Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Lady Grey Trio, or Death by Orange, Tea, and Chocolate

A few weeks ago, an old friend, who was one of my thesis advisors from my undergrad days, came by our department to give a talk, so afterwards, and after dinner, I had her over for dessert. This whole "coming over for dessert" arrangement was fantastic because I didn't have to worry about cooking dinner too and could focus my entire concentration and energy on preparing dessert, which is quite arguably the most important part of the meal anyways. (Arguably, I said.)

I actually agonized for several days over the perfect dessert to make.  I don't get the chance very often to do plated desserts, which can be great fun, so I wanted to really take my time in developing this one.  There were other constraints also, such as having everything made ahead of time, since I'd be in class and on campus the entire day.  I knew that I wanted the dessert to involve chocolate (because it was the one thing I was sure that Sharon liked), and I knew that I wanted to do something in triplicate.  Beyond that, though, I was clueless (and intimidated, after a mutual friend of ours had informed me that Sharon's a foodie).  Until, my mom showed up one day with a bag of beautiful, home-grown oranges from a friend's tree.  Then it hit:

Lady Grey tea.  If you haven't tried this more subtle version of Earl Grey tea yet, I highly, highly recommend it.  Basically, instead of the typical lemon accompaniment for Earl Grey tea, Lady Grey tea uses orange instead, which, to me, really enhances the fragrance of the bergamot extract (Twinings is the brand I recommend for Lady Grey, and, for you lucky folk in London, I know that the Twinings main store sells loose leaf Lady Grey).  Lady Grey and chocolate also go fabulously together, and so I present to you the Lady Grey Trio dessert:

The Lady Grey Trio
Earl Grey Dark Chocolate Ice Cream
Orange Creme Brulee
Chocolate Orbit Cake
with white chocolate Lady Grey creme anglaise

Now, I must warn you: this is not a dessert trio for the faint of heart.  First of all, it involves not one or two, but three different types of custards and creams.  (Meaning also, lots of subsequent meringue and macaron practice.)  Then, it also involves a lot of chocolate.  In fact, there's so much rich, creamy chocolate that the orange creme brulee actually acts sort of like a palate cleanser.  I'm not kidding.  Creme brulee as a palate cleanser.  Proceed at your own risk.  (Though, come to think of it, this entire dessert is gluten free, so that's one "healthy" thing going for it.)

That said, those of you who *are* willing to take the plunge won't regret it, because this dessert trio is an unabashed and shameless celebration of extreme decadence and love of chocolate.  The Earl Grey dark chocolate ice cream is made with dark chocolate and Dutch-processed cocoa powder, and there's also black cocoa powder thrown in for good measure.  Of course, I always use extra heavy manufacturing cream whenever possible.  *looks about innocently and whistles.*  The end result is some of the darkest and richest chocolate ice cream that I've ever had, with lingering flavors of the Earl Grey tea and bergamot at the very end.  (I refuse to go back to store bought ice cream these days.)

For a chocolate cake, I of course had to turn to David Lebovitz's chocolate orbit cake, which is basically, as I always put it, chocolate baked in the oven.  Because, quite literally, that's what it is.  It's an extremely moist and dense chocolate cake, and to lighten it up, I drowned it here in some white chocolate Lady Grey creme anglaise sauce.  "Lighten" is a relative term, okay?  The sauce went really well with the cake, with the flavors of tea and orange and white chocolate balancing out the robust, dark chocolate-ty richness underneath.

