What's your favourite season of the year? Is it spring which welcomes a bevy of flora in its brightest colours? Is it the summer and its golden rays that translate to impromptu ice-cream parlour visits? The fall with wilting leaves that provides a respite from the warmth of previous months? Or the winter which has you wrapped in layers and nestling a warm beverage in your hand? Your answer would depend on which part of the world you are reading this. I live in the UAE. You don't experience four distinct seasons. Summer is considered that persisting guest that stays on for a few more hours than you would have liked them to. The only difference is that it spends a few more months. Instagram feeds have people competing to capture the highest number of outdoor temperatures recorded by their car. You wait and wait till September. You start getting impatient for surely it should have started getting cooler by now. Speaking to family and friends in the UK, they are dreading the onset of low temperatures while you're probably waiting to feel the coolness in the evening breeze. Do you know how I tell that winter is on its way? By the bougainvilleas in our yard. I am nowhere close to having even a novice's knowledge on nature. The years I have been married, I have observed this tree enough to know that (I might be terribly wrong) the sudden bursts of bright pink and lemon orange blooms on its otherwise plain branches means winter is around the corner.
The past few weeks, the food blogs that I read have been inundated with pies. I checked the calendar and Thanksgiving is more than a month away. Then again, that's about the same time I start sifting through recipes to decide what to bake for Eid. I made a pie too. It doesn't have pecan, pumpkin or apple. It doesn't have a gorgeous lattice top. I find the weather hasn't cooled enough to crave a slice of freshly baked pie warm from the oven. This is a no-bake pie.
This pie may be a cold one but I wanted to have the warmth of spices. So what is this Sweet Almond Chai Pie? A crumbly ginger and almond pie crust with cinnamon pudding filling topped with chai infused whipped cream. Do you remember the Date Clafoutis that I made during last Ramadan? Reem Falaknaz from Al Noor Dubai produced a series of short recipes that were aired during that month. Reem approached me again this year for the second season and once again wanted an original recipe. It was a risk considering I've never made a pie before in my life. Attempting pastry from scratch was the daunting step of baking a pie. I thought of a pie crust similar to a cheesecake base. The pudding had to be flavoured with fresh cinnamon because I LOVE cinnamon. And what could intensify the flavour of the cinnamon spice more than Chai?
So what is Chai? Chai translates to tea. The tea I've used in this recipe isn't the strong milky tea we have in Kerala. It's Masala Chai. The tea base and the preparation is the same, barring the difference of adding whole spices. Freshly grated ginger and ground cardamom, cinnamon and clove powders are what constitute the Masala. You may even find pepper and star anise added to the mixture. The Chai tea infusions, Chai concentrate or the chai latte you find in most coffee houses are actually Masala Chai. If you read the label, you will be able to spot the array of spices previously mentioned. I like having my tea with ginger root directly grated into the boiling water and sweetened with crushed jaggery.
The pie crust is crushed gingersnaps and almond flour bound with good old butter and baked in the oven just enough to prevent it from crumbling when the pie is cut. Cinnamon pudding is poured over the cooled base and allowed to set in the refrigerator. The tea is prepared without milk and is added while whipping the cream. Top the pie with cream and slivered almonds and we're ready to slice right in.
Here's the video of my recipe.
Easy as pie, ain't it? ;)
Sweet Almond Chai Pie
Sweet Almond Crust
- 1 cup Almond Flour
- 1 cup crushed Ginger Biscuits
- 12 tbsp Unsalted Butter, melted
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 6 tbsp cornstarch
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 3 cups milk
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Chai Whipped Cream
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- ¾ cup freshly brewed Masala Tea , unsweetened and cooled to room temperature
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup icing sugar
- Preheat the oven to 180 °C.
- Line a 9-inch spring-form pan with aluminium foil up, and over the sides as well.
- Mix the crushed biscuits, almond flour, brown sugar, and melted butter until well combined.
- Press the mixture firmly into the bottom and sides of the spring-form pan using the bottom of a glass.
- Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden.
- Remove from oven and let cool.
- Mix ½ cup of cold milk with corn starch and set aside.
- Heat the remaining milk (2½ cup) over medium heat till it begins to simmer (small bubbles around the edge of saucepan).
- Once the milk simmers, stir in the corn starch mixture.
- Stir constantly until the milk thickens.
- In a separate bowl, add sugar to beaten eggs and mix.
- Pour ½ cup of the thickened milk to the egg-sugar mixture to temper and whisk thoroughly.
- Pour the tempered mixture back to the remaining thickened milk mixture.
- Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, till it thickens.
- Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
- Pour the pudding over the prepared pie crust and allow it to cool.
- Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator till set.
Chai Infused Whipped Cream
- Combine the liquid ingredients into a bowl.
- Add the icing sugar and whip the mixture until stiff peaks form, which hold their shape.
- Spread the whipped cream over the pudding.
- Garnish with toasted slivered almonds.