Boba milk tea-ramisu

I really only came up with these tea-ramisus while I was running. Specifically, I was thinking about how I could make boba-flavored desserts, and I was also thinking about the milk tea tiramisu that was popularized by chef Melissa King. Her version was the Hong Kong milk tea tiramisu, but I wanted to take it a step further, and figure out how to incorporate a boba-type of element. Initially, I thought about using straight up tapioca pearls, but those get super temperamental, and I did not want to deal with boba pearls getting rock hard and being unpleasant to eat. So I broke it down even further, and thought about tapioca flour, aka what boba is made out of. By making ladyfingers out of tapioca, not only would they be gluten-free, but that would be a nice callback to boba itself. I used some activated charcoal in the making of them as well, just to give them a jet black color to make the ladyfingers further resemble boba. When it came to the assembly of them, I wanted to cut up the ladyfingers to resemble the pearls, suspended in the cream.

For the tea, I went with Darjeeling tea. It is a black tea that is deeply aromatic, and actually is used to make “royal milk tea”. I went with this particular tea because it has a very pronounced bitterness that would not get lost with all of the sugar and dairy that is being used in the recipe, which often times can be an issue when making steeped tea desserts. I used the Darjeeling tea to soak the tapioca ladyfingers with, but also to flavor the mascarpone custard mixture to make it more like a milk tea custard, and in a gelee on top of the tiramisu, just to seal them in. I figured it would be a fun way to take the boba milk tea inspiration, and really bring it forward. Overall, these little tea-ramisus were a lot of fun to make, albeit initially finnicky when it came to figuring out how to make them. But once I nailed down the recipe for the ladyfingers, everything else came right into place!

Makes 4 tea-ramisus:
For the tapioca ladyfingers:
1 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar 
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp canola oil
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
A pinch of salt
1 tsp activated charcoal powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whip egg white with sugar to stiff peaks. In another bowl, mix together the other ingredients. Fold the egg whites into the other ingredients. Pipe your batter into either 3-inch disks or sticks. Bake at 350 degrees F(for the disks, 13 minutes, the sticks, 8 minutes). Cool down before using.

For the cream:
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup sugar
A pinch of salt
1 cup Darjeeling tea, in 4 parts
2 tsp gelatin powder
8 oz mascarpone cheese

Whip egg yolk with sugar. In a pot, mix 1 part of the tea with the gelatin powder. Then pour into the pot the rest of your tea. Heat up and reduce down the tea and gelatin into a syrup. Pour into the egg mixture. Then fold in the mascarpone cheese.

For the soak:
Darjeeling tea

Soak the ladyfingers in the tea for 2 seconds. Layer up the ladyfingers in glasses, cutting them into smaller pieces and lining the sides of the glass with them so that they resemble boba pearls. Pour in the milk tea mascarpone mixture, just enough to submerge that layer of ladyfingers. Repeat twice. Refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.

For the Darjeeling tea:
2 cups water
4 bags Darjeeling tea leaves

Heat up the two over medium heat for 3 minutes. Allow the water to cool down with the tea bags in them for at least 20 minutes before straining out the tea bags and leaves.

For the tea gelee:
1/2 cup Darjeeling tea
1 1/2 tsp agar agar
A pinch of salt

Heat up until reduced by half. Cool down the gelee mixture slightly until it is no longer simmering then pour over the tiramisus. Let the gelee set for 2-5 minutes and then serve!

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