Masala Chai ice cream
Open your mind – we’re making Masala Chai ice cream!
Ah – India … even if you have not yet visited this fascinating country, chances are that you have tasted Masala Chai: black tea with warm, aromatic spices, typically served quite sweet.
Masala chai comes in countless different variations, and often tends to be more flavoured by the exciting spices than of the actually tea involved – in other words, a perfect candidate for an ice cream flavour!
Contemplating what to use for the ice cream, I found original inspiration when leafing through Marilyn & Tanya Linton’s “The ice cream bible”. Unfortunately, their recipe contained quite a lot of water; a trial-batch turned out much too “thin and icy”, both in terms of consistency and flavour. It might have worked for lollipops , but I wanted more body and less iciness. At the same time, I did not really fancy anything mainly based on cream either …
All things considered, I finally decided to go for a base of crema rinforzata (= Sicilian gelato-base), where the main stabilisation comes from starch. In the end, the only thing that I took with me from the Lintons’ recipe was their well-calibrated blend of the spices. And like them, I also did not include any actual tea. Surprising? Yes, but the ice cream still conveys a good flavour blend, quite faithful to the concept of masala chai.
In case you would like to add tea, however, I would suggest that you use black tea. You could test with about 2 teaspoons (safely contained in a suitable tea infuser) or 2 teabags. Add them to the spice-cream-milk-sugar mixture (step 2 in the recipe below) just when you first take it off the heat. Let the tea infuse for ten minutes, then remove it – you don’t want to infuse the tea so long that it begins to release all its bitter tannin!
Making the ice cream
Bring out a mortar (or any MacGyver-inspired alternatives) and crush the spices well. In a saucepan, mix them with the ginger, the sugar, the cream and (most of) the milk. Bring to a boil, take off from the heat and leave to infuse for at least about 10 minutes (you will find all the details and measurements set out in the recipe-box below, by the way).
Blend the starch with the remaining milk in a separate bowl and set aside. Put the now infused mixture back on the stove and bring to a boil, then add the starch-milk. While whisking, keep the blend close to a low boil for at least 4 minutes, until the ice cream base has thickened and any traces of starch (visible or flavour-like) have disappeared – in no case, this should take more than maximum 10 minutes. Take off from the heat and let cool down.
When sufficiently cooled down, chill the ice cream base in the fridge. Pass the base through a sieve and discard the pieces of ginger and the spices. Churn in your ice cream machine. Serve directly, or store in a freezer-safe container with lid in your freezer (remember to cover the surface of the ice cream with plastic film before putting on the lid – your ice cream will keep much better that way!).
You can also make this ice cream without an ice cream machine. If so, simply still-freeze your ice cream base. For this, you will only need a freezer and a fork!
Find a (preferably rather flat) freezer container, pour in the chilled-down ice cream base and put in the freezer. Take out after about 45 minutes, whisk the base with a fork (after just one hour, most of the base is probably still quite liquid …) and return to the freezer. Wait yet another 30-45 minutes and repeat. Then repeat about two more times. As the ice cream base becomes more and more creamy and frozen, you will have to whisk more and more thoroughly. Don’t skimp on this manual churning, as it is your best way to ensure a nice, creamy final consistency and avoid unwanted, unappetising ‘iciness’.
The final ice cream – a real treat for any lover of aromatic spices!
Yes, it is clear that Masala chai can be enjoyed also in frozen form. And the delicious flavour aside, I would also like to underline that both the consistency and the texture of this ice cream turned out great too – again proving how versatile and trustworthy starch-based ice cream bases really are.
While I personally love aromatic, spicy ice creams like this, the flavour might tend to be somewhat more appealing to ‘adult’ tastes. Children might turn out to prefer other, less exotic flavours. So if you are catering to all age-groups, you might want to consider preparing some more “child-friendly” alternatives on the side (like some trusty strawberry ice cream for instance). Good luck!
- ½ cinnamon stick
- 8 black peppercorns
- 6 whole cloves
- contents of 4 cardamom pods
- 3 slices gingerroot (each about ½ cm/1/4 inch thick)
- 500 ml (2 cups) standard fat milk
- 150 ml sugar
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) cream
- 4 tablespoons of cornstarch (like Maizena. Other starches work too, by the way)
- Crush thoroughly the cinnamon, the peppercorns, the cloves and the cardamom seeds (discard the pod-shelves first), preferably using a mortar and pestle.
- In a saucepan, mix together the finely crushed spices, the cream, 300 ml (1¼ cups) of the milk, the ginger and the sugar. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Cover and set aside for ten minutes.
- Mix the cornstarch with 200 ml (about 0.8 cup) milk, making sure that there are no lumps. Set aside for now.
- Put the saucepan with the cream-milk-sugar-and-spice mixture back on the stove and on medium-heat bring close to a boil. Add the milk-cornstarch blend, reduce the heat somewhat and continue to cook about 4 minutes or so, until the base has thickened. Stir frequently, making sure that there are no lumps left.
- Take off from the heat, let the base cool down. Preferably, cover and refrigerate overnight. Then, strain in a large bowl (removing the pieces of the ginger and the spices), stir and churn in your ice cream machine according to instructions.
- Put in a freezer-safe container, cover with plastic film and lid and store in your freezer.