Tea and chocolate? Delicious, a no brainer. But what about tea in chocolate? Just as delicious, I can assure you! I ended up with a serious brownie craving over the weekend, and got to thinking about which teas we commonly use for baking. Matcha, Earl Grey, Chai…sure, those work great. But what about Pu-erh? After you get over that somewhat mysterious name, you have the makings of one amazing baking tea, one that mimics the characteristics of chocolate more than any other tea.
This recipe uses ripe or cooked Pu-erh, also called shou, that has a characteristically earthy and mellow taste that some might call musty. Like coffee, this fermented tea adds a layer of flavor to these goodies, an extra bit of complexity and depth. Taste your tea first. A robust Pu-erh will produce a richer brownie while a sweeter Pu-erh will produce a milder flavor (kind of like dark vs. milk chocolate).
This recipe for brownies is undeniably a healthier one, my go-to when I’m trying to avoid guilt. If you’re partial to a more standard brownie recipe, but still want to flavor them with tea, just use the infusion techniques that I’ve applied here. My suggestion is to try to pick a recipe with some kind of liquid addition. This might be milk or melted butter, or even water or cream, like in this recipe. A liquid ingredient helps to provide a base for steeping the Pu-erh, thus helping to infuse flavor into the final product.To finish, I sprinkle a very light dusting of the tea straight out of a ripped tea bag over the Pu-erh-infused, ganache-laden brownies. This ganache can be used to top any kind of sweet treats, from prepared boxed brownies to cupcakes to ice cream. Keep in mind that if you want to use Pu-erh tea as a garnish, you’ll need to use a brand that’s very finely processed. I like that the leaf bits give you a hint of what you’re in for, certainly not your everyday chocolate treat!Pu-erh Chocolate Brownies
Makes 9- 3″ brownies.
6 Pu-erh tea bags (I used Numi’s Chocolate Pu-erh)
1 cup hot water
1 cup chopped frozen spinach, thawed and fully squeezed dry (6 oz. of spinach after squeezed)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 Tbsp natural or Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 cup black onyx cocoa powder, sifted (optional- if you can’t find this, you can use just the Dutch-processed cocoa powder instead)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
6 Tbsp canola oil
oil spray and extra cocoa power for prepping pan
3 Tbsp heavy cream
2 Pu-erh tea bags (I used Numi’s Chocolate Pu-erh)
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
9″ square baking pan, greased and dusted with a thin layer of cocoa powder
large liquid measuring cup
2 large mixing bowls
food processor fitted with steel blade
1. In a large measuring cup, steep the 6 tea bags in 1 cup of hot water according to the manufacturer’s suggestions. Remove the tea bags after steeping, making sure to squeeze out all the tea from them. Set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process the spinach for about a minute, adding the steeped tea to loosen the spinach around the blade. Process the spinach until you get an even purée.
4. In another mixing bowl, mix together the wet ingredients. Add the processed spinach puree to the wet ingredients, mix thoroughly, then add this to the dry ingredients. Mix this brownie batter until just homogenous, then transfer to the prepared baking pan.
5. Bake the brownies for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick just comes out clean. Place on a cooling rack to cool until the brownies come to room temperature.
6. Meanwhile in a medium bowl, heat 3 Tbsp of heavy cream in the microwave for about 15 seconds. Remove the cream from the microwave, then place 2 tea bags in the hot cream, and steep them for the recommended amount of time. Remove the tea bags, making sure to squeeze out all the tea from them. Add the chocolate chips to the infused cream, and let them sit for about a minute. Mix together the cream and chocolate chips until you get a smooth ganache. Spread the ganache over the brownies after they have cooled, either before or after cutting to serve.