Lady Baker’s Christmas Tea

I had the chance to try a few seasonal teas this Christmas season from Lady Baker’s Tea, one of my favourite Canadian tea merchants. The ladies behind this little PEI company have an incredible range of customers from across North America, as I know from interviewing them for my recent article in SIP Magazine on the importance of shopping locally (see my book review in the last issue on page 50). Some of that is due to the educational blog that helps people learn more about tea. Some of it is due to the unique blends they create.

The three Christmas flavours I tried were Vienna Eggnog, Peppermint Swirl, and Cardamom Magic. They’ve also got a more typical Christmas spice blend, Holiday Harmony Spice.

Peppermint Swirl is unlike your typical holiday peppermint tea. More substantial than a strictly herbal tea, and less tannic than a black tea, this tea sits at a nice crossroads between hearty and light. The fine green tea shines when brewed at 80°C, providing a thick infusion with bright leaf that balances nicely with the mint.

The Cardamom Magic is a surprising blend. Fragrant, citrusy cardamom and honey-toned Sri Lankan black tea are brightened by hibiscus and almond. Pairs equally well with date bread in the afternoon or as a finish to a heavy meal of duck or roast beef.

The Vienna Eggnog is my favourite, but then I adore eggnog. And this blend does not let me down! A little rum and I might think I was drinking the real thing! Okay, not quite, but this is zero calories and tastes divine.

A pot of any one of theses will make you feel like Christmas is in the air. Stay warm and cozy, and drink more tea!

Perfect Crème Brûlée

An elegant, always delightful, classic dessert. Perfect for holiday dinners or dessert tables. Easier than you think, and perfect to make ahead. The last-minute scorching of the sugar is festive and interactive, so no need to stress about that final touch. 

I do have the perfect recipe, given to me by the talented Brett Leitch, who taught it to me at George Brown. This recipe is in metric because it’s precise, but I’ve done my best to translate it to Imperial (American, not British) below. 

The thing most people don’t realise about crème brûlée is that it’s not about the recipe or even the freshness and purity of the ingredients: it’s about the technique. Happily, that’s a simple one. 

Get a sous vide machine. Already have one? You’re about to love it even more. Don’t have one? Don’t wait for Christmas. Get thee hence to a store (or a keyboard) and get yourself one! 

Making these delightful little custards with the sous vide device will add a lightness and silkiness that is to die for. You can bake these in a water bath in the oven and they will be perfectly nice. But for an incredible mouthfeel, you know what to do.

The other secret to to buy a fine mesh strainer. No tiny globules of cooked egg for us, please! Melting, smooth, flawless texture. 

Perfect on their own, or with a Christmas cookie, or a mini-poached pear, or a fruit compote, or just a glass of dessert wine. 

Perfect Crème Brûlée

A sous vide version of this French classic that is sure to turn out flawlessly every time.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Keyword: #cremebrulee, #frenchcuisine, #frenchcustard


  • Sous vide device.
  • 8-10 mason jars, 125 mL
  • Blow torch


  • 160 grams egg yolks (approximately 11)
  • 90 grams sugar
  • 3 grams salt
  • 600 mL 35% whipping cream
  • Sugar, as needed
  • 1 piece vanilla piece


  • Heat water bath to 80°C (176°F).
  • Whisk together egg yolks, sugar and salt.
  • Heat cream slowly in a small pot. Scrape the seeds of the vanilla pod into the cream, whisking gently. Heat to 70°C (158°F).
  • Slowly pour cream into egg mixture, bit by bit, whisking all the time, until it's fully incorporated.
  • Strain mixture into a large measuring cup using a fine mesh strainer.
  • Pour slowly into mason jars, stopping approximately 1 centimetre from the top.
  • Seal jars fingertip tight. (This means just until one big turn seals it gently. Do not twist it so tight that no bubbles can escape.)
  • Using tongs, carefully place in water. Cook for one hour.
  • Place in an ice bath until fully chilled. At this point, they will keep for several days before finishing.
  • Remove the lid and sprinkle the top with sugar until a thin layer. Aim the flame from your blow torch at the centre and move it around the the edges. Swirl the runny sugar if need be to catch all the sugar patches. Continue until sugar is deeply caramelized. Let topping set for a minute before garnishing with fruit. Serve right away.


Don’t be tempted to use vanilla extract in place of the vanilla bean. The liquid will affect the texture of the custard. Use non-liquid flavourings like lemon or orange zest, a cinnamon stick, espresso powder, or microground tea. 
If using lemon zest, use as fine of a grater as possible, or try blitzing it with the sugar in a mini-food processor first. Or add strips of zest to the cream, then pick them out. Let them sit in the cream for 10 minutes and re-heat. 
Fat-soluble chocolate flavourings could work as well. 
Make sure your mason jars are clean and sterile. 
The beauty of a long, slow cook like sous vide is that times ate a little more forgiving than an oven-baked custard. If you need another few minutes, no harm will come to your custards. 
Imperial measurements: at your own risk. Use metric form perfect consistency.
11 egg yolks, 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 1/8 cups cream, 2 big pinches of salt. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Earl Grey Cream Cheese Frosting

This feels like a good time to remind you that I have the best ever pumpkin spice muffin recipe in the whole wide world. I don’t care what renowned bakers you may refer to; unless they are using this recipe, their pumpkin muffin recipe is not the best. Stays moist for days, full of protein, spiced just right. Works as a loaf, too.

