Living the Good Life…

My food blog & cookbook in progress

Masala chai custard

Here is a recipe I should have posted years and years ago, seeing as I probably made it even before I had branched this blog off from my regular one. Or just about then. Somehow, even when I began my parent post on desserts with a description of a good cup of masala chai I did not think to write this one down! It’s taken a viewing of the episode of The Mind of a Chef that featured Christina Tossi describing her cereal milk pannacotta for the shoe to drop and for me to realize that hey! I too created a dessert based on favorite go-to drink.

My inspiration to make this dessert was two-fold. First, was a dessert that I had seen  Rachel make in Adelaide, when I had visited her just before leaving Australia–a lovely baked custard, (a creme without the brulee?) using honey rather than sugar. The second more immediate impetus were these lovely earthenware dessert bowls (ramekin-sized to boot) that I bought at some pottery shop out in the desert somewhere. They seemed the perfect container for making individual custards. But rather than honey, it struck me that the process of preparing the milk/cream mixture was pretty much the way I made chai. That is, one brought milk & cream to a near boil and then allowed it to cool slightly before adding  the eggs (tempering the mixture first) was basically how I made chai, albeit with all that lovely spice & sugar in the milk while it was boiling. So here’s how you do it.

Begin by preparing the baking assembly: preheat oven to 350 degrees (Fahrenheit) and set the empty ramekins in a baking pan with enough hot water so they are half  the height of the ramekins.

Heat about 3 cups in total of milk or or half-and-half or a mixture of milk and cream, sweetened to your taste in a saucepan with a generous amount of a mixture of whole spices–cardamom most prominent, ginger root, whole black peppercorns, cinnamon and cloves (go easier on the last two)–till it is just about to boil over. Add three to 4 teaspoons of a basic black tea , remove from heat and let set covered for a few minutes to allow all the flavors to infuse and meld.

In a separate and large enough dish whisk together eggs-approximately 1 for every cup of liquid originally brought to a boil with 1-2 extra yolks for richness if desired-with a pinch of salt. Check temperature of liquid–it should be at blood heat.. first add one ladle of it to the egg mixture to temper, and then add the rest whisking gently to mix. Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a jug or measuring cup with a spout and then pour strained mixture into ramekins.

Bake the custards until set … an online recipe says about 40 minutes, although the smaller the individual container, the less time would be needed (one large container for the entire custard would need more time). When baking is complete cool to room temperature (removing from water will help) and then chill covered until ready to serve.

Serve the chilled custards sprinkled with some cookie crumbs (shortbread type) or make like Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne and give them oranges to go with the tea. Nice thing about the individual cups is that your guests (and you) can eat right out of them.. no fuss or worry about ensuring a pretty dessert.

Speaking of pretty though, it just occurred to  me that wide china teacups with or without handles might make for a cute serving.

P.S. I’ve borrowed the proportions of milk and eggs as well as the cooking times from various online recipes –they are fairly consistent–but  you can use your own formula if you have one. Its not the dessert itself that is the innovation, but the flavor of it.

%d bloggers like this: