Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chai Spice

The heat of summer has turned into the most beautiful California fall. The air is cool, the first rain of the season has come and I am in the mood for something comforting and spicy.

I made chai spiced cupcakes with ganache frosting. They were spicy and delicious and everything I needed for a chilly night. The best part about chai is that when you steep the whole spices, you can infuse dairy, simple syrup and even sugar. In this case, I took my regular vanilla cupcake recipe and put in one tablespoon of ground cinnamon, two teaspoons of cardamom and one teaspoon of allspice.

I had a chai spiced creme brulee on my menu once and I served it with mini almond biscotti. This is a great flavor for any custard because the smooth texture completely distrubites the flavors and makes you all warm and fuzzy. Of course adding chocolate to the chai just makes better.

With the holiday right around the corner, it means that guests will surely gather around your fireplace, singing songs and telling stories with smiles on their faces and love in their hearts...Or maybe I just saw a commercial for a "Sounds of the Season" CD. But either way, you can bet your guest will need some milk or cream for that coffee, so why not offer them some comforting chai-spice creamer? Or vanilla? To get you started, here are some recipes for chilly weather infusions.

Chai Spiced Cream
2 cups Milk, Cream or Half and Half
3 each Cinnamon Sticks
2 Tbsp. Whole Green Cardamom-you can find this in the ethnic foods aisle in bulk
1 Tbsp. Whole All Spice
2 tsp. Black Peppercorn
1 each. Vanilla Bean-just the pod. Or one tsp. of vanilla extract once the cream is chilled.

-Gently crush the cardamom, allspice, peppercorn in a plastic bag and add to the cream with the vanilla pod and cinnamon.
-Bring this almost to a boil. It will get foamy and bubbly at the edges when it is ready.
-Remove from the heat and cover. Steep the cream for thirty minutes.
-Strain the cream, making sure it is smooth and there are no bits of whole spices in it.
-Pour it into a container set in an ice bath. Stir occasionally until the mixture is cold, cover and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.

Pumpkin Pie Creamer
2 cups Cream, Milk, or Half and Half
3 each Cinnamon Sticks
1 Tbsp. Grated Fresh Ginger-Tip:Freeze the ginger before grating it.
1 Tbsp. Whole Allspice
2 Tsp. Whole Cloves
1/2 Tsp. Grated Whole Nutmeg
1/4 cup Pumpkin Puree

Use the same method as above.

Now you can have some really special additions to your coffee tray. Notice these dont have any sugar added so your guests can control the amount of sugar they would like. I would serve this alongside some splenda for my family. Brew a subtle coffee for these so the flavors can really come through. My favorite is Allegro Breakfast Blend. It is very mild but aromatic and delicious.

Chai. Fragrant, comforting, warm and so delicious. Try this blend of spices in so many different ways. Tell me what you come up with!