Monday, December 10, 2012

Tea Time Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays

Yay, I finished writing my manuscript for my new tea book so, I am now back to blogging!   I hope to share the process of my book with you as I go through each step so stayed tuned.  But, in the meantime, I couldn't think of a more perfect topic to write about during this holiday season than BAKING and pairing homemade treats with delicious teas!

I love to bake especially during this time of the year.  Each year I always make homemade goodies to give to my neighbors, our mail lady, and friends.  However, in the last few years, I found out from my doctor that I have a sensitivity to wheat. So, I try to maintain a gluten-free diet, but at the holidays I have always struggled.  Therefore, I "cheat" and then I don't feel my best at all.  But, for some of you cheating isn't even an option!

Well I don't have to "cheat" anymore since I received Jeanne Sauvage's GLUTEN-FREE FOR THE HOLIDAYS: 60 Recipes for Traditional Festive Treats cookbook.  This book is way more than just a cookbook. It is what I would call a primer for gluten-free baking as well.  Baking and enjoying homemade treats with my tea has a whole new outlook! 

Jeanne and I share a few things in common such as the same literary agent and now the same publisher, Chronicle Books.  I later discovered we also share a love of tea.  When I was in Seattle last year teaching a tea class, she took me to a local tea shop and we had a great time chatting.  Lucky for me, I even got to preview some of the photos for her now published book. 

 Being diagnosed gluten intolerant after  her daughter was born over a decade ago, Jeanne didn't want to quit her love of baking, so she figured out a new way that fits her diet restrictions AND her taste buds!  For those of you that need to stick with a gluten-free diet, you know that taste and texture can be a problem in baked goods.  Well, not anymore.  Here are two great recipes from Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays.  You will want to buy this book ASAP, to try out the other 58 recipes in the book plus read the primer that is included to help you navigate the gluten-free world of baking.  She also includes some basics such as yummy yeast rolls and bread too!

To Get Started here is, Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour (Makes 4½ cups / 660 g)

1¼ cups/170 g brown rice flour

1¼ cups/205 g white rice flour

1 cup/165 g sweet rice flour

1 cup/120 g tapioca flour

scant 2 tsp xanthan gum

In a large bowl, whisk together the brown and white rice flours, sweet rice flour, tapioca flour, and xanthan gum thoroughly. Transfer the mix to an airtight container. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 6 weeks or in the refrigerator for up to 4 months.

I used to make cutout cookies with my kids every year for Christmas when they were little. We used the same cookie cutters that I grew up with which made the baking even more special. It was always the cookies the kids left for Santa. This recipe would be great with a cup of green Japanese Sencha or a black first flush Darjeeling! I do think Santa would enjoy a little cup-of-pick-me-up with his cookies too! Here is Jeanne's gluten-free recipe perfect for all the gluten-free Santas.

Cutout Cookies (Makes About 30 cookies)

Cutout cookies are a must for the holiday season. The wonderful thing about this dough is that it can be cut into any shape or size that a particular holiday requires. I make the dough year-round and use cookie cutters that suit the occasion. The cookies are fun to decorate. When my daughter was a toddler, we painted the icing on the cookies instead of piping it. Painting the cookies was so much easier. Now that she is older, it is a wonderful way for both of us to get creative when decorating the cookies. Each cookie can be a masterpiece.

2 cups / 280 g Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour (please see separate recipe)

1½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

½ cup / 115 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup / 200 g granulated sugar

1 extra-large egg, at room temperature

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

½ tsp grated lemon or orange zest (optional)

Tapioca flour for dusting

Colored sugar for decorating (optional)


2 cups / 225 g confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

4 to 6 Tbsp heavy cream, or more if needed

Food coloring in various colors (optional)

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, using a hand mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the granulated sugar and beat for 1 minute. Add the egg and beat for 1 minute. Add the vanilla and beat to combine. Add the lemon zest (if using). Add the flour mixture and beat until combined.

Divide the dough in half, shape each half into a disk, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.

Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes, or for up to 3 days.

Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C/gas mark 5. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Remove one dough disk from the refrigerator. If the dough is rock hard, let it warm up a bit. Place the dough between two pieces of waxed paper and roll to ⅛ in/3 mm thick.

Using cookie cutters dipped in tapioca flour, cut out as many shapes as possible. Using a spatula, place the cutouts on the prepared sheets, spacing them at least 1 in/2.5 cm apart. Roll out the dough scraps and repeat the process until all the dough is used or the cookie sheets are full. The dough is best cut when it is firm, so you may have to return it to the refrigerator before cutting more shapes.

