late nights are for lonely people: a plated dessert

If there is a flavor combination that I have ever fallen in love with, it would be cherries, pistachios, and earl grey tea. I have done another dessert with those flavors plus chocolate in the past, and I just adore the balance! We have tartness from cherries, bitter floral notes from the tea, and smoky, salty, and crunchy from the pistachios. For this dessert, I wanted to focus on just those three flavors this time around, as opposed to adding the chocolate in as well. So we have an earl grey panna cotta with pistachio shortbread biscuits, and tea smoked cherries. The tea smoked cherries make their return from that previous dessert I had mentioned, as I just love how smoking the cherries bring out their tartness even more, while adding in a layer of bitterness that helps with balancing out desserts. The biscuits add a salty flavor while also capturing the crunchy texture of pistachios. For the panna cotta, I infused it with earl grey tea directly, and instead of using gelatin, I went with agar, since I prefer setting my panna cottas with agar over gelatin, though if you need to use gelatin in this recipe, you can sub out the 2 teaspoons of agar with 3/4 teaspoons of gelatin mixed with 1 tablespoon of cold water! For the name, I went with “late nights are for lonely people”, which is a song by mxmtoon(shouting out a fellow Taiwanese American!), which has this gentle lull to it. I figured with the flavors and composition of this dessert, that very much matches that tone as well.

For the earl grey panna cotta:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons earl grey tea leaves
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons agar agar

Bring cream and earl grey tea leaves to a simmer in a pot, on low heat, with the lid on. Turn off heat, and allow the leaves to steep into the cream at room temperature for 10 minutes. Strain out the leaves and then return your pot to low heat. Add in the remaining ingredients and stir until everything is dissolved. Pour your desired molds(I’m using silicone cupcake molds and filling those each about 2/3 the way full, but really any cup or bowl works!). Freeze for at least an hour to set.

For the pistachio biscuits:
1/2 cup ground pistachios
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tspn green spirulina powder*
1/4 cup granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1 egg yolk

Mix pistachios, flour, sugar, and salt together first. You can use spirulina powder as well, if you want a stronger green color in the final product, but if not, you can omit it! Then knead into that your butter, then finally, the egg yolk. Refrigerate the dough for at least 15 minutes. Then roll out to 1/8th inch thickness and cut out 1-inch circles, Alternatively, you can roll the dough into a log, freeze it for 20 minutes, then cut it into disks that way. Bake the cookies at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes.

For the tea smoked cherries:
1 cup bing cherries
a pinch of salt
1 tspn lemon or yuzu juice
1/4 cup rice
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp earl grey tea leaves

Pit and halve the cherries first. Toss with salt and lemon juice. In a deep pan, line with two layers of aluminum foil. Then scatter rice, sugar, and tea leaves on it and bring up to high heat. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE YOUR VENTILATION ON AND WINDOWS OPEN! This is highly important unless you want to set off your smoke alarm. Place a grate over the pan and place the cherries into a heatproof bowl. Once the sugar begins to smoke, place the cherries on the grate, and cover with either another pan or a larger bowl. Allow the cherries to smoke for at least 3 minutes, but no more than 5. Cover the cherries with cling wrap once you remove them from the smoker, and allow them to cool down at room temperature before using to plate with.

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