creating food (I find myself falling into this trap often) but after watching this series and listening to the stories and how these world renowned chefs overcame their personal struggles was uplifting, encouraging and exciting. My only complaint, too few episodes but I do hope it comes back for another season. I've been eyeing Marcus Nilsson's Fäviken cookbook for a while now and to see him in the series was exciting. I'm also hoping I get to visit LA to try out Niki Nakayama and her Kaiseki techniques that make her food so beautiful. If you get a chance, do check the documentary out, you won't be disappointed! 

Dairy is pretty popular in India, the fact that I grew up eating plain yogurt at any time of the day, is probably a good testament to this fact. Cheese however as we think of it here in the West, is made in a very different manner in India. Rennet and fermentative bacteria are not the tools of choice when it comes to preparing Indian cheeses but rather acid and heat coagulate the proteins in milk. You still get western style cheeses in India and they are popular but panner is by far the most prominent cheese used in Indian cuisine. 

Paneer is a type of cheese, that doesn't melt when heated and in many ways, it reminds me of tofu. It takes on the flavor of anything it's mixed with and you'll find it used in curries and other savory dishes. If you look into my freezer, you will often see a small pack of paneer stored because the possibilities with this cheese are endless when used correctly. You can find paneer at Indian and South East Asian and/or International food markets and I've also come across low-fat versions of this cheese too. The good thing about this cheese is that it holds it's texture very well when heated as it doesn't melt. However, this also makes it, in my opinion, unsuitable for a grilled cheese sandwich. 

This paneer recipe is very simple to make and is an easy appetizer or side to serve. It's definitely not a traditional way of serving it in India but as I always say, why not!  Just doll the warm slabs of paneer up with a few fresh daikon radish shoots and the tea and pineapple dressing before serving it. 

seared paneer with tea and honey vinaigrette| A Brown Table
seared paneer with tea and honey vinaigrette| A Brown Table
seared paneer with tea and honey vinaigrette| A Brown Table
seared paneer with tea and pineapple dressing | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips when preparing this paneer dish;

  • Use low-fat or full-fat milk derived paneer. Honestly, the fat-free kind tastes terrible.
  • I was tempted to call the tea and pineapple dressing a vinaigrette but the ratios of the components are a little off from the classical definition so I've labeled it a dressing. 
  • The tea is lightly sweetened with fresh pineapple juice which gives the dressing a little sweetness and tanginess. If you want it a little sweeter add a little more juice after tasting the dressing. 
  • The extra garnish of sea salt flakes at the end when serving is optional but I personally like the touch of saltiness because paneer by itself is generally not salty when made from milk.  
seared paneer with tea and honey vinaigrette| A Brown Table

seared paneer with tea and pineapple dressing 

yields: 4 servings

ingredients

400 grams (14 ounces) low-fat/full-fat paneer, chilled

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil + a little extra for searing 

1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1/2 teaspoon white pepper powder

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika powder

a few fresh daikon radish shoots to garnish

a little Maldon sea salt flakes (optional)

tea and pineapple dressing

1 black tea bag (I used Darjeeling tea)

100mL boiling water

50mL white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons pineapple juice, fresh

100 mL extra virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1. Slice the paneer into 9 cm X 3 cm long slabs that are 1.5 cm thick.

2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, place the olive oil and the rest of the ingredients from the salt to the paprika and mix with a spoon. Brush each of the paneer slabs with this mixture and allow them to sit for 10 minutes at room temperature to absorb the flavors.

3. Heat a little extra oil in a medium-sized skillet on medium - high heat. When the oil just starts to smoke, place two to three slabs of the seasoned paneer. Cook on each side until seared and lightly browned. This should take about 60-90 seconds on each side. Place the seared paneer on a dry paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Cook the rest of the paneer in the same manner and keep aside until ready to use.

4. To prepare the dressing, place the tea bag in a small heat proof bowl. Pour the boiling water over it and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Drain the tea bag to remove any excess liquid (avoid squeezing the bag or the tea liquid will turn murky). Pour the tea into a medium bowl along with the remaining ingredients. Whisk until combined. 

5. To serve place the hot/warm seared paneer slabs in a serving dish. Drizzle the paneer with as much as tea dressing as desired. Garnish with a few fresh daikon shoots and sprinkle with extra sea salt flakes if desired. Serve immediately with extra dressing and daikon radish shoots on the side.

 

chai and rose fresh berry cake

Chai and Rose Fresh Berry Cake | A Brown Table

Earlier this week, I met up with the amazing Cheryl from 5 Second Rule. Cheryl is one of the nicest people I've spoken with, she is humble and kind even though she is an award winning blogger and has several cookbooks. We talked for quite a while about blogging, food and life in general. Cheryl also has a new book on one of my favorite ingredients, yogurt. Yogurt culture comes out this April and I can't wait to check it out and see all the fun ways I can eat my favorite dairy.

