Sunday, August 26, 2012

Spiced Chai Concentrate

After tasting chai for the first time, my room mate James said, "It's like liquid pumpkin pie."

And that it is.

I admired a recipe for spiced chai concentrate on Pinterest that was floating around some six months ago, and just now got around to making it.  If you've been procrastinating on making it too, use this post as a stepping-off point --  it's worth it!

The biggest problem for me was betting up the gumption to haul myself over to a Whole Foods or spice market to buy the ingredients for this tasty drink.  I was living about 20+ mins away from anywhere that sold vanilla beans and whole anise stars, and even the chain food stores i knew that would carry them would most likely not have a fresh supply.  Since I've moved to Lancaster, I've been taking full advantage of my flat's proximity to the central market and the Spice Guy.  I do not know his real name, but there is a gentleman that runs a fantastic spice and tea stall in the market.  I have the feeling we will soon be on a first-name basis, his service was so good and his tea so lovely.  

So, onto the tea!  I used this recipe as a guide, and collected my needed spices.  I recommend buying much more than you will need just to satisfy the recipe, since many of these spices are popular in fall baking and you will probably want to make more than the 1.5 cups of chai i got out of it.  

So this is everything- ginger, "orange" (I used lemon since I didn't have a lemon on hand), tea, honey, cinnamon, vanilla bean and assorted spices.  

For the tea portion of the recipe i used a mixture of the Spice Guy's Lemon Spice black tea and a delicious herbal blend of Blood Orange and rose petals i got from Steap in Philadelphia.  The Blood Orange was expensive, but I got it very long ago and it added the extra orange-y, bright flavor that i think this particularly spicy mix needed. Here is all of the tea mixed up-
The blood orange is very bright and the rose petals are white and pink. Looks delicious, eh?

One more thing i must say is that you should invest in a small grater before you begin, like a long zester.  You will need to grate nutmeg with a finer grit than your typical cheese grater, and while it might cost you an extra $10, it is totally worth it.  Nothing is worse than watching precious, expensive nutmeg go to waste as it cracks and you slice off a part of your finger grating it over what you would use for Parmesan.  
I speak from experience, if you can't tell.
this is my zester.   One day he will grow up to be a biiiig box cheese grater, but for now i use him for ginger mostly.  

So now that you have amassed the ingredients and tools, chop everything up!

I did make some modifications to the ingredients, and i'm glad i did.  Instead of using all three inches of ginger, i roughly sliced about an inch and a half.  I think all three inches would have overpowered, but if you want to add more, go right ahead.  I urge you to remember that you don't want to shock yourself into a ginger coma. 
Unless you are a redhead.  
See how much ginger that is?

Also, try not to be overzealous with your grating.  My nutmeg was so soft and fresh it almost disappeared as I grated it, so try not to add to much.  Nutmeg and cinnamon will be the ones responsible for the tickling in the back of your throat- that means you added too much.  

Some other recipe modifications i made were to adjust the sweetness.  This recipe asks to add 1/2 cup sugar, but that was too much for me. I compensated with two tablespoons of honey and 1/4 cup of white sugar, and i think it was a perfect adjustment.  

Now, throw everything into the pot and let it steep for about ten minutes.  Listen to Louis CK, knit a few rows, and your kitchen will fill up with a delicious aroma.  If there were any chai left, I'm almost sure it would have kept smelling that way for days, but we drank it all.  

Now strain, and you're done!

One thing i was shocked about was how much my cinnamon stick expanded while it soaked.  If you've used mulling spices before I'm sure you're used to this, but everything in the pot blew up like an aromatic Halloween balloon.  I admit I get pretty interested in the simple things, but if i knew how to save these spices and tea and use it for potpourri, i totally would!

The finished product is fantastic. Unbelievable.  Heavenly.  Every complimentary word in your vocabulary, apply it here. 

My roommates and i loved it so much, we drank all two cups of the concentrate (1:1 ratio with 2% milk) immediately.  I was pretty disappointed that this made so little, so next time i'll double it at least.  

Go on and make some!

I know I haven't posted in forever, but this blog deserves an update. I decide to do this every year, but so what! I have the resources, and i will hopefully have the free time.  I've also decided to not limit my posts to knitting anymore, which I believe contributed to some writer's block.  Instead, I will be including my foodie adventures and other crafting, and probably will throw in some posts about gaming and the other media I'm consuming.  

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