The transition of summer into fall is my absolute favorite time of year. Because of back to school, you’re thinking. Well, in part, perhaps, but there’s much more: this is when the oppressive mid-Atlantic cloak of humidity vanishes, the air crisps up at night, the leaves turn all the gorgeous colors of the rainbow and the October sky is the brightest blue of anytime else during the year. Don’t even get me started on the anticipation of Thanksgiving, my favorite meal. But I digress…
Autumn flavors are sentimental, powerful, and infinitely memorable. Pumpkins, hearty soups and stews, and desserts with deep, warm fall spices leave delicious lasting impressions. Some time ago I discovered an easy shortcut to infusing warm, spicy flavor into autumn desserts: concentrated chai tea. Left undiluted, this product packs a sweet, spicy punch and instantly adds depth of flavor to desserts such as cakes, muffins, quick breads and custards – just substitute it for some or all of the other liquids in the recipe.
In honor of the official start of pudding season in October, I recently made rich Baked Chocolate Chai Custards with Spiced Cream (gluten free). The perfect dessert for this time of year, these custards contain the richness of chocolate, the warmth of exotic spices, the comfort of a soft pudding and best of all, the ease of preparation.
Baked Chocolate Chai Custards with Spiced Cream
1 cup undiluted concentrated chai tea (such as Oregon Chai brand)
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups heavy cream or non-dairy equivalent
6 eggs, at room temperature
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup sour cream (dairy or non-dairy)
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Natural cocoa for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 325. Have ready six individual ceramic ramekins and a 9 x 13 baking dish with tall sides. In a small saucepan, heat chai tea until just boiling. Remove from heat, add the chocolate and let sit for one minute until the chocolate has softened. Whisk until all chocolate has melted and is fully incorporated. Add cream to tea-chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk eggs until smooth. Add sugar, salt and spices and continue whisking for one minute until mixture is uniform. While continuing to whisk the eggs slowly, pour tea mixture over the eggs and combine well. Divide custard evenly between the six ramekins.
Place ramekins carefully in the baking dish and add about 3 cups of boiling water to the dish so the water reaches about halfway up the ramekins. Make sure not to splash water into the ramekins.
Carefully transfer the baking dish to the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the custards are set but still slightly jiggly in the centers. Remove dish from oven and set aside to cool, leaving the ramekins inside.
While the custards are cooling, make the spiced cream: combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
When custards are cool to the touch, remove them from the water bath, top with a spoonful of spiced cream and sprinkle with natural cocoa powder. Best when eaten warm.
About the Author:
Rachelle Ferneau is pastry chef, chocolatier and owner of Dear Coco Chocolate which specializes in globally-inspired, premium artisan chocolate truffles designed to transport you around the world through chocolate. All Dear Coco flavors are dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan-friendly, certified kosher pareve and 100% handcrafted in small batches without corn syrup, trans fats or preservatives. Please visit www.DearCoco.com for more information.
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