Jessica Karley: Masala Chai provides delicious spin on familiar dessert
Masala Chai, or chai tea as most people refer to it, is one of my favorite ways to warm up on a cold winter day. There’s something about drinking this warm, creamy, aromatic tea that can make you feel as though you are wrapping your soul in a fuzzy blanket.
In my house, its popularity has even surpassed hot chocolate.
A pot of Masala Chai simmering on the stove is also the perfect way to get your house smelling deliciously for holiday gatherings.
The simmering cinnamon stick, nutmeg, ginger and cardamom pods create a very inviting aroma.
Masala Chai is a tea drink that originated in India.
It was used as medicine instead of the flavorful beverage with which we are more familiar.
In Indian culture, Chai is the term used for tea, and Masala simply means spice blend.
The particular spice blends that were used would vary depending on the desired outcome.
Popular spice blends consist of cinnamon, clove, ginger, peppercorns, cardamom and star anise.
Traditionally, spices are steeped with milk and loose tea over heat and then strained into a serving pot. Most places today steep the tea and spices separately before combining it with milk at the time of serving.
In my masala blend, I also include fennel, nutmeg and a touch of vanilla.
If filling my house with the aroma of simmering spices is not my main goal, I also like to make a large batch of chai and leave it in the fridge.
That way, when I’m getting ready to leave in the morning, I can mix it 50/50 with milk or soy milk then warm it in the microwave, and I am out the door with my mug of masala chai that will rival any coffee establishment in town for a fraction of the cost.
You can alter this spice mixture to make it your own by changing the ratio of spices, adding different ones (e.g. cumin seeds, saffron threads or white peppercorns), or by using honey or agave nectar in place of the brown sugar.
I will occasionally use agave nectar, but I prefer brown sugar for the rich taste of molasses.
If Masala Chai is not your cup of tea (pun intended), you can also try this delicious spice blend in my Chai Bread Pudding. Bread pudding is one of my favorite desserts to make when I’m expecting company, and it’s a very inexpensive way to make a special treat.
Bread pudding is made by combining stale or day-old bread with a custard base of cream, egg and any other ingredients you like. Bread pudding can also be made savory or sweet.
When you’re making a sweet bread pudding, a few good additions would be white or brown sugar, vanilla, chocolate, dried cranberries or raisins.
In my recipe for Masala White Chocolate Bread Pudding, I add sugar, a few of my favorite aromatics and white chocolate chips.
The best part about this recipe is that it works great as dessert the night before and also serves as a suitable replacement for cinnamon or caramel rolls in the morning.
There are never too many complaints in my house for serving dessert at more than one meal, especially breakfast.
Masala Chai Mix
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 15 green cardamom pods, gently crushed
- 12 whole cloves
- 12 whole black peppercorns
- 6 whole allspice
- 3 star anise or ½ teasoon star anise seed
- ¼ teaspoon fennel seed
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, fresh grated
- 5 cups water
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- 6 black tea bags
Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan except for tea bags. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium/low and let simmer for 15 minutes. Place tea bags in a mixing bowl, leaving tags to hang over the edge. Pour spiced water mixture through a strainer and over tea bags. Mix equal parts warm tea mixture and warm milk or soy milk. Mixture will keep chilled in your refrigerator for up to one week. It can be served hot or cold. Serves 8.
Masala White Chocolate Bread Pudding
- 10-ounce stale white bread (French, baguette or dinner rolls work great)
- 1 quart half & half (or 2 cups heavy cream and 2 cups milk)
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 3 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon powdered ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 12-ounce bag of white chocolate chips
Heat oven to 375 and butter a large baking dish or 13-by-9 pan. Cut or tear bread into large chunks and place in a large mixing bowl. In a medium bowl, mix half & half, sugar and eggs, vanilla and spices and stir until combined. Pour over bread and work mixture through with your hands. Add in white chocolate chips and gently toss mixture again. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and pat down gently to even out. Let stand for at least 10 minutes or overnight. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until set. Serve warm with vanilla butter sauce or any caramel sauce.
Vanilla Butter Sauce
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup cream
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1/8 teaspoon iodized salt
Combine butter, sugar and cream in sauce pan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring often. Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla and salt. Serve warm.