Saturday, 28 July 2012

Melting Moments and Kenyan Tea for Cook the Books

A quaint little teashop in a historic part of town is a pleasant setting for a nice, gentle murder mystery. And Death by Darjeeling, our latest Cook the Books Club selection, really is a nice, gentle murder mystery.

Single estate Kenyan teas
I was never in doubt that teashop owner Theodosia Browning would figure out whodunnit. I also didn't much care - I was just happy to float along on a cloud of tea-scented steam, enjoying the feeling of Charleston in "winter" (seems to be much like an English summer!) and wondering when our heroine would get a date with the charming-sounding lawyer. No real suspense, just an entertaining story, steeped in tea.

Kaamba - "a very malty flavour with light hints of currant"
As I read it, I remembered that I had been sent* a selection of Kenyan single estate teas by the Tea Board of Kenya, and I'd never got around to tasting them. African teas only get a passing reference in Death by Darjeeling, but there is so much about the different qualities and flavours and the art of blending them that I felt this was definitely the time to have a play with them.

There was no doubt at all that these were 3 different teas! Ranging from the small, almost round crumbs of the Kaamba, to the long, plump strands of the Milima, they didn't look at all alike.

Then things started to come a bit unstuck for my career as a tea blender. The teas, tasted by themselves, didn't taste the same, but if my life depended on it I couldn't have described the differences. Honestly, I'm quite good at wine tasting vocabulary, and I can normally pick out if a wine reminds me of tobacco or leather or red fruits or tropical fruit shower gel. But this? It tastes like tea. The taste of dried leaves boiled in water (that's a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reference). It's a taste I really like, but I just can't describe what makes the Kaamba different from the Marinyn.

Milima - "a traditional orthodox tea with a bright liquor"
I realised that I needed some guidance from the experts. The tasting notes that came with the teas suggested a few different blends, and I felt that the one described as "a fresh crisp tea with an attractive bright colour" was right for me. Over the last year I have stopped taking milk in my tea, and as I was making a fresh, fruity biscuit to accompany it, I thought fresh and crisp would definitely work. And indeed, the blend of Marinyn and Milima was absolutely perfect (although I have also lost the knack of making tea in a pot and made it much too weak for the people drinking it with milk).

To go with the life-saving oolong (it's not oolong, but I'm prepared to bet Bertie Wooster's mostly wasn't either) I decided to make passionfruit melting moments.

The baked goods that Haley produces for Theodosia's shop are things that I think of as very American - blackberry scones (not much like English scones), butter cookies, caramel nut shortbread - so I decided to make one of the pinnacles of the Australian baker's art.

Melting moments are a very old-fashioned sort of biscuit, quite crisp but melting to nothing as you bite them because of the cornflour or custard powder in them. And, as most old-fashioned dishes tend to be, very, very simple. The most traditional ones are vanilla or lemon flavoured, sandwiched with lemon icing, (they have to be sandwiched) but passionfruit are so common in Australia that they turn up a lot too.

I used Dan Lepard's recipe, and it was perfect. I used custard powder (since I'd bought some for another Dan Lepard recipe, his slider buns) and as well as the important melting texture it gave the biscuits a lovely appetising colour. Just the thing to accompany a cup of tea and a good book.

Passionfruit melting moments

* Usual disclaimer: the product was provided free of charge, no other compensation was offered or requested, views are my own and no PRs get to vet my copy
This month, Cook the Books is being hosted by Rachel, the Crispy Cook, and you still have a couple of days to get your posts to her!


Caroline said...

Oh yum, I love melting moments - the texture is just fantastic. Those teas do look really different - I haven't seen one with little balls before - I thought they were mostly leafy.

Anonymous said...

Oh my...yum. These look terribly tasty. Sounds like just the thing to go with a lovely cup of tea! Teas from Kenya...isn't it interesting the different shapes and flavors? I've been ISO a true scone recipe for years, but haven't found one yet! LOL!

Rachel said...

Melting Moments sound like a lovely tea-time treat. Perfect for our Cook the Books.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Caroline - I mostly drink teabags, so I've not really looked closely at the leaves!

CBWA - I'm still working on my scones too. I'm getting close, but not quite there yet.

Rachel - thank you!

Angie's Recipes said...

Those passionfruit cookie sandwiches look WOWED! I wish I could try one now.

The Silver Bunny said...

Kenyan tea is my favourite ever !x

Barbara said...

The book sounds like perfect summer reading. I do love mysteries!
Your melting moments look wonderful...interesting you said it's common to sandwich them..I've never done that.

Claudia said...

They sound so good. I've never tried Melting Moments, and definitely want to make these, as our passion fruits are dropping off the vines at the moment.

Debra Eliotseats said...

Enjoyed this post immensely. I learned a lot about tea. How lucky were you to get those great Kenyan teas. Those Melting moments look wonderful and what a great accompaniment for tea time and this book.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Angie - thanks! Very easy to make yourself.

Silver bunny - it's the first time I can remember having it!

Barbara - Australian melting moments are always sandwiched!

Claudia - lucky you! The ones I could buy from the supermarket were scarcely ripe.

Debra - thank you!

Unknown said...

I've never heard of Melting Moments but I think they are about to become a part of my vocabulary! Love these! And thanks for the tea education also!

Simona Carini said...

Melting Moments are new to me too. Yours look really nice. And the description of the teas is quite intriguing. Much as I love my cappuccino, it's tea that helps me welcome the day.

Deb in Hawaii said...

Your melting moments make me melt! ;-) So perfect with a cup of tea.

Fun to play with the different teas and blending--there's always so much to learn with tea.

Unknown said...

They look AMAZING! You're right, a cup of tea would be a perfect accompaniment!


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