I have a few small pots on our balcony and got all sorts of dwarf trees when we moved in. You can imagine my excitement when I found blooms in my blood orange plant, I wasn't expecting any in the first year! The fig tree has awakened but I haven't noticed any future ovules that will become figs yet. Fingers crossed!

Over at Instagram, I hinted earlier that I would revisit this cardamom lime spring berry cake I made last year. Berries are probably one type of fruit that I eat all the time so I feel obligated that I owe lots of "dessertly" tributes to them. This version is completely different, the cake is flavored with Indian chai (Chai is the hindi word for tea) and edible rose petals and then sprayed generously with rose water. In Indian food you will find rose water and rose petals being used to infuse their delicate sweet flavor in several desserts and drinks, it's one of the culinary traditions that's come via the influence of the Mughal empire in India. This cake takes all of those flavors into account and I tried to bring it all together to make one spring treat. The frosting is made of light whipped cream and cream cheese with a hint of rose water. Then there's a little layer of berry jam and fresh berries in there for that burst of sweetness. Now, my frosting skills are not the best but I have improved significantly since I started working at the bakery. For one, I've learned to hold a piping bag correctly, frost cakes quickly, and decorate them as needed. No more wrist pain with piping bags! 

Chai and Rose Fresh Berry Cake | A Brown Table
Chai and Rose Fresh Berry Cake | A Brown TableChai and Rose Fresh Berry Cake | A Brown Table
Chai and Rose Fresh Berry Cake | A Brown TableChai and Rose Fresh Berry Cake | A Brown Table
Chai and Rose Fresh Berry Cake | A Brown Table
Chai and Rose Fresh Berry Cake | A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips when preparing this cake that you might find useful,

  • Here's the deal with dried edible rose petals, they smell wonderful and will impart their delicate floral flavor to anything they are added. But trying to eat them directly is no fun. I do garnish the top of the cake a little with the dried petals but don't get too carried away. You'll end up chewing way too much for comfort. 
  • I use whole wheat white pastry flour as it has less gluten than the regular red grain variety resulting in a tender cake crumb.
  • I can never remember to leave my butter out to warm up when I need to in a recipe. But a little trick I've learned at work, wrap the butter up in cling film and pound it till it is just soft  and pliable. Use the softened butter as needed. Coincidentally, this is also something I saw the students do when they were preparing their laminated doughs in the pastry class I audited a few days ago.
  • To slice the cake, I pass 4 bamboo skewers through the center of the cake at mid height. I then slice the cake in half using the skewers as a guide. After the cake is halved, I remove the skewers out. You could certainly, cut the cake in half using any method that works best for you.
  • You can use any type of jam in the cake. I recommend trying jams that are a little more tart such as raspberry or black currant, I personally find strawberry jams to be a bit too sweet and overpowering at times. 
  • You can use a springform or regular circular 9 inch pan that is around 3 inches in height. 
  • The strawberries help to hold the cake layers together and prevent the frosting from squirting out. But I still recommend keeping it chilled even when you cut through the cake. Use a clean and warm serrated knife when you slice it to get clean and even slices. 
  • I use a spray bottle to evenly infuse the cake with rose water. Get a cheap one from the dollar store. Alternatively, use a brush to flavor the cake. I didn't add any sugar to the rose water because there really is no need with the jam, the frosting and the cake's sweet profile. 
  • I cut back on the amount of cream cheese that would be used in this frosting. Ideally you would use 8 ounces cream cheese to 2 cups heavy whipping cream but I find that to be very salty in taste. If that doesn't bother you adjust the frosting accordingly. 
Chai and Rose Fresh Berry Cake | A Brown Table

chai and rose fresh berry cake 

 

 

yields: one 9 inch cake 

ingredients 

1/2 cup (100mL) water, boiling

1 tablespoon darjeeling/assam black tea leaves

1 cup minus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) whole wheat pastry flour 

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon fine grain kosher sea salt

2 tablespoons dried edible rose petals, ground to a fine powder

1 cup (7 ounces) sugar

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened and chopped + extra for greasing the pan

5 large eggs, at room temperature

3 tablespoons + 50mL rose water 

1 quart heavy whipping cream

8 ounces cream cheese, warmed to room temperature and whipped

3/4 cup (5 ounces) sugar

1 cup raspberry or strawberry or mixed berry jam (I used raspberry)

2 cups strawberries, fresh and ripe, halved

2 cups blueberries, fresh and ripe

1 cup raspberries, fresh and ripe

 a few extra berries for garnishing the top of the cake 

a few dried edible rose petals for garnishing the top of the cake

1. Sprinkle the tea leaves over the boiling hot water and leave aside to sit for 5 minutes. Strain and discard the leaves, you should have between 75-50mL of tea infused water left behind. Cool to room temperature completely before use. 

2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and rose petal powder four times and keep aside. Place a wire rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325F.