Sprinkle the shapes with colored sugar (if desired or leave them plain and decorate with icing after baking). Bake until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheets for about 2 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely. Let the sheets cool completely and repeat with the remaining dough.

While the cookies are cooling, make the icing. Place the confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl. Add the vanilla and 4 Tbsp of the cream. Whisk until all the ingredients are combined and smooth. If desired, add more cream to make the icing thinner. If you want to color the icing, divide it among small bowls and tint each bowl of icing with a different food coloring. Using a small paintbrush per color, decorate the cookies. Place the decorated cookies on the wire racks to let the icing set.

Store the cookies in an airtight container, between layers of waxed paper, at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Not everything in this cookbook is sweet.  If you are looking for a savory tea time treat, how about trying these cheese crackers.  They would pair nicely with a cup of malty astringent black Assam tea or if you like smokey black  Lapsong Souchong that would also be nice!

Cheese Crackers and Straws (Makes 60 or more crackers or straws)

Cheese crackers and straws are terrific party snacks, especially for New Year’s Eve. They are simple to prepare and get rave reviews from guests. Sometimes I make them with cheese only, and sometimes I add a pinch of cayenne for a little kick. You can also experiment with your own choice of herbs and spices. The recipe here calls for both Cheddar cheese and Parmesan. If you like, you can use Cheddar alone, by replacing the Parmesan with the same amount of Cheddar.

1½ cups/210 g Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour (please see separate recipe)

¼ tsp salt

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

½ tsp dried herb such as thyme or rosemary or ground spice such as cumin (optional)

6 Tbsp/85 g cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2½ cups/175 g grated Cheddar cheese

1 cup/70 g grated Parmesan cheese

1 extra-large egg

¼ cup/60 ml milk

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/gas mark 5. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, cayenne (if using), and dried herb (if using).

Pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and both the cheeses and pulse until evenly mixed with the dry ingredients, about 1 minute. The dough will look like wet sand with pebbles. Add the egg and pulse until incorporated. With the motor running, pour the milk through the feed tube and blend until the dough forms a ball. (Alternatively, you may mix the dough by hand, using a pastry cutter to combine the dry ingredients and the butter and cheeses. Then, with a wooden spoon, stir in the egg and milk. The dough will be very stiff.) Divide the dough into two equal portions.

To make cracker rounds / Place a portion of the dough between two pieces of waxed paper and roll to ⅛ in/3 mm thick. Using a 2-in/5-cm cookie cutter, cut out as many rounds as possible. Using a spatula, place the cutouts on a prepared sheet, spacing them at least ½ in/12 mm apart. Roll out the dough scraps and repeat the process until all the dough is used.

To make straws / From a portion of dough, pinch off a marble-sized piece of dough. Roll into a ball and then put on a piece of waxed paper and roll into an evenly shaped cylinder about 5½ in/14 cm long. Place on a prepared sheet. Repeat until all the dough is used, spacing the cylinders at least ½ in/12 mm apart.

Place the sheets on the middle and lower oven racks. Bake until the crackers or straws are brownish around the edges, 15 to 20 minutes. They will be moderately crunchy. Let the crackers or straws cool on the cookie sheets until you can pick them up, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

The cookbook makes a perfect gift for your gluten-free friends or for yourself.  Hurry so you have plenty of time to try lots of different recipes during the holidays.  You might want to check out Jeanne's blog called Art of Gluten-Free Baking for more wonderful recipes. Let me know which recipe in the cookbook is your favorite!

Happy Sipping and Baking, Lisa 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Celebrate National Iced Tea Month with Ceylon Teas From Sri Lanka

I just returned from speaking events at World Tea Expo in Las Vegas and also in Sonoma.  It was wonderful to "talk tea" with so many different folks. I am squeezing my blogs about Sri Lanka in between speaking and writing assignments so come along with me on a great summer escape!

June is National Iced Tea Month.  Did you know that Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka makes GREAT Iced Tea? I hope as you read my blog, you will know much more about Ceylon tea.

I had the opportunity to visit the Colombo Tea Auction in Sri Lanka. I was a guest of the John Keells Group which owns tea companies as well as beautiful hotels among other things.  It was a fascinating experience listening to tea being traded for distribution all over the world.   The auctioneers were hard to understand. The only way I knew they were done with one lot of tea and moving on to the next is the gavel went down.  Each transaction took usually less than a few minutes.

