recipe

Mild Masala Chai

The weather is turning cool here. Then it turns warm. Then it turns cool. Autumn in the South means fluctuating weather. This weekend, we’re due for a cold spell. The leaves are almost done showing off, and I was craving spices. After reading several chai recipes online, I decided to make my own.

My goal was three-fold: 1.) Make a spiced chai that’s not bitter, and 2.) Make a spiced chai that works in my teapot rather than needing time on the stove, and 3.) Make a spiced chai that I can serve to friends who can’t have dairy.

I had run out of several spices, so I went to the store this morning. This afternoon, I got everything together: our favorite Indian tea in tea bags, ground ginger, black peppercorns, cloves, and cardamom pods. We have a wonderful tea kettle that keeps the water at the perfect temperature all day, so I dove right in.

First, I added the spices to a loose tea filter bag. Then I placed the black tea bags and filter bag into the pot and filled it with boiling water. After three minutes, I removed the black tea bags. This kept them from oversteeping and turning the mixture bitter. I kept the spice bag in the pot for another 7 minutes (10 minutes total). After removing the spice bag, I poured the tea out into mugs that had 1 teaspoon demerara sugar and a splash of half & half each. It made 4 big mugs of spiced tea. If friends who are fasting from dairy or have dairy allergies come over, I can pour the tea over coconut milk instead.

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The ingredients: black peppercorns, ground ginger, Assam tea bags, whole cloves, cardamom pods.

This tea was mild enough to drink without food. If I were serving it with spicy foods, I might steep the spices a bit longer or add more of them. But for a rainy afternoon, it was just right.

Mild Masala Chai

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Dye-Free Pink Frosting – For a Pretty Tea Time

I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving break – or your weekend if you’re not in the US. We celebrated casually with just two favorite foods: homemade chicken pot pie and vanilla cake with pink cream cheese frosting.

naturally dyed cake frosting recipe

Perfectly pink cake with dye-free maraschino cherries on the side. The frosting was made with beet root powder in place of artificial dyes. Learn how on Tea and Crumples.

We’ve known for a long while that my oldest child is sensitive to artificial food dyes, but his reaction has gotten more extreme recently. I tried using the tubes of natural food dyes*, but at $20 a set at my local store, they were cost prohibitive. They also oxidized quickly after opening. I was resigned to only feed my children chocolate frosting for a little color.

Then, while shopping for lentils last week, I happened across a jar of bulk beet powder at my local Whole Foods. Here was the not so secret ingredient in natural red food dyes! At only $1.91/oz, it was affordable, too. I loaded up with about 4 tablespoons, which was so light that the cashier couldn’t even get it to register. I had read around the internet about using beet powder for dye. The basic process is simple: 1/4 teaspoon beet powder to 1 teaspoon water, mix, strain through a coffee filter, and use normally.

But there are obstacles! Beet powder is pH sensitive, temperature sensitive, and air sensitive. It also doesn’t dye as vividly as artificial petroleum-based colors, so you need more. Fortunately, I knew that I was making cream cheese frosting. It’s slightly tangy, so I could add a drop of vinegar to my dye without affecting taste. Here’s what I came up with to frost our ordinary vanilla cake for Thanksgiving. I hope you enjoy!

Naturally Dyed Pink Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 teaspoon beet root powder*

2 teaspoons water

1 drop white vinegar

1 8oz packet organic cream cheese

1 stick (8oz) unsalted pastured butter

4 cups organic powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Soften butter and cream cheese at room temperature. Cream together for 2 minutes on medium low in stand mixer. Add sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing till well blended in between. With last cup of sugar, add two teaspoons of vanilla extract. Mix well. In a cup, combine beet powder and water. Stir well, then strain into new cup with coffee filter. Add vinegar. Add the food coloring to the icing. Mix till well blended on medium speed. Makes about 5 cups of light pink frosting.

Pin now for when you need it! Beet powder colored pink frosting on Tea & Crumples blog.

Pin now for when you need it! Beet powder colored pink frosting on Tea & Crumples blog.

Do you have a favorite dye-free hack? Share or link in comments!

*Amazon affiliate links to the natural food coloring and beet powder.