Chai is an Indian tea with milk, containing a spice combination that varies from region to region. For Chai Spiced Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, I chose cardamom and cinnamon, one of my favorite combinations, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. I like a lot of cardamom and a little bit of cinnamon, but you can adjust the quantities, or even choose different spices, to suit yourself.
About the spices
Cardamom is the seed pod of one of several plants in the ginger family. All are native to India, Pakistan, Bhutan, and Nepal, but Guatemala is actually the world’s largest producer of cardamom. There are three types:
- Green cardamom is widely available and has excellent flavor.
- White cardamom is green cardamom that has been bleached by the sun, and tends to be milder in flavor.
- Black cardamom has a slightly smokey flavor. It’s sometimes said that black cardamom is not a true cardamom, but “true” seems to be an arbitrary label. Both green and black cardamom are from plants within the ginger family.
In recent years, cardamom thrips have threatened cardamom crops in most areas where it is cultivated. Insecticides are sometimes used to fight them, so try to purchase organic cardamom.
Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of several tree species within the genus Cinnamomum. As with cardamom, there’s a particular species of tree said to be the “true” source, but that distinction seems to be arbitrary. All cinnamon comes from the bark of several closely related trees within that same genus.
That genus is in the Laurel family. I found this fascinating, because this family includes the North American natives, spicebush and sassafras, both of which have pleasantly aromatic inner bark.
Like cardamom, cinnamon is prone to various pests often managed with insecticides. So, again, going organic is a worthy investment.
Vanilla beans are the pods of various species of Mexican and Central American orchids within the genus Vanilla. In nature, vanilla plants are pollinated only by the local bees within the Melipona genus. So, when vanilla orchids are grown outside their native range, hand pollination is required. Vanilla, too, is subject to a variety of pests and diseases which are sometimes chemically managed. Buying organic is worth it.
Chai Spiced Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart
- 1 vanilla bean
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole or low fat milk
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp tapioca syrup or corn syrup (optional; enhances texture)
- pinch of salt
- 10 whole green cardamom pods, crushed
- 1 inch of a cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
- Slit the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the seeds as much as possible, and add the pod and seeds to a 4 quart saucepan.
- To the same pan, add the cream, milk, sugar, tapioca syrup, salt, crushed cardamom pods, and cinnamon stick. Heat, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat, until it just begins to boil.
- Remove from heat, cover the pan, and let steep for about 30 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, whisk eggs until yolks and whites are blended, and set aside.
- When steeping is complete, uncover the pan, bring the milk/cream mixture back to a bare simmer, and remove from heat.
- Temper the eggs by slowly drizzling about 1 and 1/2 cups of the hot milk/cream mixture into the eggs, while constantly whisking the eggs.
- Cook over medium-low, stirring and scraping the bottom constantly, preferably with a heat proof spatula (but a spoon will do), until the mixture noticeably thickens, and temperature is about 170-175 degrees F.
- Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine mesh strainer to remove spices and any pieces of cooked egg, into a clean bowl.
- Cool in a cold water bath for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Cool completely in refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
- Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions.
- Transfer to a 1 quart container and store in freezer.
What’s your favorite chai spice combination?
Shared on: HomeAcre Hop #77, From the Farm, Natural Living Monday, Homestead Barn Hop #166, Mostly Homemade Mondays #87, Tuesdays with a Twist, Backyard Farming Connection #88, Wildcrafting Wednesday #139, Motivation Monday #99, Tuesday’s Table