After the auction, our group was taken to a John Keells hotel for lunch. The hotel was stunning and modern. Sri Lanka is vying to become a tourist destination and the John Keells group is leading the way with beautiful hotels. You will see a few more of their hotels in my travel tea blogs later.

The lunch buffet was laid out beautifully! Here is just a sampling of the fruit and refreshing desserts offered!

After our "arduous" time at the tea auction and lunch, we went back to the corporate tea office of John Keells for a nice cupping session of their teas. In the photo, a man is weighing out the teas using an antique scale and coins as the counter weight on the other side. Cupping is the professional way of tasting teas. In my next book, I explain this in much more detail!  Can you guess how many times your teas are "professionally cupped" before you drink them at home?

The special cups used are called cupping sets.  Here's our cupping sets laid out to taste delicious Ceylon teas. The tea leaves are steeped in the cup with the handle and the lid is placed on top.  After steeping, the tea is poured into the bowl shaped cup and the leaves are inverted and placed on the lid for visual inspection.  Then, let the tasting begin. It is always a treat to be able to cup so many teas at one time.  If you think "tea is just tea," you wouldn't after cupping so many side-by-side.

After a great day of tea education, we headed back to the Galle Face Hotel for dinner and relaxation time.  I mentioned in my last blog about a museum in the hotel and thought I would tell you a little about one item in it. 

Yes, this is a car in the hotel, but not just any car.  Prince Phillip of Greece was in the Royal Navy and was stationed in Sri Lanka in 1940 where he bought his first personal car  It is a 1935 model Standard Nine.  Prince Phillip of Greece returned later to Sri Lanka in 1952 as the Duke of Edinburgh after marrying Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the II.  The car is in pristine condition and quite a treasure for the hotel.

It was a wonderful second day in Sri Lanka filled with tea education, interesting and delicious food, and meeting new Sri Lankan tea friends.  A nice evening stroll along the Indian Ocean was a great way to end the day.  Isn't it beautiful?
Please follow along with me, as I take you to some interesting tea plantations in my next blog that produce cinnamon and rubber too!  Have I inspired you to visit Sri Lanka yet?

Happy Sipping, Lisa

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Welcome to Sri Lanka-Land of Ceylon Tea

I have been so excited to tell you about my trip to Sri Lanka to discover the land of Ceylon teas that I took in January . I am finally sneaking in a few minutes to share a little about it in between writing and deadlines for my new tea book.

Sri Lanka is a beautiful island surrounded by the Indian Ocean.  For those of you that don't know where it is, it is located off the southeastern coast of India.  I flew from London to Sri Lanka and spent New Year's day lost in time somewhere high in the sky.  I landed early in the morning and made it just in time to the hotel to watch the sunrise over the Indian Ocean with a cup of Ceylon tea in hand.

The island was occupied by the British until the 1940s, so much of the architecture and design elements reflect a British Colonial look which I love!  The first hotel I stayed at was the Galle Face Hotel.  Here are the large wooden carved doors that are original to the building!  My first day there I spent wondering about this historic hotel as I tried to get acclimated to my new time zone.  My wondering led me to the hotel's interesting royal museum which I will tell you about in my next blog! 

Sri Lanka is ten and half hours ahead of east coast time of the United States and five and half hours ahead of London. So with the plane ride and time change, some acclimating was necessary.  What could be a better way to fight jet lag than by sitting at this pool with the gorgeous ocean view. I think I could get used to any new timezone like that!!

All of our meals were served on this large veranda that faced the ocean. The cool breeze was so inviting. My first day there of course included afternoon tea which is another great way to adjust!   The choices were endless and stretched as far as the width of the veranda.  Some of the selections included things I was familiar with such as finger sandwiches and some were unique to this tropical island's Indian influences.  It was a food adventure to try the unknown.  I also loved the assortment of fruit that was available with all of our meals such as bananas, pineapple, mango, and passion fruit. Most of them tasted much better than what I was used to because of their freshness!

 Any afternoon tea that includes chocolate mousse is a hit for me! How about you?

