Tea Latte

Photo: K. Henriques

Over the last few years I’ve become more of a tea enthusiast and one of my favorite drinks now is a tea latte. I worked as a barista in a coffee shop for years and tried almost every drink on the menu except a tea latte (a.k.a. London Fog). Maybe it was because I needed a caffeine boost thanks to waking up at 5AM to open the shop, but tea was very much an afterthought. These days though, I find myself wishing for a tea latte over a vanilla latte.

Since I’m not driving to work everyday, I decided this is the perfect time to figure out how to make a tea latte at home. I’ve tried it before but never felt like I had the increments right and that can really affect the end result. I’m pleased to say that after two weeks I’m pretty close to mimicking my usual at the coffee shop.

Here’s what you need:

-2 tea bags (I’m currently using Harney & Sons Paris Blend but also love English Breakfast)

-hot water (approximately 1/2 cup)

-Sweetener (if desired)

-frothed milk*

Put some water on to boil and when it’s ready pour about a 1/2 cup into a good sized mug. Taking 2 tea bags, steep those in the water (Note: You can use just 1 tea bag, but I found using 2 tea bags created a better and more stronger taste). While you’re letting the tea bags steep, froth your milk. I know that many coffee shops use a simple syrup** to sweeten the tea lattes so I pour a little of that into the mug and stir. Once the milk is sufficiently frothed pour it into the mug. I leave the tea bags in there so they’ll continue to steep a bit longer.

Enjoy!

*I’m using the Nespresso Aeroccino3 Milk Frother but you can also do this yourself using an electric hand mixer or a frothing wand.

**If you want to make your own simple syrup mix equal parts sugar and water and then heat (on stove-top or microwave) until all of the sugar is dissolved.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Photo: K. Henriques

Several years ago my cousin Kacey gave me a bottle of homemade vanilla. It was delicious, and considering how much I like to bake I thought this would be a great project for me. That was about three or four years ago and I finally got around to actually following through on this back in January.

While it is very easy to make I had a lot of decisions to make before I could get started. First, I had to choose what kind of vanilla beans to use: Madagascar, Tahitian, or Mexican. There are several really fascinating blogs you can read to help narrow down what you want but to me Pioneer Woman’s was the most straightforward. In addition to describing each kind she also goes on to talk about how they grade vanilla beans and which ones are recommended for extract. Side note: I ordered my vanilla beans off Amazon.

Second, I had to decide what kind of alcohol to use. Most commonly used is vodka , but I wanted to experiment a little with something else too. Two of my favorite recipes to make use bourbon (Kentucky Derby Pie & Bacon-Maple-Bourbon Cupcakes) and apparently I bought bourbon without realizing I already had some so I decided to use it. Now that the hard part is done and you have all of your ingredients you’re ready to make your extract! I just followed the recipe from Pioneer Woman and once I measured everything out I just left it in the respective liquor bottles. Knowing I’d forget when I mixed everything together, I labeled the front of the bottles so I’d know when they were ready. Then, I put it in the pantry and would shake it every week or so.

Fast forward a couple of months… I ordered some cute amber glass bottles (4 oz.) off Amazon and prepared my workspace for bottling. I ended up with 5 bottles of the Madagascar Vanilla using vodka and 8 of the Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla. I left room in the bottle to put the vanilla beans so they could continue to meld until use. We used the regular vanilla (vodka version) in chocolate chip cookies yesterday, but I’m excited to see how the other tastes in baked goods as well. Stay tuned!

P.S. I used some of the extra vanilla beans to make homemade vanilla ice cream for the Deconstructed Apple Pie recipe here.

Ranking System

Baking can have different results for different people. Some of these variances are due to geographical regions, skill-level, and quality of ingredients. As a note, I live in the Southeast corner of the US and am cooking on a gas stove/oven.

Because there can be so many different outcomes using the exact same recipe I wanted to create some kind of ranking system to give viability into my personal experience with a recipe. A ranking system isn’t really helpful though unless you understand how it’s set up though.

I’m basing my rankings on four categories: baking ease, time spent, taste, and visual. 1 is a low ranking meaning the recipe is difficult, time consuming, doesn’t taste great, or looks terrible. 10 is a high ranking meaning the recipe is easy, quick, tastes amazing, and looks great.All of my comments, rankings, and suggestions are of course based on my opinion though so please use these as a loose guide if you decide to try a recipe yourself!

Baking Ease10
Time Spent10
Taste10
Visual10

Baking ease – how easy is this recipe to make for the average person?

Time Spent – from start to finish, how long does this recipe take?

Taste – how does the finished product taste overall?

Visual – does the final product look appealing?