Sunday, December 15, 2013

'Tis the Season for Warm Beverages:
Homemade Spiced Chai Mix

Two drinks in a row! Well. Babies, it's cold outside. I mean seriously. We are reaching the part of the year when I stop mentioning in my classes that I am a native Californian because that conversation about why I would ever choose to live in this climate when I have known and experienced a more temperate one (a glorified, glorious one, in fact!) gets tiresome. Minneapolis has its draws, I assure you. But I don't think that my appreciation for the warmth that 8 degrees offers in comparison to zero is one of them. Anyway. As promised, brunch ladies and gentlemen from last Thursday - with reiterated apologies for not actually making it that night - please warm up with this. It's nothing short of delightful. More pictures to follow. (Not to ruin the surprise or anything, but: it looks like... chai.) 

P.S. Would you like to know how I came up with this recipe? Several years ago, my dear friend Alicia (hi, wifey!) bought for me a chai spice blend from a fancy spice store in her part of the world (the OC). It was the best chai I've ever had, and I have had a lot of chais. Fortunately, she bought me TWO packets of the mixture, so when I opened the second one, carefully now that I was cognizant of its status as precious gold, I actually counted all of the individual spices (even the anise and fennel seeds, before I measured them and realized they added up to a nice round teaspoon each), one by one, and then recreated the recipe with store-bought spices just to make sure there wasn't something secret I was missing. These are the kinds of things you must do to become a cooking instructor. DECONSTRUCT! FIGURE IT OUT! At least when WINGING IT hasn't paid off. The fenugreek is a recent addition brought to you by my own imagination and a recent personal fancy for fenugreek in just about anything I consume. Entirely optional, but subtly special if you can get your hands on it and are into random, exotic ingredients that look like mutant ninja bee pollen. Adds a nice hint of malt and caramel to the chai. Your choice.


P.P.S. Buy in bulk if you make this. It is a cheap way to go (see below: six cents for the fennel - yes please!) and then you won't allow $8 worth of cardamom or fenugreek to go rancid in your spice cupboard over the coarse of the next three years. Remember the rule of thumb for spice shelf life: 6 months for ground spices and herbs, 1 year for whole. Or... just trust your nose.


P.P.P.S. Don't skimp on the ginger, even if you think you don't love ginger. It's key, both for potency and sweetness.

Homemade Spiced Chai Mix
Yields: 4 cups chai concentrate; enough for 6 large or 8 normal servings

2-3 tablespoons crystallized ginger (¾ ounce)
1 cinnamon stick (3-4 inches)
2 bay leaves
7 green cardamom pods
20 black peppercorns
20 cloves
1 teaspoon anise seeds or 2 star anise
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon whole fenugreek (optional)

2 heaping tablespoons loose leaf tea (black or rooibos)
To serve: milk, sweetener of choice

Place all ingredients in a 2-quart saucepan. Add 4 cups water, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat, add 2 heaping tablespoons of your choice of black (more traditional) or rooibos (decaf, lighter-flavored) tea. Steep 5 minutes. Strain, stir in 3 to 6 tablespoons of desired sweetener (honey in my case). Combine one part chai concentrate with one part milk or non-dairy beverage of choice and serve over ice or hot (about 180 degrees). 

1 comment:

  1. Plus Fenugreek is great for breast milk production, if that's what you're into (but not recommended for pregnant women)!