As for the orange creme brulee--well.  Thank goodness for the orange creme brulee.  The light creaminess of the baked custard and intense orange flavor from fresh orange zest and a dash of Grand Marnier was most definitely a welcome accompaniment to the indulgence of chocolate in the other parts of the dessert trio!  And, who doesn't enjoy cracking open the top of a creme brulee?  :-)

All in all, we had a wonderfully pleasant evening: Sharon brought over her violin and we, together with my roommate, played (well, I stumbled) our way through several Baroque and early Classical double violin and piano trios.  I have to say that I thought my dessert trio was the perfect complement to our musical evening--for some reason, the bergamot and orange tea and dark chocolate flavors reminded me faintly of ye olden Baroque times (highly romanticized by my imagination, I'm sure) when people would enjoy good food, company, conversation, and music post-dinner in their candlelit salons amidst stacks of musty old books and claw-footed sofas.  And, how much more fitting it was when my roommate remarked afterwards that "the Lady Grey Trio" would make a great name for a chamber music trio, too!

Anyways, time to wrap up this extraordinarily lengthy post and announce the winner of the black cocoa and photo print giveaway!  Selected at random (using random.org algorithm), congrats to entry #102 myblankpage!  You didn't leave a contact email, though, so please email me at s [at] shihbakes [dot] com to claim your prize!  You have one week before I pick someone new.

Thanks so much to everyone else for commenting in the giveaway.  As I said before, it was so much fun to visit your blogs and hear your ideas about what to do with black cocoa.  I now have a to-make list miles long.  Alas, though, after this Lady Grey Trio dessert and the past two posts, I think I might put this blog on a chocolate-free diet for a week or so.  I, at the very least, need the detox.  :-P

Read on for recipes...

The Lady Grey Trio
serves eight
Note: this dessert can be made entirely ahead of time and assembled on the spot--only some re-warming of the chocolate orbit cake and creme anglaise is necessary, as well as the brulee-ing of the custard.  Other than that, this trio is a great make-ahead dessert!

Earl Grey Dark Chocolate Ice Cream
adapted from David Lebovitz's Chocolate Ice Cream in The Perfect Scoop.

2 cups manufacturing/heavy cream
2 Tbspn black cocoa
1 Tbspn Dutch-processed cocoa
3 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
5 Earl Grey teabags
1 cup whole milk
5 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 tspn vanilla

1. In a saucepan, combine 1 cup of cream with the cocoa powders, whisking thoroughly.
2. Bring the cream and cocoa powder to a boil and simmer for thirty seconds.
3. Remove from heat and add the chopped dark chocolate, stirring until smooth.
4. Stir in the remaining cup of cream.  Pour the cream mixture into a bowl, prepare a fine mesh sieve on top of the bowl, and set aside.
5. In a saucepan (or the same one, if you're lazy like me), combine the milk and teabags.  Bring just to a boil, remove from heat, and cover tightly with a lid.  Let the milk steep for ten minutes.
6. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks together in a separate bowl.  Set aside.
7. Remove the tea bags from the milk, making sure to squeeze out all of the liquid.  Discard the tea bags.  Add the sugar and salt to the milk and return to just a bare simmer.
8. Whisking constantly, pour the milk gradually into the prepared egg yolks and return to the saucepan.
9. Cook the milk and yolk mixture over medium heat while stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and can coat the spoon/spatula.  Remove from heat immediately and pour through the strainer into the chocolate cream.
10. Add the vanilla and stir until smooth.
11. Chill mixture thoroughly in the fridge, then freeze it in your ice cream maker of choice. (Here's mine, which works like a dream, and I also have this one.)

Orange Creme Brulee
eight 2oz. ramekins

4 egg yolks
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup manufacturing cream
2 oz. vanilla sugar
zest of 2 large oranges
1 tspn Grand Marnier
turbinado sugar
(blow torch)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare eight 2oz. ramekins in a water bath, filling the water half-way up the sides of the ramekins.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and set aside.
3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, cream, vanilla sugar, and orange zest. Bring to just a simmer.
4. Temper the egg yolks by pouring the heated milk mixture gradually into the yolks, whisking the entire time. Once the milk and yolks are combined, whisk in the Grand Marnier.
5. Strain the custard through a fine sieve into the eight prepared ramekins. Cover the ramekins tightly with aluminum foil.
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the edges are set but the creme still jiggles a little when gently bumped. Remove from oven, remove from water bath, and let cool completely.
7. Cover the custards with saran wrap and refrigerate overnight.
8. An hour or two before serving, remove the custards from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. (This helps to prevent condensation on the surface of the custards.)
9. When you are ready to serve, sprinkle a thin layer of turbinado sugar on top of each custard and caramelize with a blow torch. Serve immediately.

