Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chai Tea Bread

Last fall, I broke my Starbucks habit. Now, I've never been a coffee drinker (love the smell, hate the taste), so my habit developed into the sugar-loaded drinks that hardly resemble coffee. This was not good for my wallet or my waist line, so it was pretty easy to stop. However, the winter hit and I missed how those warm drinks were a great way to warm up on the way to work.

One blistery cold day, I gave in and needed something to warm me up. I stopped into my local coffee shop and starred at the menu until Chai tea popped into view. I had been intrigued about this drink for a while, but always found something that I had to have more at that moment. So, I tried it. Now, I realize I'm probably the last person on Earth to ever try one, but it was like tasting Christmas. And I was hooked. It was the perfect blend of spice, sweetness and warmness, and I brought it home and curled up with a new cookbook while sipping my drink (a new favorite thing to do).

A few weeks ago, as I was sipping yet another Chai tea, I remembered Steve's sister always gets Chai teas when she visits us. She just happens to be finishing her last semester of college and has been extremely busy. So busy that she had to cancel her spring break plans to work on papers and projects. I started to reminisce about my last semester in college, remember staying up days on end while working on our senior design project (designing a system to take astronauts to Mars and starting a colony), hardly finding time to eat and if I did it usually was fast food and a soda while sitting in front of a computer. It was always nice when I received a package, and usually lived off the contents for a few days. I started to think of something that I could send to her in Missouri while she poured over her books.

I thought about cupcakes but didn't want to worry about the frosting to get smooshed while enroute and cookies seemed a bit plain. I settled on a quick bread and went on my way to incorporate chai spices and the rich flavor of tea. This bread got rave reviews, from both Steve's sister and my coworkers who were my guinea pigs.

Chai Tea Bread
Makes 1 loaf or 4 mini loaves

For the bread:
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup prepared black tea, cooled
1/3 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease only the bottom of an 8x4- or 9x5-inch loaf pan or line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, tea, milk, vanilla and spices on low speed until well combined. The mixture will look curdled. Slowly add the baking powder, salt and flour; stir until just moistened. Spread into the pan.

Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Loosen sides of loaf from pan; remove and cool and wire rack for 30 minutes.

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 5 teaspoons prepared black tea
Additional ground cinnamon

In a small bowl, whisk together confectioner's sugar, vanilla and 3 teaspoons of the tea, adding more tea little by little, until the glaze is spreadable. Spread glaze over bread. Sprinkle with additional ground cinnamon. Cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing.

To store, wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days or refrigerate up to 10 days.