Dear David (Lebovitz),
You may not know this, but you’ve changed my life. For awhile, I stalked your blog. I read every ice cream related post, from making ice cream without an ice cream maker to attempting olive oil ice cream. But then when that wasn’t enough, I sought out to buy your ice cream bible, The Perfect Scoop. I followed you on Twitter and got excited whenever you left your beloved Paris for America (even though you never came to New Jersey). Sometimes, I even searched for other blogs that included you, just to comfort myself that I wasn’t the only one who was obsessed with you. Don’t be scared. I’m not really obsessed with you, just your ice cream.
But let me tell you. Through dozens upon dozens egg yolks, a 10 lb bag of sugar, and enough cream to make my cholesterol skyrocket beyond 200, I think I’ve finally mastered the art of making ice cream. You’ve taught me what to do if my custard turns into scramble eggs and how to get that soft, creamy consistency. You’ve essentially given me the gift of turning whatever flavor my heart craves into ice cream.
You are, in other words, my hero.
Your humble fan,
Getting back to business. This is one of my most proud culinary accomplishments- Chai Tea ice cream. Ever since Amy came back from India, I’ve been obsessed with Chai Tea. Her mother made it for me once, the way they used to do it in India, using all the spices and a blend of the most fragrant black tea leaves. After that, I was hooked. I started making it each morning for work. After awhile, I thought, man, this would taste great in an ice cream.
And you know what? It tastes better than the tea version. I had scoured every URL and link that Google had to offer, and although there were a couple of recipes, I decided I wanted to make my own recipe. After all, people make Chai Tea in their own way, whether it’s adding extra anise, less ginger, or just omitting cloves. In fact, none of the recipes I found used ginger, which further convinced me that the Chai Tea I came to love probably tasted a bit different from their’s.
The recipe I came up with is less sweet than the tea version and instead captures the intensity of all the spices. The anise really stands out because it’s my favorite ingredient. The cinnamon sticks add a robust and earthy tone, which is surprising given how I usually think of cinnamon as a spicy bittersweet ingredient in apple pie. The end result is a culmination of all those flavors in a creamy form. This is a very rich ice cream that settles very nicely in the freezer. It’ll keep its density while remaining smooth while scooping.
If you’ve never had Chai Tea, this may overwhelm you a bit. It’s almost reminiscent of coffee ice cream, but with a different kind of bitterness than coffee. I only used 1/2 cup of sugar because I don’t like my teas over sweetened. For me, you’re drinking the fragrance from the leaves, not the flavor of processed granulated sugar. If you have Darjeeling and Assam leaves, then great. If not, any dark black tea leaves such as English Breakfast, Kenya, and even blending Chinese Oolong in the mix will work. The key is that you want a very dark black tea to extract the flavors. If you don’t have tea leaves at all, then Chai Tea bags will also suffice.
Chai Tea Ice Cream
Makes a bit over a quart
- 5 star star anise
- 1 tablespoon of dried cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks, broken apart (if they’re dry sticks, use 3)
- 3 slices of ginger
- 10 cardamom pods, opened to seeds
- 5 tablespoons full-bodied black tea* (or 8 Chai Tea tea bags)
- 1 cup of milk
- 2 cups heavy cream (divided, 1 cup and 1 cup)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- A pinch of salt
- 5 egg yolks
*Darjeeling and Assam preferably, but English Breakfast, Kenya, and a blend of Chinese Oolong to supplement the darker teas will suffice. The ratio of tea leaves to liquid is really high, indicating the concentration of flavor and intensity. Obviously, you would not ordinarily seep 5 tablespoons or 8 bags in 2.5 cups of water if you were drinking a regular cup of tea.
In a heavy saucepan, pour the 1 cup of cream, sugar, and the spices including the star anise, cloves, cinnamon sticks, ginger, cardamom, and salt. Heat until it starts to slightly bubble. Lower the heat and add the black tea leaves along with the milk. Making sure that you stir all the ingredients, you want to heat until the mixture turns into an earthy brown. The tea leaves will begin to open up. Be sure that the mixture does not boil. If it looks like it’s about to boil, remove from the heat.
After a good seven minutes, when it seems as if all of the flavor from the tea and spices have been extracted, take a thin strainer and strain the mixture into a large bowl with the rest of the cream (1 cup). You don’t want to be eating tea leaves in your ice cream. So basically, you want to strain the hot mixture into the cold 1 cup of pure cream. Pour the now luke-warm mixture, sans tea leaves and spices, back into the saucepan on low heat.
In a separate bowl with the egg yolks, temper the yolks by spooning the hot milk/cream mixture into the bowl. Whisk quickly so that the eggs don’t overheat and scramble. Eventually, pour the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan and on low heat and keep stirring until it turns thick. It should coat the back of a wooden spoon easily. Remove from the heat and transfer into a bowl. Chill in the fridge for at least 8 hours.
After the mixture has chilled, pour into your ice cream maker and follow the instructions. Mine churned for about 15 minutes before it became the perfect soft serve consistency. Freeze for 3-4 hours for a more solid, creamy consistency.
This post is part of a series featuring recipes from the FOOD & WINE archive. As a FOOD & WINE Blogger Correspondent, I was chosen to do four recipes a week from FOOD & WINE. I received a subscription to FOOD & WINE for my participation.