David Lebovitz's Chocolate Orbit Cake
adapted from Room for Dessert by David Lebovitz
makes two 4.5" cakes

4 oz. butter, in small chunks
6 oz. bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tspn vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Line the bottoms of two 4.5" round pans with parchment paper and butter the bottoms and sides.
3. Combine the butter and chocolate in a double boiler. Cook until melted.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar and the eggs.
5. Whisk in the melted chocolate to the sugar and eggs.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and place this cake pan into a water bath, with warm water reaching about half-way up the sides.
7. Cover tightly with foil. (Don't forget this step!)
8. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until the cake appears set and your finger comes away clean when you touch the center.
9. Remove from oven and water bath and let cool completely.

Lady Grey White Chocolate Creme Anglaise

6 oz. white chocolate
3 egg yolks
4 oz. whole milk
4 oz. heavy cream
3-4 Earl Grey teabags
2 Tbspn vanilla sugar
zest of 2 oranges
pinch of salt

1. Place chopped white chocolate in a bowl with a fine mesh sieve on top. Set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks until light. Set aside.
3. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the milk, cream, and teabags.  Bring just to a simmer, remove from heat, and cover tightly with a lid.  Let simmer for ten minutes.
4. Remove the teabags from the milk and cream, making sure to squeeze out all of the liquid.  Discard the teabags.
5. Add the vanilla sugar, salt, and zest to the milk mixture.  Bring to a bare simmer.
6. Whisking constantly, pour a small but steady stream of the heated milk and cream into the egg yolks to temper. Do this slowly, while whisking quickly. Once the milk and egg yolks are combined, return to the saucepan and to the stove.
7. Heat the egg yolks and milk mixture while stirring constantly, making sure to scrape the bottom so that nothing burns or sticks. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil and cook until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about one minute. Remove from heat immediately.
8. Pour the hot creme anglaise through the strainer onto the white chocolate. Let sit for a minute and then whisk until the white chocolate completely melts.
9. Keep the sauce warm in a double boiler.
10. Top the chocolate orbit cake with creme anglaise and candied orange peel.

for Candied Orange Peel, which is really straightforward, I used this recipe here.



  1. Awesome, my goodness me, death by chocolate, orange and tea. It's funny because in some ways we must have similar ideas; a year ago I made a mandarine and assam tea cheesecake. It would have been great to put chocolate in there too but the other flavors wouldn't have survived. I need to visit the Farm and let you know I'm coming so you can make me a trio of something. Beautiful set-up too, I love the chalkboard.

  2. love. love. love. three loves for your trio above, but i love way more than those 3 desserts. as hilda said, i just adore the chalkboard- i love serving on my slate boards, scribbling the names of cheeses or chocolate percentages, such fun. your images are gorgeous above. i don't want to make any of the above though, i just want to come over to your place !! :)

    oh, but one thing i didn't love... your plans to put your blog on a chocolate-free diet :(

  3. How gorgeous! It all sounds so, so, tasty. Lady Grey is lovely, but I have to admit that I prefer Earl Grey, and I have a terrible habit of drinking it with milk... Oh dear.

    Amazing photos - I love the chalkboard too. Must get some.

  4. Hello there- your blog (which I found through a tweet of Saffron&blueberry) is absolutely awesome. You are so fresh and creative. Above all inspiring. I will be checking back often!

  5. I love how much thought you put into this! This dessert looks like one that could be served at a gourmet restaurant...I am really quite impressed. Sharon must have been so pleased!

