Cooking and Baking with Coffee and Tea

Though most of us rely on coffee and tea to give us much-needed energy boosts in the morning (and afternoon, and any other time of day), these amazing drink-making ingredients may not be the ones that come to mind when we think of cooking or baking. Sure, some people may have had tiramisu made with espresso, or cappuccino-flavoured yoghurt a couple of times, but what other uses could tea and coffee possibly have in the culinary world? 5VPYQZRJKZ9K

The next time you prepare yourself a cup of tea or coffee, take a moment to really explore the nuances of scent and flavour before you doctor the drink with cream, sugar, lemon, or whatever else you usually toss into your cup. Inhale all of the aromas deeply and see which notes you can pick out, and then taste it; roll it around your palate as though tasting wine. Is your coffee a light, nutty roast that reminds you of dessert? Or perhaps a dark, smoky espresso blend? Does your tea have any sweet notes? What about florals? Does your tea remind you of evergreen forests (like Lapsang souchong)? Or does it have herbs and citrus like the lemon, orange, and bergamot found in Lady Grey? The undertones held by your beverage of choice will determine what it’s best suited for.

Coffee

 Photo by J.C. Olivera

Coffee

 

With its deep, rich tones and smoky aftertaste, coffee goes well with other foods that have strong flavours, such as dark meats, chocolate, and spices.

  • Add strongly-brewed coffee to chili to add extra depth to the flavours therein. This works exceptionally well with black bean chili that has plenty of cumin in it: the flavours complement each other, and you can use a bit of molasses for sweetness to counter-balance any bitterness from the coffee.
  • Create a dry rub for steaks with finely-ground coffee, chili powder, sugar, salt, and cracked pepper. Pat this into your steak and let rest 30-40 minutes at room temperature before grilling. You can also add coffee to marinades for ribs, or in sauce for filet mignon , pork chops, or even brisket.
  • If you’d like to use coffee in gravy for poultry, aim to use it with dark meat or game fowl like goose or duck; the deep smokiness is a bit too overpowering for chicken or turkey breast. Try it with ostrich if you’re feeling adventurous, but if you don’t have any exotic meats available, chicken thighs will do in a pinch.
  • Most people know that coffee and dessert go together marvelously, and many have experienced the delight that is tiramisu, but coffee is also lovely in puddings, brownies, cakes, and just about anything that has chocolate in it.
*Note: to get the strongest coffee flavour when you cook or bake, grind your beans just before using them.
tea cup and tea pot

 Photo by Flood

Tea

There are countless varieties of tea available, and each one can be used in your culinary adventures. Black teas such as Orange Pekoe and Darjeeling are great to cook with, while more fragrant light teas (made with flowers, white tea leaves, etc.) are fabulous for baked goods.

  • Add jasmine tea to the water you cook your rice in to add fragrance (perfect for Thai, Indian, and Chinese dishes), and add strongly-brewed teas to stews, curries, and marinades. Chai is a great addition to chickpea and bean stews, and green tea lends a lovely note to tofu or seitan when added to a marinade.
  • Teas can be used as bases for soup stocks in addition to vegetables and fresh herbs: green tea’s immune-boosting powers add extra “oomph” to chicken noodle or flu-fighting soup, while Ceylon or chai can be great bases for spicy soups like squash, pumpkin, or sweet potato. Remember that you can brew your own herbal tisane “teas” with fresh plants, and steeping herbs such as parsley, thyme, and basil for delicate soup bases draws out their flavours much more than boiling them.
  • The delicate floral flavours in Earl Grey and Lady Grey tea translate amazingly well to desserts. Earl Grey chocolate truffles have just a whisper of bergamot in them, while Lady Grey lends a lovely citrus note to creme brulee.
  • Mix a bit of green tea powder (very finely ground matcha) into your batter when making cake, scones, or cookies, for a very subtle hint of flavour. Green tea is complemented well with vanilla and citrus notes.
- Lana Winter-Hébert

Lana Winter-Hébert fell in love with cooking while still in primary school. The various dietary needs of her extended family (i.e. gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian, and paleo diets) have helped her to learn a fair bit about substitutions and meal plan modifications, and though her first love will always be the Scandinavian/Eastern European cuisine she grew up with, she has a penchant for Mexican food and can be bribed heartily with the offer of good huevos rancheros. Lana currently resides in rural Quebec with her husband and family, where she divides her time between writing, editing, design, and tending her permaculture garden. She cans and preserves whatever's in season, and is having some fantastic adventures with home cheese-making and mead-brewing.

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