Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dirty Chai

It's not quite spring yet, as the snow on Friday informed me.  But in the interest of getting a jump on the cleaning process, this weekend's project is dealing with the pantry situation.

the pantry situation, phase one.

This process made me realize a few things: 1) Three different kinds of chili powder/paprika/dried thyme/mustard seeds is about two too many; 2) I need to use random whole spices more often; 3) if you think you have a jar of molasses but you can't find it, it will in fact materialize several months later, on its side and stuck to the shelf.

So what does one do with 200g of whole star anise anyway?  By the time April rolls around, even hot toddies and stock pots can get a little tiresome.  Coffee and tea on the other hand are never seasonally restricted, so I made a chai-spiced concentrate using a lot of the whole spices I discovered during the clean-out to try and recreate the delicious Dirty Chai from Empire.

Highly recommended.  I definitely wouldn't go out of my way to buy all of the ingredients if you don't have them already, but any combination of warming spices would be great here.  It's also totally customizable so you'll save yourself both cash and excess cream and sugar from the cafe version without losing any flavor.  

I amped up the amount of spices here from the original concentrate recipe I saw on The Pioneer Woman and decreased the sugar to my tastes.  The milk and sugar somewhat temper the spiciness, with a nice added bite from the coffee.  If you're fancy enough to have an espresso maker, a shot or two would be a welcome substitution for ordinary coffee.

Fortunately it's also the perfect drink for a day of cleaning and general hibernation, since I need some serious motivation to carry on with the pantry project.

Dirty Chai

Serves one
Total time: < 5 minutes

  • 1/2 cup (120mL) spiced chai concentrate (recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup (120mL) milk (soy, almond, lowfat, whatever)
  • 1/2 cup (120mL) strong brewed coffee
Heat chai concentrate and milk in a saucepan or mug in the microwave.  Add freshly brewed coffee. Pat yourself on the back for not spending $3.75.

Spiced Chai Concentrate
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Makes 4 1/2 cups
Total time: 25 minutes (Active time 5 minutes)

  • 4 1/2 cups (a little more than 1L) water
  • 1/2 whole vanilla bean
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 12 whole green cardamom pods
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole black pepper
  • 1 small knob of ginger, cut into thin slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • zest of 1/2 orange
  • 10 teaspoons of black tea or tea bags
  • 1/3 cup (65g) sugar

Scrape vanilla bean into a small pot, add water, and bring to a boil.

While waiting for water to boil, place cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cloves, star anise, and black pepper in a baggie and smash with a hammer, rolling pin or similarly heavy implement.

When the vanilla water comes to a boil, add ginger, crushed spices from the baggie, nutmeg, orange zest, and tea or tea bags.  Cover and steep for 15-25 minutes depending on how spicy you like it.

Strain out spices and tea and mix liquid with sugar until dissolved.


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