When I started thinking about this ice cream, I was pretty sure that it would either be really odd or really good. I like the chai flavor, and I have yet to meet a chai latte that I didn’t enjoy, but still. I’d rather not waste perfectly good eggs and cream on sub-par ice cream. Especially when I could make chocolate ice cream instead.
But, like most of my crazy ideas, I couldn’t let it go. (I have no idea where my mind wanders to come up with this stuff. I was probably drinking chai at my desk one day.) I started Googling, which made me doubt my idea even more. Some recipes had a mile-long list of ingredients, including things that have never entered my kitchen. Star anise? Cardamom pods? I’m sure that creates a more authentic chai flavor, but I was looking for something a little less involved.
This recipe looked promising, and I was intrigued by the use of honey instead of sugar. I decided to add a vanilla bean to the custard, since vanilla and chai just go together in my mind. Plus, then you get all those fun flecks of vanilla bean in the ice cream.
I opted to steep the tea bags for much longer than the recipe said to. I figured a stronger flavor was better than a faint, barely-there hint of spice. It tasted just like a chai latte, which meant that, like most desserts at our house, it was short-lived. 🙂
Vanilla Chai Ice Cream
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream, divided
3/4 cup honey
pinch of salt
4 chai tea bags
1 vanilla bean
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, one cup of cream, honey and salt. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the saucepan. Drop the vanilla bean pod into the pan and add the tea bags. (I tied them together for easy removal later.) Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Once the honey and salt have dissolved, turn the burner off and let the mixture steep for 15 minutes to a hour, depending on how strong you like your chai. (I tasted the milk / chai mixture after about 15 minutes and then decided to let it go the full hour.) Remove the tea bags, squeezing any extra cream mixture out into the saucepan. Rewarm the chai mixture over medium heat.
Meanwhile, pour the remaining cup of cream into a large bowl (or your favorite Pyrex measuring cup) and set a fine mesh strainer over the top of the bowl.
In a liquid measuring cup, whisk the egg yolks together. Slowly pour about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of the warm chai mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly to temper the eggs.
Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture is thickened and coats the back of a spoon.
Pour the custard through the strainer and into the bowl of cream. Discard the vanilla bean pod. Add the vanilla extract and then stir the custard and cream together. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, or overnight.
Churn the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Remove the ice cream from the ice cream maker and place in a freezer-safe container. Freeze until firm.
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