We put our Christmas tree out on the curb the week after Christmas and it’s still sitting there. And do you know why? Because it snowed a few days later and hasn’t stopped, and now our tree and many others are buried under several feet of snow and ice. Like woolly mammoths in glaciers, they are encased in an icey shell, waiting for the world to warm up enough so that they can be exposed. We are up to our necks in snow, quite literally, and there is no end in sight. This has been the most ridiculous winter and for the first time in eight years, I am questioning my decision to move away from Arizona.
Last week I was quickly approaching the breaking point. I was exhausted, I had a very bad head cold, and I was out at the end of my driveway with a steel garden shovel, breaking up a mound of slush-turned-pure-ice kindly left at there by the town snow plows. I was out there in my pajamas, rushing so I could get the kids to school on time, cursing the skies all the while, and I knew I needed to channel this energy into something delicious. Something sweet, that would conjure up images of warm climates and palm trees swaying in the breeze. Something with exotic spices, that would take me far, far away from this frozen hell at the first bite.
Chai tea is such a gorgeous invention. The combination of cardamom, cinnamon and ginger with a sweetened black tea is nothing short of brilliant. I’ve recently seen some cupcakes and other desserts flavoured with chai spices, and it got me thinking about how to incorporate them into something low carb. Custards and puddings are easy to make low carb because they require no flour or flour substitutes. And one of my favourite desserts of all time is creme brulee. As fancy as it seems, it’s remarkably easy to make, particularly if you have one of the small kitchen butane torches to caramelize the topping. I was given one a few years ago and haven’t used it much, and this was my chance to put it to work. I infused the cream with black tea and chai spices, and away we went.
The Results: Chai tea and creme brulee are a match made in heaven. Honestly, why have I never put these two together before? Creme brulee is always a wonderful treat and can be flavoured in so many ways. And I was impressed with how the erythritol worked as a topping in place of sugar. It didn’t get quite as hard as a burnt sugar topping would, but it carameled nicely and gave that satisfying bit of crunch to every bit.
Chai Tea Creme Brulee
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
1 tbsp loose black tea
1 cinnamon stick (or 1 tsp ground cinnamon)
1 tsp coarsely ground cardamom seeds
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
4 egg yolks
3 tbsp granulated erythritol
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
12 drops stevia extract
Preheat oven to 300F.
Heat cream, tea, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves in a small saucepan over medium low heat, until steam rises. Remove from heat, cover the pan and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer to remove all solids and set aside.
In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of erythritol together until thickened and pale yellow. Add cream very slowly, stirring continuously. Add vanilla and stevia extracts.
Divide custard between 6 small ramekins (or a single one-quart ceramic or glass baking dish). Set into a larger baking pan and pour hot water to within 1-inch from top of ramekins or baking dish.
Bake until the custard is just set but still slightly wobbly in the middle, 40-45 minutes. Remove baking pan from the oven and let cool. Then wrap each ramekin tightly in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours.
Just before serving, divide remaining erythritol between ramekins, sprinkling across the top evenly. Heat with a kitchen torch until it bubbles and browns. Let sit for a few minutes to allow topping to harden. You can also brown the topping under your broiler, watching very carefully and turning the cups to ensure even browning.
Serves 6. Each serving has a total of 7.7g of carbs, but only 1.7g if you subtract erythritol.