Honey Cake Gagra with Mandarin and Black Tea

A few weeks ago, I was promising some recipes inspired by my trip to Abkhazia. I’ve already delivered the achma and the Adjaran khachapuri, but I had to redo this recipe countless times. I started with the idea for a black tea cake with a mandarin sauce, two ingredients characteristic of Abkhazia — check out my pictures from the food market in Gagra. As it turned out after many experiments, it takes tons of black tea to get a flavorful cake, and even then the result is OK but not spectacular. So I introduced a third local ingredient (honey), added an ice cream, and played musical chairs with the flavors. The final version now has a honey cake, a black tea ice cream, a mandarin sauce and madarin pâte de fruit.

The ice cream recipe is adapted from Ice Creams, Sorbets and Gelati by Caroline and Robin Weir, the brand new edition of a book I already mentioned here. I’m using Nilgiri black tea, but I encourage you to go to your local tea shop and pick a strong black tea you like. The ice cream recipe is written for way over 4 servings, as you need a substantial minimum amount for most ice cream machines to work properly. The mandarin pâte de fruit is equally challenging to scale, because you need a dish of the right size when you let it set. If, like me, you live in a climate where mandarins are rarely available, you can replace them with tangerines or oranges. Finally, every pectin is slightly different. I am using the powdered apple pectin from Rousseau, available here.

Mandarin pâte de fruit
Yields 9 servings (18 pieces)

7 oz mandarin juice
10 g powdered pectin
6 oz sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
2 oz superfine sugar

  • While mixing the mandarin juice in a blender on low speed, pour in the pectin and blend until homogenous. Heat in a sauce pan over high heat and bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Add the sugar progressively, bring back to a boil, and boil for 1 minute. Stir in the lemon juice and remove from the heat. Pass through a chinois into an 4″ x 8″ dish lined with plastic wrap. Cover with more plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  • Take the pâte de fruit out of the dish, remove the plastic wrap, and trim the edges. Cut into 18 squares, then coat in superfine sugar and refrigerate.

Mandarin syrup
Yields about 4 servings

6 oz mandarin juice
2 oz sugar

  • Place the mandarin juice and sugar into a saucepan over high heat and reduce by 1/2. Pass through a chinois and refrigerate.

Honey cakes
Yields 4 servings

3.5 oz butter, softened
3.3 oz orange blossom honey (or other mild honey)
1 egg
1 oz sour cream
4.5 oz milk
1/4 tsp salt
5.5 oz flour
1/4 tsp baking soda

  • Place the butter and honey in the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, and whip on high speed until creamy. Mix in the egg,  sour cream, milk and salt on medium speed, then sift in the flour and baking soda in a couple additions.
  • Place a dish of water at the bottom of a 350 F oven. Grease the inside of four 2 3/4″ square ring molds, and place on a sheet tray lined with greased parchment paper. Pour the batter into the molds, and bake  about 25 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Black tea ice cream
Yields 4 servings and leftovers

11 oz milk
0.25 oz loose black tea (such as Nilgiri)
3 egg yolks
4 oz sugar
8.5 oz heavy cream
smoked sea salt

  • In a saucepan, bring the milk to a boil, let rest for 1 minute, and stir in the black tea. Let steep for 30 minutes, then pass through a chinois, squeezing the tea leaves with a spoon.
  • In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with half of the sugar to a ribbon. Place the rest of the sugar in a saucepan with the flavored milk and the heavy cream, and bring to a boil, stirring regularly. Pour into the bowl while whisking, then place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and cook the custard until it coats the back of a spoon (about 185 F), stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. Pass through a chinois into a container that’s sitting in a bowl of ice water, and let cool. Transfer the container to the freezer and wait until it is completely cold.
  • Churn the custard in an ice cream maker, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to the freezer for at least 4 hours.
  • When serving, sprinkle some smoked sea salt on top.
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