Spiced Chai Cupcakes With Brown Butter Frosting and Pink Peppercorn Sprinkles

Spiced Chai Cupcakes With Brown Butter Frosting and Pink Peppercorn Sprinkles

If you like to celebrate Fall by reaching for the pumpkin spice, try its sophisticated cousin, Chai. Complex sweet, spicy and peppery notes combine to flavor these Chai Cupcakes, topped off with decadent Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting and a sprinkle of pink peppercorns.

It’s easy to knock pumpkin spice. It’s the low-hanging fruit – early-dropping leaf, perhaps – of the autumn zeitgeist. But don’t worry, we’re not heading into a cliched diatribe about hipsters and their spiced lattes and something something Williamsburg gentrification. We’re here to celebrate something with more depth, more sophistication, more … panache. Chai is not a new flavor by any means – in fact, it’s one of the oldest spice combinations in the culinary palette, dating from thousands of years back in India’s history. The nineteenth  century saw it added to black tea and given more of a global reach, but the essential spice base has lasting appeal beyond hot drinks.

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Vanilla and Turmeric Pannacotta with Hibiscus Syrup

Vanilla and Turmeric Pannacotta with Hibiscus Syrup

Vanilla and turmeric-flavored pannacotta with hibiscus syrup. A) A rich, creamy, colorful dessert, or B) a murder victim on a teaplate? You be the judge! (Hint: It’s A.)

Every now and again with this blog, we create a recipe so unrepentantly weird that it seems a shame not to share it with the world. This week, we’d like to introduce to you a dish based on a gorse* pannacotta that we encountered a few years ago at one of our favorite restaurants, Llys Meddig in Newport, Wales.

Our vacation snapshot of the original dessert is too low-quality to share with you – suffice it to say that it was a delight and well worth trying to recreate. Pannacotta is pretty much a three-ingredient recipe (cream, sugar, gelatin) in its simplest form; all we would need, apparently, is some gorse.

So if you ever need to make a dessert suitable for a Murder Mystery night, we’ve got you covered.

*explanation of what the heck gorse is below

Vanilla and Turmeric Pannacotta
The turmeric gives these pannacotta a beautiful golden color and a delicate spice.

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Lemon and Black Sesame Buttermilk Pound Cake

lemon sesame seed pound cake

Lemon Sesame Seed Pound Cake! An unconventional combination which really works. Buttermilk keeps the cake tender, and lemon in the cake, syrup and glaze gives it a triple lemon tang.

I discovered this afternoon why I love buttermilk.

At my grandparents’ house, the small conservatory at the back was where we’d hang out on a summer’s day. It was walled with mismatched sofas, chairs and cabinets, and held their vinyl collection and record player. At the age of 10, I didn’t have any interest in most of the music, but they also had some comedy records — daft 1950s British singles by Peter Sellers, Bernard Cribbins and Terry Scott — and a couple of American albums, one of which was Bob Newhart’s one-sided telephone conversations. In retrospect, it was probably the first time I’d heard a genuine American accent other than on the occasional episode of Dallas or Dynasty. The last joke on the Bob Newhart* album was just called “Buttermilk” and was about 20 seconds long and went like this:

“I discovered this afternoon … (pause) … why … (pause) … I don’t like … buttermilk.” (Really long pause for audience laughter) ” … It’s the way the glass looks when you’re through drinking it.”

Lemon and Black Sesame Buttermilk Pound Cake
A quarter cup of seeds give the batter a little crunch.

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