Tea-Infused Sweets: Chocolate + Jasmine Tea Is A Match Made In Heaven

Allison Aubrey wrote . . . . .

One secret to a long life may be the simple daily ritual of tea.

We’ve told you how Okinawans — who are known to have more than a few centenarians among them — enjoy jasmine-infused tea.

And if you’re looking to incorporate this fragrant aroma with a bit of creamy indulgence, pastry chef Naomi Gallego, of the Park Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C., has you covered.

“I love the smell of it,” Gallego says as she shows me how she’s infused a pot of milk with jasmine tea to make a milk-chocolate custard.

“Jasmine is understated and keeps to itself,” she says, “but its flavor is not to be ignored.” It’s delicate and floral.

And when you combine it with chocolate? “I think it’s a match made in heaven,” Gallego says.

She tops the custard with a whipped cream ganache accented with a bit of lemon — the acidity cuts the heaviness of the dessert and enhances the flavors. “There’s something harmonious when you combine the flavors,” Gallego says.

If it were just chocolate, after a few bites, it would still taste good. But the jasmine layers the dish with flavor and the lemon lightens it up, resulting in a flavor profile that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Gallego uses a technique that is very familiar to tea lovers — she steeps the tea leaves. But instead of using water in a teapot, she steeps the leaves for 3 minutes in a covered pan of heated milk. (Steeping it any longer, she warns, will result in a bitter taste.) Then she strains out the tea leaves, and continues to make the custard.

Gallego is a big fan of these tea-infused creations, some of which can be a surprise to the palate.

For instance, this bright blue French-style macaron: its mystery ingredient? A smoky tea called lapsang souchong.

“You don’t anticipate it,” Gallego says of the flavor. She thinks of it as a gray-day treat. “On a rainy, overcast day, it’s just the ticket.”

The smokiness is very distinctive. And again, the pairing with chocolate is magical.

So are we on to a theme here: the magic of chocolate? Yep. “I could pick any tea off the shelf and it would taste great with chocolate,” Gallego says.

Maybe it’s because of chocolate’s near-ubiquitous appeal. And, perhaps, it’s also the mechanics of how the taste of chocolate unfolds in our mouths.

As the sugar blended with cocoa dissolves, the flavor compounds trapped in the cacao are released, chocolate-making guru Ed Seguine explains.

“The result is this harmony of instruments in the symphony coming together to create this concert for our palate and souls,” says Seguine, a consultant to chocolate makers.

And as this happens, chocolate seems to accommodate lots of other flavors, too.

There’s another way to bake with tea, too. For her berry scones, Gallego blended bits of a black berry tea into her batter. “You can grind the tea very fine in a spice grinder and add it to your batter,” she explains. The tea adds a subtle boost of flavor that she punches up with a berry glaze and fresh berries on top.

And to give her old-fashioned doughnuts a sophisticated flare, she’s infused Earl Grey into the batter. All the fat (think: eggs, butter and sour cream) helps to disperse the citrusy flavor of the bergamot. “Fat is a flavor carrier,” Gallego says.

And it makes for a darn good doughnut — though so rich, maybe it’s best shared with a few friends.

Source: npr

Everyday Access to Nature Improves Quality of Life in Older Adults

Results from a recent study highlight the importance of everyday contact with nature for wellbeing in later life

Natural environments are known to promote physical, mental, and spiritual healing. People can attain health benefits by spending time outside, often in remote places to “get away from it all.” Now research conducted by a University of Minnesota graduate student with a team in Vancouver, B.C., shows that green and “blue” spaces (environments with running or still water) are especially beneficial for healthy aging in seniors.

Published in the journal Health and Place, the study -Therapeutic landscapes and wellbeing in later life: Impacts of blue and green spaces for older adults–demonstrates that by incorporating smaller features, such as a koi pond or a bench with a view of flowers, public health and urban development strategies can optimize nature as a health resource for older adults. Throughout the research, green and blue spaces promoted feelings of renewal, restoration, and spiritual connectedness. They also provided places for multi-generational social interactions and engagement, including planned activities with friends and families, and impromptu gatherings with neighbors.

“We zoomed in to everyday life for seniors between the ages of 65 and 86. We discovered how a relatively mundane experience, such as hearing the sound of water or a bee buzzing among flowers, can have a tremendous impact on overall health,” says Jessica Finlay, a former research assistant on the project and lead author of the paper. Finlay is now a doctoral candidate in geography and gerontology at the University of Minnesota, where she continues to investigate influences of the built environment on health and well-being in later life. “Accessibility to everyday green and blue spaces encourages seniors to simply get out the door. This in turn motivates them to be active physically, spiritually and socially, which can offset chronic illness, disability and isolation.”

Importance of everyday contact with nature

While younger generations may use green and blue spaces more to escape and rejuvenate from their busy work life, our participants used nature to be active physically, spiritually, and socially in later life. Many overcame barriers due to chronic illness, disability, and progressing old age to connect regularly with green and blue spaces.

Natural environments enable older adults to uphold daily structure in retirement and provide opportunities for diverse activities outside the home. This is important to quality of later life by decreasing boredom, isolation, and loneliness; as well as boosting one’s sense of purpose and accomplishment. Blue space in particular provides opportunities for non-weight bearing physical activity and physiotherapy (e.g. wading, water walking, swimming). Waterfront areas are comforting sites for spiritual connectedness with deceased loved ones, and relaxing places to escape the strains of later life.

“While our research may seem intuitive, it creates conversations on how to build communities that serve people across their entire lifetime. We don’t just need a playground for children, we also need sheltered benches for the grandparents to watch them,” says Finlay. “This research is more than anecdotal; it gives credence to some small but significant elements of everyday later life. Hopefully it will help urban planners and developers build communities that span a lifetime.”

Finlay offers three tips for healthier aging:

  1. Focus on your overall wellbeing: mental and social health are just as important as physical health when aging
  2. Get out the door regularly, even if it’s just to the end of the block and back
  3. Prioritize everyday contact with nature – whether it’s sitting in a park, listening to a water fountain, or looking at potted plants on a windowsill

The researchers interviewed adults aged 65 – 86 years who lived in Vancouver, B.C. All study participants were considered low-income, came from 8 different self-identified racial and ethnic groups, and experience a range of chronic conditions and experiences of health.

Source: University of Minnesota

Breakfast Quinoa with Berries

Ingredients

1 cup quinoa (any variety)
2 cups water
honey butter (recipe below), for topping
1/2 cup fresh blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries
1 tablespoon raw agave nectar
1/2 cup raw pistachios

Method

  1. Put quinoa and water in a pot, cover, and bring to a boil. When it reaches a rolling boil, turn down the heat to low, and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes or until the water has evaporated.
  2. While quinoa is cooking, prepare the honey butter.
  3. As soon as quinoa is done, serve immediately, topping each serving with a small dollop of honey butter, berries, agave nectar, and pistachios.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.


Honey Butter

Ingredients

8 tbsp unslated butter, softened
1/3 cup honey

Method

  1. Mix butter and honey together until nicely whipped and smooth.
  2. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Source: The Organic Family Cookbook

In Pictures: Kid’s Breakfasts


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