  6. WHOA. what a trio! i love the musical way of presenting it, being a musical person myself. if we weren't overwhelmed enough trying to cater our own wedding, i'd say we should add the creme brulee to the list. maybe we'll just make it for our anniversary instead!



  7. @Hilda: Yes, please come visit at the farm! I'm already dreaming up the dessert trio possibilities. :-)

    @Kerrin: I wanted to serve on slate but couldn't find any large enough so moved on to a chalkboard placemat. And don't fret--the chocolate free diet won't last very long, I'm sure.

    @Poires au Chocolat: thanks! milk with Earl Grey...?

    @Katharine: thanks! thrilled to have discovered your blog, too. :-)

    @Joanne: Actually, I think part of this dessert comes out of a frustrating experience that I had with dessert at a recent nice restaurant I went to. The meal was fantastic but when dessert trio came, it was such a huge let-down: dry cake, icky sauce, overly-crusty pie. So, in part, this was my response!

    @squirrelbread: Yay, music! The creme brulee isn't so bad prep-wise, since you can make it ahead of time and just stick them in the fridge, if you like. But, then again, having something to look forward to at your anniversary sounds nice!

  8. This is such an elegant and tasty idea! We have a chocolate dessert at work that comes with Earl Grey ice cream - such a lovely combination.

  9. @Anna: okay, i need to visit where you work! :-)

  10. OMG I am completely in love with your photographs and the chalkboard!

    I also, have done the - let's go out for dinner and back to mine for dessert thing as I just prefer to make desserts, it's so much easier and you get to sit and eat whereas making dinner you are stuck in the kitchen. Love the trio concept too

  11. @Chanel11: thanks! I think I might adopt this dinner-out, dessert-in model from now on! It's so much less stress, and I love being able to actually *enjoy* the company rather than standing in the kitchen and missing half of the conversation.

  12. Lady Grey is WONDERFUL...not many people know about it...much more delicate than Earl Grey...

  13. I'm surprised the taste of the tea wasn't overpowered by the chocolate.. that would be my initial reaction to using those two ingredients together.
    How did you end up deciding on the tea-chocolate ratio!

  14. You've such as nice presentation in your post and it's very informative...Thanks

  15. I hate to echo everyone but that chalkboard is pretty sweet. I think I just bought that silverware, too, btw 8). These flavors sound killer together. Must-try as usual!

  16. I just made the brulee - it was so easy and the texture was gorgeous, I did find the orange a little overpowering for me though -love to do it again with just a vanilla bean instead

  17. I made your ice cream last night, using two tbsp of dutch cocoa, one tbsp of natural cocoa (cause it's what I had on hand), four tbsp of agave nectar, and 3 tbsp of brandy. It was one of my best efforts, and was roundly praised when I took it to work today, so thank you!

  18. @Anonymous: So glad that you liked it! (and that the agave nectar sub works--will try it myself soon)

  19. Love this idea of infusing tea into your ice cream! Last night I made a little vanilla earl grey myself!

    Happy to have discovered your blog.

  20. Love this idea of infusing tea into your ice cream! Last night I made a little vanilla earl grey myself!

    Happy to have discovered your blog.

  21. Hello there- your blog (which I found through a tweet of Saffron&blueberry) is absolutely awesome. You are so fresh and creative. Above all inspiring. I will be checking back often!

  22. I loooove this!! I came across your blog as I was blogging about Lady Grey, having tried it for the first time today.  I hope you don't mind I borrowed one of your images, but I made it a link to this blog post!! Hope everyone enjoys your desserts and images as much as I did!

  23. does the creme anglaise become hard off the heat? is it something that I can make, refrigerate and then pull out when it comes time to serve?

  24. Hi Alice, The creme anglaise will harden up a bit if you refrigerate it, but you can just warm it for a short time and it should return to a more liquid-y state.


I love hearing from you and reading your comments! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog. Happy feasting!