This time I made the muffin batter in an 8X8 inch pan as a snacking cake, since I thought that would make a lovely host for my Earl Grey Cream Cheese Frosting. Turns out, I was right!

Cream cheese frosting can be sticky, gummy or sickly sweet due to the use of powdered sugar. Not only does it have a particular taste, but it has thickners that mess with the texture of your frosting. Plain granulated sugar can have a gritty, tooth-scratching mouthfeel. I have used my Really, Really Strong Earl Grey Simple Syrup to add silky sweetness and Earl Grey flavour. And I don’t mean just bergamot—with this recipe, you get the flavour of the microground tea as well. Because it’s dissolved into syrup, you have no silty texture to trouble you one bit. I have made the syrup here a little stronger than the original recipe to stand up to the cream cheese.

I tried Stella Park’s trick of whipping some cream first and adding that to the cream cheese, but the little bits of cream cheese were too many and too large for my liking. You’ll always get a few tiny little lumps with cream cheese, but if you use the whip attachment, they’ll be imperceptible. Whipping cream also made this too soft, and there’s really no need, since the powdered tea and sugar have both dissolved in the hot water already.

This frosting is perfect for orange cake, carrot cake, soft pumpkin cookies (NYT has a great new recipe). It would even be nice on a delicate white cake, layered thin and alternating with marmalade. Anywhere you might like a cream cheese frosting. Plus a little extra.

What is microground tea? Also known as superfine or latté blend tea, microground tea is the actual tea leaf that has been slowly ground down to a dissolvable powder that blends easily into milk. Turns out, make a great addition to baking as well. Not to mention cocktails, like my Earl Grey in Moscow.

Microground Earl Grey is available for purchase from Sloane, Genuine Tea, Tea Squared, and many more local tea companies. I’ve tried these three and liked them all.

Earl Grey Cream Cheese Frosting

Earl Grey Simple Syrup adds strong flavour and silky smoothness to this easy cream cheese frosting.
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, Canadian
Keyword: #afternoontea, #creamcheese, #creamcheesefrosting, #earlgrey, #earlgreysimplesyrup, #pumpkinspice, #pumpkinspicemuffins


  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 heaping tbsp microground Earl Grey tea
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  • Boil water. Add sugar and stir until dissolved.
  • Add microground tea and do the same.
  • Turn off heat. Add vanilla extract.
    If you have some old vanilla beans hanging around, you can throw them in too, but they tend to be drowned out by the tea.
  • Let cool to room temperature. Easy enough to make ahead, especially before you start your cake/muffins/loaf/what-have-you.
  • Dice one block of cream cheese and add to bowl of stand mixer. Add in Earl Grey Simple syrup slowly on low to blend, then use whisk attachment to whip until light and throughly blended, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Chill until needed. Enjoy!


This simple syrup makes a nice sweet flavouring for whipped cream as well! Or you can use sugar and microground tea, but give it time to sit to allow the flavour to permeate the fat in the cream. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Perfect Cranberry Sauce, 2.0 (Thanksgiving Edition)

How do you improve upon perfection? You find a unique occasion and drill down. In this case, Canadian Thanksgiving.

My earlier version of cranberry sauce with maple syrup, orange zest and a tiny pinch of clove for backbone received a lot of love online. The smallest hint of clove really did make the difference, many of you told me. I have now , however, come to think of that version as my Christmas cranberry sauce. For Thanksgiving, I wanted something different.

Very thick consistency, due to a longer boil.

At Christmas, my turkey usually goes in the oven. In October, it’s usually warm enough that we can smoke the turkey outside, and this is the flavour that I wanted to echo in the cranberry sauce, no matter how you cook it.

Once again, just one weird little secret ingredient is going to take your cranberry sauce from good to great. Here it is: Lapsang Souching. smoky Chinese black tea.

I know! I’m tea-obsessed. True! But not just because I love to drink tea. Because like wine, or salt, or best-quality olive oil, some ingredients are really versatile and transformative. I make no apologies for finding several ways to use this all-star ingredient. And wait until you taste it!

Pop a tea bag in after the cranberries have boiled and popped.

This recipe is the cranberry sauce for people who don’t really like cranberry sauce. I am a gravy person myself. I don’t mind cranberry in a sandwich, but this sauce is so good I’m already thinking of other ways to use it: on toasts with chèvre, on roast duck breast (which I sous vide with the same Lapsang Souching for smoky flavour), as a glaze for chicken thighs. This sauce is not too tart or too sweet, and it’s not so dominated by cranberry that it’s a single flavour note drowned in sweetness.

