Coffee & Tea Emotion: Marcona Almond Ding, English Breakfast Bavarian Cream, Coffee Mousse, and Chocolate Pudding.
During my early years of high school, I loved coffee. I started off drinking it with lots of sugar and cream, but soon, I would only have it black. At that time, black teas were all that I knew of tea, and I loved those, too… Black. But, then, after a night of way too much coffee during my sophomore year of high school, both of them started giving me bad headaches… which haunt me still when I have them nowadays. Even green tea and dark chocolate affect me. I’d think that it has something to do with caffeine, but even most decaffeinated coffees and teas hurt me.
So, I’ve been drinking all sorts of herbal teas for over a decade, and have been happy for the most part. But I still sneak sips of my forbidden drinks every once in a while, in hopes that I can have them again without any payback. It hasn’t happened yet, but at least the flavors are blaringly strong to me since I’m not used to them anymore. That’s satisfying. And it got me to thinking… Coffee and black teas fall within a pretty similar range of flavors and consistency and astringency… and they both have an affinity for sugar and cream… Could they be reconciled into one dessert?
To test this, I went to a Peet’s Coffee & Tea. I ordered a coffee and an English Breakfast tea. First, I tasted them side by side, black. Not bad. I liked the contrast of them. Then I added some turbinado sugar to each. Even smoother. Then I added half & half to each. Very good. And I was hooked on alternating sips. Then I poured the rest of the coffee into my tea. And I got a weird look from a passerby. But it tasted interesting. I bought a box of English Breakfast, and was offered a free cup of tea or coffee to go with it. I ordered a Ti Kwan Yin, which turned out to be a “greener” oolong tea; the vegetal taste wouldn’t go with coffee. English Breakfast it would be.
That night, I endured a bad headache, shakes, anxiety, a 4am bedtime, and a burning desire to make this Coffee & Tea Emotion.
(I’m borrowing the “Emotion” term from the desserts layered in short glasses that I had from Pierre Herme’s shop in Paris. Its alternate name could be “Nina’s Headache in a Glass.”)
I wanted to include the whole gamut of flavors surrounding coffee/tea, so dark chocolate was a natural choice for an addition. And I had picked up notes of caramel by the end of my English Breakfast tasting, so I wanted to include that, too. I figured that a hard caramel garnish on top would provide a crunchiness to contrast with the creaminess of the layers that I had in mind, and the addition of Marcona almonds would add a dash of complexity, not to mention salt.
So, from the top down, I decided on: Marcona Almond Ding, English Breakfast Bavarian, Coffee Mousse, and Chocolate Pudding. I wanted the layers to go from lighter to heavier. I knew that it would be brown on brown on brown on brown on brown, but I decided to accept that as its nature.
And the result? Chad and I loved it. The combination of flavors works. You could taste each one individually, but they also came together with an agile affinity. It’s intense, to be sure, but the sugar and the cream keep it accessible and the flavor doesn’t seem crowded. It seems like an especially perfect dessert for someone truly torn between a dessert, tea, coffee, or hot chocolate to end a meal.
The only issue was that my coffee mousse didn’t set up as much as I would have liked. It was a little runny, like just this side of a sabayon consistency. It probably needed more gelatin, but at least the glass kept it contained so it didn’t ruin the dessert by any means; the dessert just wasn’t as “light to dense” as I’d planned. It had a nice coffee taste, though — neither too bitter nor too sweet.
Each layer should be chilled to set before you add the next one… and the ding can be made days in advance.
Chocolate Pudding: This recipe. I made this years ago, and loved it, especially since it’s not eggy like a lot of puddings. This time, I halved it and omitted the cinnamon and pine nuts. I think cinnamon would have fit in with the profile of flavors, but I was really going for a clean combination of the coffee/tea/chocolate flavors. I’d be interested in trying it out in the future, though.
I used Droste cocoa powder and leftover Ghirardelli chocolate that I’d let set into a blob after a chocolate tempering project.
I also thought about using a moist, dense cake or a 1p cream:1.5p choc ratio ganache (like for molded chocolates) instead; they may be interesting to try.
Coffee Mousse: I wanted to use either just coffee or coffee extract for flavoring (b/c that’s what I have easy access to, and didn’t want to buy a big bag of grounds or whatever that I have no other use for and would be a bag o’ headache for me), but I couldn’t find a recipe that fit that criteria exactly. So, I tried adapting a basic lemon mousse recipe to fit coffee instead: 1/2 env gelatin, 1/4 c coffee, 2 eggs, 1/4 tsp coffee extract, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup cream. As I said, it was too runny. Maybe a whole env of gelatin would fix it. For this, I dissolved the gelatin in the coffee, so I didn’t add any extra liquid.
Maybe this layer could be a kind of gelee.
English Breakfast Bavarian Cream: I made an anglaise w/ a cup of cream and a cup of milk infused with 2 bags of English Breakfast tea (since the directions said to use one bag per cup of water). 4 ounces of sugar, 6 egg yolks, and some low heat later, I had an anglaise. I let that cool, and measured out 200 ml (I put the rest into my ice cream machine, and made ice cream). I measured 200 ml of cream, and whipped it. Since 1 sheet of gelatin goes with 100 ml of each for a bavarian, and 1 sheet of gelatin is equal to 1 tsp of gelatin, I used 2 tsp of powdered gelatin. I wasn’t exactly sure how much or what liquid to dissolve this in, but I knew that I didn’t want to add too much liquid… so I used .75 oz of water. Bloomed and melted gelatin, stirred it into the anglaise, folded in the whipped cream, and chilled it.
This may have been a touch too firm; maybe try descreasing gelatin just a little.
Maybe Earl Grey would be interesting here, with its citrus notes, but like the cinnamon in the original pudding, it could just be too much.
Other teas could probably work, too.
Marcona Almond Ding: This recipe. I just happened to have Marcona almonds instead of plain blanched ones, so that’s what I used. I was concerned that they were already roasted, but they didn’t scorch during the cooking of it in the caramel. And the almond ding is an addictive treat on its own; it’s like a nut brittle without the baking soda.
Alternately, maybe biscotti or shortbread, with hazelnuts, almonds, or walnuts, could replace the ding.