This hotel seemed to be an oasis for weddings which was intriguing to observe.  It was an introduction to some of the cultural differences and styles of dress for their formal affairs. I was captivated by this bride and her wedding party.  The dresses were ornate and so different than that of what I see in America.  The flowers in this simple bouquet were beautiful.  Does anyone know what they were?  I wonder if I could find them in the states. (Thanks to a reader, I found out they are Nymphaea lotus that may also be called Egyptian White Water Lily or white lotus)

I took a walk alongside the ocean in the evening and happened upon the same bride and groom getting their pictures taken while the sun was setting over the Indian Ocean!  What a wonderful beginning to my trip as I observed this special occasion from afar!

This bowl of floating flowers is what greeted me as I made my way down to the spa for a massage to ease my body of the eleven plus hour flight from London.   I was told that the small white flowers are called temple flowers. I think they are just beautiful floating in the large bowl.


Since I started my blog with the lovely sunrise, I thought I would end it with the stunning sunset that concluded my first day in this new land full of adventures that awaited me!

Come with me as I take you to Sri Lanka.  I will show you some wonderful tea plantations, interesting foods, and beautiful scenery! 

Happy Sipping Ceylon Tea, Lisa

Side Note: Next week, I will be speaking in Sonoma wine country for a private event and then off to Las Vegas for the World Tea Expo.  I would love to meet up with you in Vegas if you are attending this trade-only event.

Monday, April 9, 2012

New York City Tea Tour and other New York City Tea Places

New York City is a great place for all different types of tea experiences.  I just returned home from the International Association of Culinary Professionals National Conference which was held there.  A colleague and tea friend of mine Judith Krall-Russo and I were chosen to lead a tea tour for the conference.  We had a great group of new tea enthusiasts that were eager to learn. 

We toured the "World of Tea" without ever leaving Manhattan!  Our first stop was Chinatown for a Gongfu Chinese Tea Ceremony.  It was wonderful to have the attendees experience tea in this way with the small Chinese teapots and many infusions of oolong.

Our next stop was to visit Soho for some more tea education.  Judith and I taught for about an hour about tea as the attendees tasted Chinese white tea, Japanese green tea, Taiwanese oolong, and Sri Lankan (Ceylon) black tea.  We of course needed to cleanse the palate in between tastings and what would be more befitting, but some yummy scones. 

As we left Soho, we waved goodbye to China, Taiwan, Japan, and Sri Lanka.  We then walked to our next stop which was France.  We organized a tea inspired lunch at Bosie Tea Parlor in Greenwich Village.  We had a three course lunch there along with a bit more education on caffeine and antioxidants.

Not only is their food amazing, but their pastries are just as good. Many of them are tea infused to add to the uniqueness.  The problem was which one to choose. 

Just down the street from Bosie is a new tea chain that has just opened up in the US.  Davids Tea is from Canada and has just opened two stores in New York City.  The vibe in the store is contemporary and the clientele was young.  It was great to see middle school kids still in their uniforms ordering tea at the counter!

Our last stop around the world was right here in the USA.  We stopped in at the oldest running tea and coffee shop.  They have been in the same location since 1895. 

We want to thank IACP for allowing us to share our love of tea with its members.  We had loads of fun planning, taste testing, and leading the tour.  I just thought I would share a few bonus tea places that we couldn't include on the tour.

Judith and I decided to do a private Japanese tea excursion the next day since we both had traveled to the tea fields of Japan together in 2010,  Our tour included Kinokuniya Books.  It is not just a bookstore, but has a lovely selection of Japanese gifts.  If you have time, go upstairs for a cup of tea. 

We also stopped off for a authentic Japanese breakfast.  Doesn't that look good?  It was....

Next on the our list was Cha An Tea House.  If you get the chance, you won't want to miss Cha An.  It only seats 12, so get there early.  We spent the afternoon with another tea friend eating, laughing, and drinking tea!  After all, isn't that what having tea is all about?

I hope you enjoyed the tour of New York City's tea places.  There are many more to share, but that is for another blog.  Follow me as I take you to Sri Lanka next-the land of Ceylon Tea which I toured in January! 

Happy Sipping from New York City, Lisa

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tea in London Day 4 The Borough Market and Buckingham Palace

My last full day in London, was a tasteful one indeed.  I hopped on the tube Saturday morning to the Borough Market which is said to be London's most renowned food market full of British and International delights.  It wasn't just any Saturday, it was New Year's Eve, so the market was full of people shopping for an evening of partying!  Again, I must warn you that you should not be hungry while viewing this blog!

