Tea party

Earl Grey and chocolate make a revolutionary pair for dessert.

By Adam Ried
March 13, 2011

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Said to be named after Charles Grey, 2d Earl Grey, who was prime minister of the United Kingdom for a period in the 1830s and whose birthday would be today (he was born in 1764), Earl Grey tea is a common blend. Flavored with the essence of bergamot, an especially bitter but aromatic type of citrus, the tea complements a wide range of sweets. Here, Earl Grey tea is paired with chocolate in three desserts: a mild milk chocolate mousse, a cocoa-y sorbet, and an understated cake that should leave tasters pondering the nuanced flavor.

One important note: To make strong tea like that in the sorbet recipe, use a large quantity of tea leaves but don’t increase the brewing time – that would make the tea bitter.

Earl Grey Milk Chocolate Mousse

Serves 6 (makes about 4 cups)

2½ tablespoons loose-leaf

Earl Grey tea

1½ cups heavy cream

6 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped

2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder


2 large egg whites

2 teaspoons sugar

In a cup, mix 1½ teaspoons tea leaves with ¼ cup boiling water; steep for 4 minutes, strain, discard leaves, and reserve liquid. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, bring cream to a simmer. Off heat, add the remaining tea leaves, stir to mix, cover, and set aside to infuse, about 40 minutes. Strain the cream (discard leaves), cover, and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

In a medium heatproof bowl set over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water), mix the chocolate, cocoa, a pinch of salt, and the reserved tea, stirring frequently until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and cool until no longer warm to the touch, about 10 minutes.

With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites in a work bowl at medium speed until frothy. Adjust the speed to high and gradually add the sugar; continue to beat until whites are thick, glossy, and hold soft peaks, about 45 seconds. Add about ¼ of the whites to the chocolate mixture and stir to lighten it; gently fold in remaining whites to incorporate (a few streaks can remain).

In the bowl used for the egg whites (no need to clean it), whip the chilled cream mixture until it holds soft peaks, about 2 minutes. Gently fold the whipped cream into the mousse mixture until uniform. Divide evenly among 6 serving bowls, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 and up to 24 hours, and serve.
Earl Grey Chocolate Sorbet

Makes about 1 quart

1 1/3 cups sugar

1½ teaspoons grated

orange zest

1/3 cup loose-leaf Earl Grey tea

4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate,

finely chopped

¼ cup Dutch-process

cocoa powder


1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons brandy

In a large heatproof bowl, stir the sugar and orange zest until moist and fragrant, and set aside. In a small saucepan over high heat, bring 3¼ cups water to a boil. Off heat, add the tea leaves, stir to mix, cover, and steep for 4 minutes. Strain the tea, then add to the sugar mixture and stir to dissolve. Add the chocolate, cocoa powder, and a pinch of salt, wait a few minutes for the chocolate to melt, and whisk to incorporate.

Transfer the mixture to a blender, add the vanilla and brandy, and blend for about 30 seconds. Transfer the blender jar to the refrigerator and chill until the mixture reaches 35 to 40 degrees.

Just before churning, re-blend the mixture in the blender for about 30 seconds. Following directions for your ice cream maker, churn the mixture until frozen (place a metal bowl in the freezer while the sorbet churns). Scoop the frozen sorbet into the chilled bowl, cover, freeze until the sorbet is firm (about 2 hours), and serve.
Earl Grey Chocolate Tea Cake

Makes 1 bundt cake

4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

1¾ cups milk

1/3 cup loose-leaf Earl Grey tea

1/3 cup plain cocoa powder, plus 2 tablespoons to dust pan

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into chunks, plus extra to grease pan

2½ cups flour

1½ teaspoons baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

1¾ cups sugar

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting, optional

Set the oven rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a simmer. Off heat, add the tea leaves, stir to mix, set the bowl with the chocolate over the pan, and set aside to infuse the milk and melt the chocolate, about 20 minutes (stir the chocolate occasionally as it melts). Strain the infused milk into bowl with the melted chocolate (discard leaves), add 1/3 cup cocoa powder, whisk to combine, then set aside and cool until no longer warm to the touch, about 20 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, butter a 10-inch Bundt pan. Add 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, shake pan to coat buttered surface with cocoa, tap out excess, and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt, and set aside. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes; scrape down sides of bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla, beat well, and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Reduce mixer speed to low; add about a third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the chocolate mixture, mixing until just incorporated after each addition, about 5 seconds. Repeat, using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining chocolate mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add remaining flour mixture; increase mixer speed to medium-low and mix until batter is thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds.

Scrape the batter into the pan, smooth the top, and bake until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out with a crumb or two or just a faint smear of batter, about 40 minutes (do not overbake). Place the cake on a wire rack and cool for about 10 minutes; turn the cake out, place it right side up on the rack, cool to room temperature, dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired, slice, and serve.

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  • March 13, 2011 cover
  • March 13 cover
Read more from this issue.

In praise of loose-leaf tea

To brew hot tea, I prefer loose-leaf tea over tea bags (though, full disclosure here, I do use Lipton tea bags to make iced tea – it just tastes right to me). Loose tea is generally thought to be of higher quality and freshness than most bagged tea, and if it’s brewed properly (good water, at correct temperature, in the right ratio, for the right amount of time), it will taste better.