Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Masala Chai

Family members should skip ahead to the recipe if they want it. If not, just go ahead and opt out of reading this post entirely. Thanks.

About 18 years ago I made a bad mistake, and it's on my personal list of stupidest actions.
Then I lied about it.
I don't lie anymore- I've given it up. It's just not worth the time, worry and trouble.
Well, let this be a lesson to you, kids (if you can take something from it). Don't lie, lying is bad.

Confession time. Well, I've been to Confession confession. Years ago.

Anyway, once upon a time I made a cheesecake. When it came out of the oven, I needed to test it, but I couldn't find a toothpick or anything else that would have been good for testing.
In the end a fork would have been preferable...

Well, I found a thermometer. Not the battery operated kind (I don't know if those things were around yet). Nope, I got a glass thermometer- with mercury.
Since when was it a good idea to use a thermometer to test a cake that's more than 350 degrees in temperature? Since never.
The thermometer broke. Little pieces of glass and mercury were in the middle of the cake, and let me tell you, they don't call it quicksilver for nothing! Time to panic.

To remedy the situation, I dug a hole out of the middle of the cake. It was a huge, gaping hole in the middle of the cake... I made a donut-shaped cheesecake.
Who looks at a cheesecake with a ginormous crater in the middle and doesn't want to know what happened? I made up an answer.

I was worried about safety, but I was more worried about being in trouble.
I worried about mercury poisoning and death after the cheesecake had been eaten.
Decisions, decisions. Poison your family or be honest?
However, after 18 years, I think I can safely say that no one has exhibited mystery symptoms.
I'm sorry! No, not for the lack of symptoms, but that I did what I did, lied, and still served the cheesecake. I can be good at keeping secrets, but sometimes it's not such a great quality.

Did my family read what I asked them not to read? You bet they did! Will I be in trouble for it? I don't know, but I don't think people will be happy to read about some of my past actions.
Mea culpa.

No one's turned out like the Mad Hatter through contact with mercury.
I'm a little wacky, I enjoy tea... but I don't think I've ever known anyone by the name of Alice.
Allison, Alistair, Alfie, Alex, Aloysius (yes, I went to school with a kid by that name, but he went by Al and he had bright red hair), Allen... nope, no Alice.


Masala chai = Indian spiced milk tea

While it can be fair to good in flavor when bought, the "drink me" volume is exponentially increased when it's freshly made.
No mixes, just fresh tea and spices.
Plus, this is great masala chai weather.
And it won't poison you.

Masala Chai
Adapted from Gourmet, October 2009
serves 4

8 cardamom pods- cracked, seeds removed and pods discarded
1, 1 1/2 inch long cinnamon stick
3 black peppercorns
1 whole clove
1/4 t (scant) fennel seeds
2 c whole milk
3 1/2 T packed brown sugar
1/2 t ground ginger
1/8 t nutmeg
1/8 t salt
2 c water
5 t loose black tea

Grind together cardamom, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, clove and fennel in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat in a heavy saucepan. whisk in brown sugar, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and ground spices. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently about 3 minutes to infuse the spices into the milk, stirring occasionally.
While milk infuses, boil the water in a small saucepan. Add the tea and boil for one minute.
Pour the tea through a fine-mesh strainer into the milk and spice mixture, discarding the tea leaves. Cook the tea and milk over low heat 1 minute. Stir before serving.

P.S. Aren't spices beautiful?

Additional link on mercury poisoning and the Mad Hatter...


  1. What is the psychological link between poisonous mercury and Chai tea? I hope there is none. This is very special. This is how it should taste, not as some commercialized adaptations which have nothing in common with the original taste.

  2. I don't think I'd be too pleased to find out I ate your mercury cake. LOL. Too funny.. Yummy Chai recipe!

  3. I'd like to clarify a little here- I was about 12 at the time. I enjoyed cooking on occasion, but it's not like I was a cooking prodigy! Obviously...

  4. Link:
    Cheesecake - mercury - mercury is what made the Mad Hatter "mad" because that's what they used when making hats (I added a link at the bottom of the post which explains this a bit if you're interested)- the Mad Hatter enjoyed tea parties - they had TEA at tea parties - masala chai is a type of tea...

  5. Ahem! I am in your family (one of the bosses)-and I am appalled at that confession-although I was wondering just where those 3 thermometers in the kitchen meds cabinet went (one accounted for now).
    I do recall that strange cheesecake---but it didn't bother me at the time as much as the blue scrambled eggs.This is much more serious than blue eggs though!
    I have always wondered why folks would say "your family is just 'different'"---is this why?hmmmm...

  6. I never made any blue scrambled eggs.

  7. Did you get your throats blessed every year? If so, nothing can happen ... And today?

  8. But what did you say caused the hole in the center of the cake? That's what I want to know.

  9. =)
    Strong work, though I'm going to have to cry foul: I like to add the milk and water together then bring both to a slow boil, then add the spices and tea leaves, and crush the tea leaves so that even when you strain the tea while pouring you still get a few at the botto of the cup to read.

  10. That's a shame: blue scrambled eggs would be fantabulous. Almost as good as green eggs and ham.

  11. the blue eggs may have been me, but I don't remember. It seems like something I would do, add blue food coloring to yellow scrambleds to make a green eggs and ham sandwich for Andy.

  12. As to the question of throats, I ASSUME so...
    This year? Not yet.
    MAZ, I won't say what my explanation was.
    I have to say that dyed scrambled eggs aren't striking me as appetizing.

  13. Dear =),
    So,where is the botto of the cup and can you tell us how to read the tea leaves?
    This is so enticing I will try to make chai this weekend.
    A non E mouse

  14. I have a Stylish Blogger Award for you at my blog :)

  15. Natalie! your blog is quite stylish! I cannot think of a more deserving awardee. Mary Anne, the blue scrambled eggs were probably you as I don't read enough into the directions to actually so something 'different' and Natalie follows the rules too closely! Mom, I broke one of those mercury thermometers when I was drying it off with a towel (dad told me to shake it and I didn't think that was an appropriate way to get the water off after I had washed it---little did I know about Mercury thermometers)
    I should regularly pipe in and solve all the family's problems like this! <3 Catherine

  16. TRUE Confessions?
    One more thermometer to find!