One doesn’t really think of Boston as a tropical city, but I don’t know what else to call it when the mornings are chokingly hot and humid and the afternoons are peppered with thunder and fat raindrops that never last quite long enough. One day last week the mercury was nudging up toward a hundred and the humidity finally exhausted itself, dumping a torrent of oversized raindrops. That day as I stepped off the bus onto the street, the water sloshed over my feet and into my shoes. The rain was actually bathwater warm hitting my skin and I was soaked completely through within moments.
Granted, things have gotten a bit better in the last day or two (walking the dogs wasn’t miserable tonight, for once), but last week all I could think of was ways of cooling off (I recommend the coldest shower you can imagine, drinking LOTS of water, soaking your feet in ice water, and air conditioning). The best solution I hit on was ice cream. Being, however, as we were, OUT of store-bought and realizing that the fifteen minute walk to the supermarket might be deadly, I started looking for recipes.
I remembered a couple of times being lucky enough to find chai ice cream at Herrel’s (back in ye olde college days) and Christina’s and Toscanini’s and the tears it brought to my eyes. I thought to myself, I have milk, I have eggs, I have delicious Vanilla Chai teabags, so why not? The ice cream maker core was even frozen already!
Now, I should warn you, this is a really rich, creamy, spicy, sweet treat. Also, the texture was absolutely perfect. It was smooth and creamy and very consistent, which was something new for me in the ice cream making world. I’ve tested this ice cream on a few audiences and all responded in one way only – there were moans of pleasure, puzzlement about what flavor it actually was, and sadness about the rapidly depleting supply. It’s serious stuff. You might want to double the recipe. Or triple it. In fact, clear out your whole freezer and fill it up with this stuff. It’s a key way to get through a major heatwave. (A note: the only possible complaint is that perhaps it was a little sweet. You might want to reduce the sugar or eliminate the honey altogether. But that’s only if you don’t like sweet sweet ice cream.)
Another note: if you find yourself caught in an unexpected New England monsoon, I can only recommend that you listen to the soundtrack of I’m Not There, particularly “Goin’ to Acapulco” by Jim James and Calexico or “Ballad of a Thin Man” by Stephen Malkmus & The Million Dollar Bashers. (Also, what a great band name is that last one?) It makes for good rain-slogging music.
Vanilla Chai Ice Cream
- 3 c milk
- 4 tea bags (I used Bigelow Vanilla Chai, but I presume you could substitute any tea of your choice)
- 1 t cinnamon
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 1 c sugar
- 1 T honey
- 6 egg yolks
- a glug of rum (optional)
- Bring milk, tea, and cinnamon to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks, sugar, and honey until it ribbons on the surface of the mixture.
- Temper the egg mixture with hot milk, then add the egg mixture to the hot milk mixture. (To temper: add 1/4 cup of hot milk to egg yolk mixture while whisking aggressively. Repeat. Then add egg mixture to the hot milk mixture.)
- Put the custard through a fine mesh sieve to remove any inadvertent chunks.
- Chill in an ice bath or, if you can wait, in the fridge overnight.
- Add a glug of rum to keep it from freezing solid, if you like.
- Freeze in ice cream maker according to directions. Then put it in a container and put in freezer until firm.