This sauce is the perfect balance of sweet, sour, bitter, and salt. The tannins in the tea as well as the decent dose of salt add a perfect counterfoil to the overwhelming tartness of cranberry, so that the sugar in the syrup is not left to tackle it alone.

Perfect hostess gift. No one will suspect it’s smoky until they taste it!

So when you are making that shopping list for Thanksgiving, add Lapsang Souching tea to the list, along with some good old Canadian maple syrup. You’ll be surprised and delighted, I assure you. And so will your guests!

Perfect Cranberry Sauce, Thanksgiving Edition

Smoky tea and a good dose of salt adds a nice balance to the sweet and sour of traditional cranberry sauce.
Course: Garnish
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: #bestevercranberrysauce, #canadianthanksgiving, #cranberrysauce, #lapsangsouching, #maplesyrupeverything, #thanksgiving


  • 1 bag fresh cranberries (340 g)
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 10 gr loose leaf Lapsang Souching, or 1-2 tea bags
  • sea salt


  • Pour your cranberries into a medium-sized pot. Add in cup of maple syrup and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Boil until all cranberries have popped.
  • Turn off heat, smush the cranberries with a spoon.
  • Immediately add in your tea bag(s). For loose-leaf tea, I use two bags with 5 grams each. For store-bought bags, start with one. The finer grind on the leaf will enhance its ability to saturate the syrup.
  • Let tea bags cool in pot for 10 minutes. Remove tea bags and discard.
  • Add in 4 or 5 twists of sea salt from a shaker, or a big pinch of sea salt.
  • Stir together until texture is jammy with smallish cranberry bits.
  • Enjoy! Your guests will wonder what the difference is. Will you share the secret?


  • If you prefer a thicker sauce, reduce maple syrup to ¾ cup. 
  • If using store-bought tea bags, start with one tea bag. The tea is not necessarily stronger, but it is finer ground, and will have more surface area to interact with the maple syrup, and so may pack more of a punch. 
  • If using loose leaf tea in tea filters, be sure not to let any leaves escape. Tea leaves can be delicious to eat when prepared correctly, but they don’t sit in the sauce long enough to soften and will bring an unwelcome tough texture. 
  • Make sure you give a good dose of sea salt. No iodised salt here, unless you want to add to the tinniness of the cranberries. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Fall Corn Stir-fry

For a little break from tea and cocktails (only temporary, I assure you!), here’s my riff on the Barefoot Contessa’s confetti corn.

I love corn on the cob so much I rarely do much else with it, but I had Confetti Corn at a friend’s house and was astonished that the beautiful simplicity of corn was not diluted by the other ingredients. Basil and corn may sound weird, but think of polenta with pesto. So I went with a different but equally delicious combination that is great for fall.

Basically, this is sautéed corn with ginger and garlic in sesame oil with some soy sauce and green onions. If you’d like an actual recipe, I’ve done my best below, but any competent cook can wing this one. It’s meant more as a suggestion than a recipe.

I did try it with (lightly) pre-boiled corn and fresh corn sliced from the cob. I thought that undercooking the cobs would make it easier to remove and shorten the process, but it just added an unnecessary step. If you have leftover cobs and you’d like to use them, it’s a great way to repurpose the extras. But it’s pretty easy and really fresh tasting sliced off the cob before you cook it. More tender, too.

Peppers and green onions add colour, texture and flavour. I had some purple cauliflower, so I threw that in too. Of course I don’t expect you’ll have that, but if you do, it absolutely can’t hurt!

Cooking the onions until they are nicely caramelized can be done while chopping the rest of the vegetables.

If this looks time consuming, it’s not really. There’s a bit of chopping and grating, but chives can be used instead of green onions, the peppers dice up pretty quick, and everyone loves it so off you go. Reheats easily.

Lovely with teriyaki salmon or ginger chicken. Throw cubed tofu in it if that’s your thing.

ginger garlic corn sesame

Fall corn Stir Fry

Fresh local corn sautéed with ginger, garlic and sesame oil. Green onions brighten it right up.
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Canadian, Chinese
Keyword: #corn, #cornonthecob, #fallfood, #freshcorn, #gingergarlicsesame, #localcorn, #soysauce, #warmingherbs, ginger


  • 1 large white onion
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 6 cobs fresh corn
  • 6 green onions, chopped


  • Heat pan and add two oils. Add finely dice onion and cook on low, stirring occasionally while you chop the other vegetables. Add more oil if needed.
  • Dice pepper and cut corn off cobs. Set aside.
  • Grate ginger and garlic.
  • Once onions are softened, add ginger and garlic and sautée briefly.
  • Turn heat up tp medium. Add red pepper and sautée for about 3 minutes, until starting to soften.
  • Add corn and sautée for a minute, then lower heat. Add soya sauce and reduce until mostly evaporated.
  • Once the corn is cooked through (just!), top Witt fresh green onions and serve.


This pairs beautifully with teriyaki anything: steak, chicken or salmon. Or grilled shrimp. Perfect on rice. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!