My first stop was for a cup of tea to warm up. I love that in London, they ask you if you want your tea white or black.  I was first confused at this question thinking they were asking if I would like white tea or black tea.  However, I figured out that they mean, do you want your black tea served with or without milk-hence making the color white or black!  Then it was off to browse, sample, and choose lunch and dinner for the day!

Since I was at the market for the Holiday season, there were many holiday treats such as turkeys, goose, and rabbit!

The cheese selections were in no short supply.  This was just one of many vendors sampling and selling their cheese.  Just to let you know, I love cheese!  How about you?

This is just a sampling of the many pastries that were for sale in the market.  How nice it would have been to have bought some of these for New Year's Day.  However, I would be flying all day to Sri Lanka so I had to pass these by....

Olives anyone?

How about some pig in many forms?  The sausages from this booth were spectacular! 

Here is what I chose to take home for my dinner at the hotel while I was packing up for my Sri Lanka trip-Wild Boar Pie.

Now, back to the important choice for lunch.  For those of you that don't know, along with being a tea lover, I am also a confirmed chocoholic.  So, I could not resist this when I came upon it. 

Borough Market

I don't think it was my healthiest choice in food I have every made, but it was New Year's Eve after all.  I couldn't resist getting something from this "all about cacao" place sourcing from a single origin and single estate cacao grower in Saint Lucia!  Just look at the menu choices from The Robot Estate.

I chose the Marche de Quarier which is a chocolate wrap filled with duck confit, Rabot Estate dark chocolate, dried cherries, coriander, roasted cacao nibs, and creme fraiche!   The best part is they make it right in front of you! 

My chocolate-loving-self couldn't resist ordering the chocolate pot for dessert! 

I do many tea and chocolate pairings, but this time,I paired up my chocolate pot with a glass of Prosecco to ring in the new year early.  I love the warning sign about drinking Prosecco, how about you? 

One of the other delights at the Borough Market is the sound of the church bells ringing throughout the day.  These bells were ringing in the new year, but we can now have them ring in spring!  

On my way back to my hotel, I stopped by Buckingham Palace.  I could tell the Queen was in by the flag raised at the top of the palace, but she didn't come out for a wave!  The palace and the large monument in front of it are quite spectacular.  

I spent New Year's Eve, packing up for my exciting tea adventure to Sri Lanka-home of Ceylon Teas!  Follow along in my blog as I virtually take you to the British Colonial Island of tea! 
Happy Sipping and Saying Goodbye to London for Now, Lisa

For a scheduling note: I will be in New York City this week giving a tea tour for the International Association of Culinary Professional's National Conference. I hope to share some of the highlights with you in my blog in the near future.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tea in London Day 3 Afternoon Tea at the Museum and the Lanesborough Hotel

Disclaimer: You should probably have a good cup of tea and a fabulous tea snack to read any further!

As promised, I am taking you on a culinary tour of tea and tea snacks first from the cafe inside the Victoria and Albert Museum.  I have to say I have never seen so many delicious items housed in a museum.  I had to walk around several times before deciding on what I would have. 

Would you like muffin or a croissant?

Or, perhaps scones are what you would prefer? If so, now you have to choose which kind!

You better not choose yet, because just across the walkway is another table full of more scones, quiches, and croissants!  Oh, which to choose....

Possibly an extremely LARGE meringue would suit your fancy?  As a side note, I have never seen so many large meringues as I did in London.

Hopefully, by now you have been able to make your food selection, but now comes time to choose which tea to pair with your fabulous choice!  The Victoria and Albert Museum gets a thumbs up for their nice selection. 

It is easy to handle your tea since everything is on a self serve tray to take to your table!

The last choice is which table should you sit at as no table has a bad view as you can see!  Even if your not hungry, it is well worth your the trip to the cafe to rest your feet and have a cup of tea.  When is the last time you sat and had tea with such beautiful architecture surrounding you?

The Gamble Room in the V&A Cafe

I had to go light on my selection because I had an appointment at 4:00 PM for afternoon tea.  It is one of the best places for afternoon tea in London-The Lanesborough Hotel.  My full review of the hotel's tea may be seen in TeaTime Magazine's May/June issue!  They were gearing up for the London 2012 Summer Olympics and will have a special tea just in its honor!

Now, if you didn't get a cup of tea and a tea snack before  reading this, I know you want one now!


In my next blog, I will take you on another culinary journey you won't want to miss at one of London's best food markets.

Happy Sipping and Snacking, Lisa