This rich little bite of creaminess is an indulgent conclusion to an elegant meal. The pots can be prepared ahead of time, and the effort required delivers amazing results.
Makes six 8-oz. servings
½ cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
8 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
3 to 4 tea bags of English Breakfast tea (or more, to taste)
1 cinnamon stick, crushed
1 inch piece of fresh, peeled ginger, coarsely chopped
¼ teaspoon pink peppercorns (can substitute white)
2 allspice berries
1 2-inch piece of lemon zest removed with a vegetable peeler (zest only)
1 2-inch piece of orange zest removed with a vegetable peeler (zest only)
½ cup brown sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 whole large egg
Place the sugar into a heavy-bottomed medium pot and place over medium heat. Once sugar begins to melt stir with a wooden spoon and continue to stir until the sugar melts and just begins to caramelize. Do not allow the sugar to turn into caramel. You want a light brown colored syrup, not the deep amber typical of caramel.
Slowly pour in the cream and milk, and stir to incorporate. The sugar syrup will seize and harden. Continue to stir over the heat until the syrup re-melts and the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat. Add the cardamom, tea bags, cinnamon stick, cloves, ginger, peppercorns, allspice and zests. Cover and allow the mixture to infuse for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 300° F.
In a large mixing bowl whisk the brown sugar, egg yolks and egg until thick and pale, and ribbons fall from the whisk.
Strain the chai infused liquid into a large measuring cup, pressing down on the mixture to extract all of the liquid. Discard mixture and add enough heavy cream to bring the measure to 2 cups. Gently whisk the chai liquid into the egg mixture to incorporate. (Overwhisking will result in too much foam.) Rap the mixing bowl on the counter to release any air incorporated, and skim any foam from the top of the bowl.
Place six 4-oz. ramekins or eight espresso cups in a small roasting pan. Fill each almost to the top with the chai custard. Carefully move the pan to the oven and add hot water to the pan to reach about halfway up the ramekins or cups. Cover with foil and poke 2 vent holes on either side of the pan.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the edge of the pots are set and jiggle slightly in the centers. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the pots to sit in the water bath an additional 10 minutes. Remove the pots from the water bath and cool in the refrigerator. When cool, cover with cling film and return to refrigerator, chilling for a minimum of eight hours to overnight.
Remove the pots from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before serving. Garnish with freshly whipped cream.
[Editor’s Note: If you like a very pungent tea taste, as I do, you can substitute regular tea bags (i.e. Lipton or Tetley) or loose tea leaves in place of the English Breakfast Tea.]
Recipe and photo by Donna Marie Desfor