Chai Tea Mix

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For Christmas this year I gave away a lot of homemade gifts. I LOVE homemade gifts — both to give and receive. 🙂 They’re cute, unique and personal, as well as inexpensive. So this year I ordered 24-8oz mason jars and went to work. I ordered my jars from here:

http://www.peakcandle.com

Specifically, the 8 oz. square jar with the rustic lid. I had a vision for these adorably cute Christmas presents, and with a credit card number and click of button, my vision was executed. I tied some striped yarn around the neck of the jar, and added a Christmas tag with the recipe on the back: “Add 2 Tablespoons to 1 cup of hot water. Enjoy!” So fun and cute!

rusticlid

For those who received it, many of you asked for the recipe. Consider this the gift that keeps on giving. This recipe is so super simple — throw it all together in a bowl, stir it up, and then transfer the mix to a food processor or blender to grind it fine.

You can change the spice combination if you want, or add more sugar to make it sweeter. The original recipe I found called for 2 1/2 cups of sugar (a little too sweet for me), had less spices, didn’t include nutmeg and allspice, and had less non-dairy mix. I played around a bit and found what I liked best. But experiment with what you like. This is purely my preference.

One thing to note, ground cardamom is kind of a pricey spice, but in my opinion, it’s the most important. Cardamom is what makes “chai” taste like “chai.”

(Revision 12/4/2015) The flavor of spice is totally a personal preference. I know some of you have commented expressing that you want more this or more that — go for it!  I sometimes change it each year I make it too. One thing I do is when I blend up my first cup of the mixture, I also make a small taste test cup. If I think it needs more spice in a particular way, I just add more to the whole batch then. Feel free to play around.

The one batch makes approximately 9 – 8 oz jars of chai mix. Enjoy!

Courtney’s Chai Tea Mix

1 1/2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
1 1/2 cups powdered non-dairy creamer
1 cup Vanilla flavored powdered non-dairy creamer
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 cups unsweetened instant tea (you could use decaf tea too)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice

Directions
  1. In a large bowl, combine milk powder, non-dairy creamer, vanilla flavored creamer, sugar and instant tea. Stir in spices. In a blender or food processor, blend 1 cup at a time, until mixture is the consistency of fine powder.
  2. To serve: Stir 2 heaping tablespoons Chai tea mixture into a mug of hot water.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese frosting

During this time of year give me anything with pumpkin in it, and I’m game. And then when you pair pumpkin with the spice of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and allspice, alongside cream cheese frosting — jeepers — I’m totally done for. It honestly doesn’t get better than that.

These cupcakes have made an appearance in my life a few times already this fall — most recently at my dear friend Amy’s baby shower last month. And to be honest, the maple addition to the recipe was because I was out of vanilla extract the morning of the shower. I had maple extract in my cupboard and boom — a better frosting was born. These guys are a total hit every time I make them.

I wanted to get this recipe out to you guys before the season switches from pumpkin to peppermint — so enjoy my friends. Enjoy.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 24 cupcakes

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup milk
1 cup pumpkin

Frosting
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1-2 teaspoon maple extract (depends on how much maple flavor you want. You could also use real maple syrup too.)

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove, allspice, salt, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside.

Beat 1/2 cup of butter, the white sugar, and brown sugar with an electric mixer in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the room-temperature eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to blend into the butter mixture before adding the next. Stir in the milk and pumpkin puree after the last egg. Stir in the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin cups.

Bake in the preheated oven until golden and the tops spring back when lightly pressed, about 20-25 minutes. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting by beating the cream cheese and 1/4 butter with an electric mixer in a bowl until smooth. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar a little at a time until incorporated. Add the maple extract beat until fluffy. Once the cupcakes are cool, frost with the cream cheese icing.

Our Favorite Pizza Dough

We really love homemade pizza. It’s kinda our thing. And we’ve been trying to master the art of making homemade pizza dough since month one of our marriage — we’ve been incredibly persistent. We’ve tried a lot of bad doughs out there, but this one is a winner. It’s like the perfect combination of crispy and chewy, and the crust actually tastes like something — not cardboard. Which is usually the goal. Unless you like the taste of cardboard. And if that’s the case, well then, maybe you should look for a dough recipe elsewhere. And p.s. — you’re weird.

Once you realize how easy it is to make your own dough, and just how much better it tastes than store-bought, you’ll never want to go back. (Also, I think most store-bought pizza dough should be illegal. Blah.) When you can make your own delicious dough, and have it in the freezer ready to go whenever you need it, it is every bit as convenient as any premade version. I promise.

First thing to note — a pizza stone is an integral part of really good homemade pizza. Why? The stone is preheated with the oven, producing a very hot surface for baking the pizza. When you slide the assembled pizza onto the stone, the bottom of the crust starts baking immediately, producing the perfect crisp bottom that provides the slices structural integrity, while the top portion is still soft and chewy. Make sense? I’m telling you — we’ve made a lot of pizza — we know what’s up. This is how the professionals roll. Everything I’m saying is wisdom gleaned from those much more experienced than myself. 🙂

The recipe below will actually make two batches of dough. I go ahead and make the full batch because then I can freeze one for later. To do this, mix up the dough as usual and let it rise as normal. After dividing the dough into two equal portions, wrap one of them tightly in plastic wrap and store inside a freezer-safe bag, and transfer to the freezer immediately. The double layer is important here. Even after the dough is moved to the freezer, it will continue to rise a bit before the rise is completely suspended. It always, always pops through the plastic wrap so the extra layer of protection is needed to prevent exposure.

Then, on the day you plan to use the dough, transfer it to the refrigerator in the morning to thaw in time for dinner that evening. Easy peasy.

Have fun making pizza. 🙂

Basic Pizza Dough
Yield: enough dough for 2 medium pizzas

½ cup warm water
2¼ tsp. instant yeast
4 cups (22 oz.) bread flour, plus more for dusting
1½ tsp. salt
1¼ cup water, at room temperature
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle the yeast over the top. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the bread flour and salt, mixing briefly to blend. Measure the room temperature water into the measuring cup with the yeast-water mixture. With the mixer on low speed, pour in the yeast-water mixture as well as the olive oil. Mix until a cohesive dough is formed. Switch to the dough hook. Knead on low speed until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 1½-2 hours.

Press down the dough to deflate it. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Form each piece of dough into a smooth, round ball. (If freezing the dough, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze at this point.) Cover with a damp cloth. Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no longer than 30 minutes.

To bake, preheat the oven and pizza stone to 500˚ F for at least 30 minutes. Transfer the dough to your shaping surface, lightly sprinkled with cornmeal. Shape the dough with lightly floured hands. Brush the outer edge lightly with olive oil. Top as desired. Bake until the crust is golden brown, and cheese is bubbling, 8-12 minutes.