Hong Kong Toast Bites

"Milk" Tea Bubbles:

Adapted from What the Hell Does a Vegan Eat Anyway?

1/4 Cup Small Tapioca Pearls

1 Cup Water

1 Tablespoon Chinese Black Tea

2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar

1/3 Cup Plain Soy or Coconut Creamer

Sweet Pan de Mie:

1 Cup Vanilla Soy or Coconut Creamer

2/3 Cup Granulated Sugar

1 1/4-Ounce Packet (2 1/4 Teaspoons) Active Dry Yeast

3 – 4 Cups Bread Flour

3/4 Teaspoon Salt

3 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine, Melted

Toast Dip:

1 Cups Water

1/3 Cup Raw Cashew Pieces

1/4 Cup Light Agave Nectar

1 Teaspoon Nutritional Yeast

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Pinch Salt

To Finish:

Peanut Butter (Optional)

Melted Non-Dairy Margarine (Optional)

Coconut Whipped Creme

Coffee Stirrer Straws (or Toothpicks)

The tea bubbles should be prepared first, because they'll need to sit at least overnight and ideally for an entire day for the fullest flavor.

First, soak the tapioca in warm water for at least 20 minutes, an set aside. Seperately, place the tea leaves in a strainer and add that to the water in a small saucepan. Heat to a boil, and then remove from the stove. Stir in the sugar to dissolve, and let steep for 15 minutes, covered. This is technically over-steeping the tea, but you want a more concentrated flavor than usual in this case.

Meanwhile, after the tapioca pearls have soaked, strain thoroughly and heat a medium pot of water on the stove. Keep the pearls in a strainer for easier maneuvering, and once the water boils, dip them into the water for 45 seconds. Remove the whole strainer-full and quickly run them under cold water. Repeat this process of blanching the bubbles as many as 6 - 8 more times, until the tapioca pearls are all translucent, and there are no more traces of white in the centers. This incremental method of cooking will prevent them from getting gummy and overdone on the outside.

Remove the tea strainer from the pot of water, and mix in the cooked tapioca, along with the "creamer." Cover and let infuse for 16 - 24 hours.

To make the bread, see my original recipe posting for instructions, substituting the "creamer" for soy milk and sugar for agave. Let cool completely before cutting with a serrated bread knife into 1-inch thick slices. Remove the crusts, and slice each piece into 1-inch cubes.

The dip couldn't be simpler- Just toss all of the ingredients into a high-speed blender and puree until smooth. Strain if needed, and transfer to a medium saucepan. Cook just until bubbles begin to break on the surface, and the liquid has slightly thickened. Let cool completely before using.

Finally, we're ready to assemble the toast bites! Now is when you should fill the cubes with peanut butter if desired. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with a silpat or piece of parchment paper. Toss each square of bread briefly into the dip, being sure to coat each side. Move the dipped cubes over to the prepared baking sheet, and repeat until all the pieces are assembled. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, until golden brown all over. Depending on your oven, you may want to rotate the sheet halfway through baking (I didn't and paid the price. Burnt toast is never a treat, even when it is soaked in a rich custard.) Brush each piece lightly with melted margarine for extra buttery richness. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before topping with a dollop of coconut creme and a thoroughly drained spoonful of "milk" tea caviar. Trim coffee stirrers by an inch or so if too long, and insert firmly into each piece of toast. Enjoy warm, or chill and eat cold later on!

Makes Approximately 1 1/2 - 2 Dozen Toast Bites

©Hannah Kaminsky http://www.bittersweetblog.com