Although I am an avid coffee drinker these days and rotate through different coffees and coffee-makers (for French press, Italian moka, or Vietnamese coffee or indeed a good old pour-over), long before I became a coffee drinker I was already a devout tea drinker. It all started with my dad’s milky black tea when I was a still a toddler. Although I can count the memories from that age on one hand (for example, ruining a tent my brother had built with a friend between my cot and a chair when I was supposed to be napping or moving house on my 3rd birthday and losing a beloved miniature tin truck in the process) the one thing I can remember clearly is the sweet and at the same bitter milky tea my dad drank and would let me try once in a while.
When I was 9 we moved house and although our new garden was smaller than the one at the old house, it bore an abundance of mint. During the summer months, my dad would often make large pitchers of sweet Moroccan mint tea (a habit that only stopped years later when we discovered Mojitos and decided there was an even better use for all that mint than Moroccan mince tea). Some nights we would also start the Samovar, the hot coals giving the black tea a wonderfully smokey aroma. And while boarding school in Brighton was a culinary nightmare of epic proportions (salmon ‘curry’ in tomato sauce with black olives and raisins is one of the lowlights of that time) at least there was plenty of tea to keep me warm during the winter months, whether studying for A-levels in my drafty room or all bundled up and clutching a take-away cup of tea on brisk walks along Hove’s seafront.
After finishing law school I spent almost 4 months studying Spanish in Argentina and travelling around South America. And while Argentina produces some of the tastiest meat I have ever had the pleasure of eating, the milk produced by the country’s cows is some of the worst I have come across, putting a swift end to my morning caffe latte habit I had developed at university. I also cannot say I warmed to the smokey flavour, almost reminiscent of tobacco, of Argentina’s national drink, Mate, immediately. Yet, when cold and rainy Spring weather left me shivering and soaked to the bones on a trip to the Iguazu Falls, being lent one of our guide’s Mate gourds and plenty of tea likely saved me from a rotten cold. And given how much I disliked the local milk, I ended up starting most of my days in that tiny apartment right in the centre of Buenos Aires with a cup of Mate.
While there are other types of tea it took me a while to get my head around (matcha being one of them; the very strong smokey flavour of lapsang souchong another), hojicha appealed to me as soon as I first tried it in Singapore last year. Hojicha is a roasted tea, typically made from bancha, the tea from the last harvest of the season (although other varieties exist). Hojicha is quite mild in flavour (and not at all like sencha, a tea made from green tea and roasted puffed grains). Although hojicha has a subtle toasted flavour, what dominates is an almost chocolate-like flavour as well as notes of caramel. Today hojicha is typically roasted in a spinning drum, a common process for roasting coffee (and maybe that is why my preferred way to drink hojicha is with milk). Thanks to the roasting it also contains less caffein than regular green tea so is perfect to drink at night as well. While mild in flavour, the right amount added to a recipe lends the same toasted flavour and caramel and chocolate notes to whatever it is baked into. To maximise the flavour, these baked doughnuts contain hojicha in three ways, I infused the butter with some leaves, added ground leaves to the rice flour and made a glaze with milk that had been infused with hochija – the result is a milky cup of sweetened hojicha in baked doughnut form.
Before we get to the recipe, I want to say thank you to those of you who have taken the time to fill out my survey, I really appreciate it – if you haven’t yet had a chance to do so (or your Monday is off to a slow start), I would be grateful if you could spend a couple of minutes filling in the answers: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GVMSWR5
for the doughnuts
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp Hojicha tea leaves
2 egg whites
20g light muscovado sugar
20g light brown sugar
50g rice flour (you can also use all purpose flour)
Pinch of salt
for the glaze
75g icing sugar
5g brown rice syrup
Pinch of salt
1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. If you are not using a silicone doughnut pan, grease your doughnut pan.
2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add 1 tablespoon of the hojicha tea leaves. Set aside to infuse for 30 minutes at room temperature. Strain and discard the tea leaves.
3. Toast the rice flour in a dry pan on medium heat for 2-3 minutes until golden brown and fragrant. Grind the remaining teaspoon of hojicha tea leaves to a fine powder and whisk together with the rice flour.
4. With a handheld mixer beat the egg whites on medium speed until white and frothy. Turn up the speed to high and beat until stiff and glossy, adding the muscovado and light brown sugar one tablespoon at a time while you beat the egg whites.
3. Add the pinch of salt to the flour mix and, together with the melted butter, add to the egg whites. Carefully fold the flour mix and butter into the egg white mixture, being careful not to deflate it.
4. Fill a pastry bag with the batter and carefully pipe into your donut mould. Smooth the top of each mould with the back of a wet teaspoon.
5. Bake in the oven for ca. 15 minutes or until the tops of the doughnuts are golden-brown in colour and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the doughnuts comes out clean.
6. Let doughnuts cool in the pan for a couple of minutes before carefully inverting them onto a serving plate.
7. For the glaze, whisk together the icing sugar with the brown rice syrup, milk and the salt until the sugar is dissolved and there are no more lumps. Drizzle the doughnuts with the glaze and set aside for the glaze to set (ca. 30 minutes).