I Absolutely Hated Earl Grey Tea — Until I Started Baking with It
Sure, you can drink it, but baking with it is even better!
You might have noticed that Earl Grey has been having a bit of a moment recently. From canned oat milk lattes and ice cream pints to boxed tea concentrates and chocolate bars, the bergamot-flavored sipper is pretty much everywhere you look these days. Though it’s hard to say exactly why the tea is having such a huge resurgence (aspiring at-home baristas, maybe?), you can’t have a conversation about Earl Grey tea without also mentioning Starbucks’ London Fog Latte. A comforting mix of vanilla syrup, frothed milk, citrus, and sometimes even dried lavender, the drink is a downs hand cult favorite. I should know — I live 10 minutes away from two different Starbucks locations and haven’t been able to order one since Christmas! Thankfully, I’ve had Food Network Magazine’s London Fog Latte recipe (pictured above) to hold me over. Do yourself a favor and make a big cup the next time you find yourself looking for a hot beverage to keep you warm this winter. It’s literally a hug in a mug!
All that being said, it would probably surprise you to know that my own love affair with the Earl Grey tea only began this past year. Though I’ve always been a very big tea drinker — vanilla chai and matcha were my previous favs — I often found the citrusy undertones of Earl Grey to be a bit too strong for my taste buds. Foolishly equating bergamot with overly fragrant perfumes and hand soaps, I’d often scoff whenever I was offered a cup of Earl Grey tea in the past. But all that quickly changed when I began baking with it.
After lamenting to a coworker about how bored I had become with vanilla and chocolate- flavored treats during quarantine, she directed me towards the Earl Grey Quick Bread recipe in this article, and immediately I was hooked.
My newfound fascination with the tea quickly snowballed from there — in fact, I found myself baking a new Earl Grey-based recipe three straight weekends after that. Pillowy Earl Grey Madeleines came next, followed quickly by buttery Earl Grey-Frosted Tea Cakes. I ended my Earl Grey baking exploration with these Earl Grey Shortbread Bars, and let me tell you, they were truly incredible!
Though slightly different in their own unique way, each one of these delicious desserts allowed me to see that when paired together with different ingredients like chopped bittersweet chocolate, fresh orange juice, vanilla extract and honey, the zingy taste of Earl Grey tea became balanced, smooth and actually quite refreshing. What I had seen before as too sharp a flavor was now a lovely way to add an elevated touch to basic cookies, cakes and bars. I also found myself surprised by the light, airy texture of each of the desserts; since I used loose Earl Grey tea to make each one, I had falsely assumed that the end products would be grainy and gritty. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, all three desserts were baked to absolute perfection — golden on the outside and super soft and fluffy on the inside.
But don’t just take it from me; here’s what Food Network Magazine recipe developer, Melissa Gaman, had to share, if you still aren’t sold on the idea: “Using steeped tea in place of water is a very easy swap to infuse extra flavor into your baked goods, though you may want to brew it stronger than if [you were] just drinking a cup to really impart the flavor through the entire recipe. You can also steep the tea into milk or melted butter and strain it out before using.”
If you aren’t sure whether you should use steeped tea or actual tea leaves, Melissa wants you to ask yourself this question: How much of the tea’s actual flavor are you looking to impart into your dessert? The answer is pretty simple. "There are several ways to use tea in baking, and two of the easiest are to use the leaves themselves or to replace liquid in the recipe with steeped tea," Melissa says. "If it’s not a recipe that uses much liquid, you can also directly add tea leaves to your baked goods. Think of them like little tea-flavored poppy seeds. They add little pops of flavor as you eat them [which is] great when you want the tea to be an accent flavor, but not flavor the entire treat.”
If you do decide to use fresh tea leaves, Melissa advises breaking them down a bit before adding them into your batter. "The only thing to keep in mind is that some tea leaves can be large and a little twig-like, while others are finer," she shares. "If they are on the large side, it’s best to crush or lightly grind them so they avoid becoming unpleasantly chewy bites."
I now drink a cup of Earl Grey tea every night before bed. While I’m not sure I would have ever thought to ever add the tea into my favorite dessert recipes had my coworker not told me to, I’m so happy I gave it a try. Because drinking Earl Grey tea is great, but dunking a freshly baked Earl Grey Madeleine into a cup of piping hot Earl Grey tea is ten-thousand times better.