By Kathryn Gordon — Chef-Instructor, Pastry & Baking Arts
I have always loved chai. My favorite approach is, of course, to make it myself, rather than use one of the premixed packages that proliferate at coffee bars and are available at grocery stores (which often contain ingredients that do not belong in traditional chai). Surprisingly, it’s not difficult to make, and you can personalize the spice blend to your liking. In India, the mixture of spices in chai varies by region. Some chai blends contain various amounts cardamom — and some none at all. The same goes for ginger and black pepper; it all depends on regional tastes. During my travels throughout India, my favorite chai was a milky cup in Rajasthan, where the chai was ladled into a single-use clay pot, which was thrown onto the parched clay earth after using.
When you’re ready to try your hand at homemade chai, feel free to experiment — you can try flavored honeys, non-dairy milks, or even steep the spices in water if you don’t like milk in your tea. If you want a spicier chai, just increase the amounts of spices or add the spices back into the chai to continue steeping after the tea is strained out. But don’t let the tea leaves steep for too long or you will get tannic after-tastes.
Once you conquer homemade chai, you should try baking with chai, too. Below is the recipe for Chai Langues-de-Chat with Blueberry Cream Filling from my book Les Petits Sweets. Langues-de-chat (French for “cat tongue”) are delicate cookies that break easily and absorb humidity — I’d recommend eating them the same day you fill them. These langues-de-chat cookies are filled with chai spices, which are balanced by a decadent, blueberry cream filling — it’s the perfect cookie for chai lovers.
Chai Langues-de-Chat with Blueberry Cream Filling
Yield: Makes about 50 (3-inch/7.5-centimeter-long) cookies or 25 sandwiches
For the Cookies:
2 tablespoons (36 grams) honey
1 teaspoon (1 gram) finely ground black tea
6 tablespoons (84 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (90 grams) confectioners’ sugar
3 large egg whites
1/2 cup (68 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (28 grams) cake flour
1/2 teaspoon (1.5 grams) ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon (2 pinches) ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon (2 pinches) freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Heat the honey and tea in a small saucepan over medium heat until the honey begins to boil, then remove from the heat and let the mixture cool completely.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir the egg whites into the honey mixture.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the all-purpose and cake flours, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and pepper. Alternating between the flour and the honey mixtures, add the dry and wet ingredients to the mixer a little at a time, only mixing until just combined before adding more. Begin and end with the dry ingredients.
- Spoon the batter into a piping bag fitted with a ½-inch (1.25-centimeter) round tip (alternatively, cut a ½-inch opening in the bag). Pipe the batter into 3-inch (7.5-centimeter) long ovals (cat tongues) on the baking sheet, 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) apart, until the batter is used up. If not all cookies fit on the prepared baking sheet, keep the batter in the bag until the first batch has baked, or use a second lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 7 minutes, until the cookies are golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet. The baked cookies, without filling, can keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
For the Filling:
1/2 cup (120 grams) blueberry purée or fresh blueberries (boil for 1 minute and purée with an immersion blender)
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) ground cinnamon
8.8 ounces (250 grams or 1 2/3 cups) white chocolate (preferably Opalys), finely chopped
- Heat the blueberry purée and cinnamon in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a rapid boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, pour in the chopped chocolate, and shake the pot so that the chocolate is submerged. Let sit for 1 minute, then whisk rapidly from the center of the pot outward in a spiral shape until the chocolate is fully melted. Pour the mixture into a shallow pan and refrigerate to let it set, about 1 hour.
- When the mixture is firm, spoon the filling into a piping bag fitted with a ¼-inch (6-millimeter) round tip (alternatively, cut a ¼-inch opening in the bag). Pipe a strip of filling over the length of one cookie, and top it with another, slightly pressing the top cookie so that the sandwich is tight.
- Once filled, eat cookies the same day.
- You can use a neutral honey, such as clover, but the spices can also take something stronger if you prefer baking with a more assertive honey.
- To grind the tea, pulse your favorite black tea in a spice or coffee grinder until it reaches a fine texture. If necessary, first clean the grinder by pulsing a bit of white rice, which will get rid of any lingering coffee flavor. You can also use a mortar and pestle.
- To cut down the sweetness of white chocolate, which can be sometimes overwhelming, I like using Opalys, a low-sugar-added variety made by Valrhona.
- These cookies are great on their own, but you can also sandwich them with your favorite ganache recipe, or as suggested here, with a blueberry cream filling.
This recipe has been reprinted with permission from Les Petits Sweets © 2016 by Kathryn Gordon and Anne E. McBride, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.
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