3. Line the base of a circular 9 inch baking pan with parchment paper and grease lightly with a little butter. Place the sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Attach the paddle blade to the mixer and cream the sugar and butter on medium-low speed for about 5 minutes. Then add the eggs one at a time and whisk until combined. Add half of the sifted dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix on low speed for about 1 minute until just combined, then add the tea prepared in step 1 along with the rest of the dry ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 35-40 minutes until the center is springy, yet firm to touch or a skewer comes out clean when passed through the center of the cake. Allow the cake to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then release from the sides using a sharp knife and cool on a wire rack. Once the cake is cooled, wrap it in cling film and freeze it for at least 2 hours before frosting.

3. Place the heavy whipping cream, cream cheese, sugar and 3 tablespoons of rose water in the bowl of a stand mixer and using the whisk attachment beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Keep refrigerated and chilled until ready to use. 

4. Place the cake on a cake stand/turntable and slice it in half (see kitchen tips above). Spray the inner sides of both cakes with the remaining 50mL rose water using a spray bottle. Layer the bottom half of the cake with the jam using a large offset spatula. Then take 1 cup of the whipped cream frosting and layer it over the jam. Then layer the cake with place the strawberries top side facing upwards in three concentric circles. Fill the gaps between the circles with the raspberries and blueberries. Top the berries off with about 1/2 cup of whipped cream and then place the top layer of the cake over it. Frost the outside of the cake using the spatula to get a smooth and even finish. Decorate with extra berries and a few rose petals. Refrigerate the cake for an hour or two before cutting to serve. This cake will be good for up to 2-3 days. 

masala chai

Masala Chai | A Brown Table

I decided to get an orchid from the Mountain View Farmer's market. It's not like I've had a lot of luck with them in the past but they are so beautiful that I find it hard to resist. Let's just hope this one lasts and after all the flowers are gone, this plant will sprout some new buds. Here's to some wishful thinking! If you have any orchid tips, do let me know, I need all the help I can get.

Orchids | A Brown TableMasala Chai | A Brown Table

This weekend, my buddies, Alanna of The Bojon Gourmet and Phi of Princess Tofu came over to spend a day. If you follow us on Instagram you might have noticed all the insane amount of eating, cooking and photographing that happened. I took the girls out to try some Indian street food at one of my favorite chaat houses in South Bay, followed by a trip to an Indian grocery store, some pumpkin picking, some cooking, more eating, photography and a whole lot of chatting. And there was chai, we had lots of it, I could think of no better way than to spend my day with these two extremely talented people. 

Masala Chai | A Brown Table

Chai is a ritual habit for some and Indian houses make masala chai in several different ways. Here are some of my tips on making chai at home,

  • I buy loose black tea (tea bags are good) and I generally use the Assam black tea variety at home.
  • Chai (tea) with no spices (masala), is simply called chai in Hindi. There are several different types and combinations of spices that can be added to tea. Some people prefer some more to others. Personally, I prefer green cardamom and ginger in my masala chai, I use them individually or together depending on what I have in the house. Either way of all the spices I've listed in my recipe here, green cardamom and ginger are my top choices. (I haven't shown cloves and peppercorns in the photograph but they are good additions to the masala (spice) blend.
  • Adding the ingredients at the right temperature to the water is important because it helps in infusing the flavors correctly. 
  • When crushing the spices, just crush them once or twice with a mortar and pestle to release the seeds, do not over grind or pound them excessively into a powder. 
  • For sweeteners, you can use sugar, honey or even raw Indian sugar - jaggery. 
  • Milk or any other non-dairy milk is completely optional. 
Masala Chai | A Brown Table

masala chai

yields : 4 cups

ingredients

4 cups water

1 inch piece ginger root

4 whole green cardamom pods, crushed

1 black cardamom pod, crushed (optional)

1 inch piece cinnamon stick (optional)

6-8 black peppercorns, crushed (optional)

4 whole cloves, crushed (optional)

1 1/2 teaspoons black tea leaves  (Assam tea)

around 1 /2 cup hot milk or what ever kind of vegetarian milk you prefer (rice, soy or nut based) (amount used might be more or less depending  upon your personal preference on how dark or light you want the tea)

sugar to sweeten as needed 

1. Place the water in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil on medium high and add the spices immediately.Bo (I always add either ginger and/or green cardamom, the rest are all optional). 

2. Remove the saucepan from the stove and allow to the spices to infuse for about 4-5 minutes. Place the saucepan back on the stove and bring to a boil on medium high. As soon as the water begins to boil, add the tea leaves and reduce the flame to low. Allow the liquid to boil for about 30 seconds and remove from stove. Cover with a lid and allow to sit for 1 minute. 

4. To serve, pass the hot tea through a tea strainer to get rid of the tea leaves and spices into a teapot or teacup (as needed). Add enough milk to get a light brown color (depends on how dark or light you like your tea) and sweeten as needed. Serve hot with cookies or pastries.