Gluten, Refined Sugar, and Optional Dairy Free
I really want to like chai! I don’t drink coffee and this makes it slightly awkward every time someone suggests we get coffee. I feel like saying “well, ok. But I’m probably not going to get a coffee. Or pay 3.50 for a tea bag. So lets just go get ice cream instead?” But that just doesn’t fly in the real world. Chai would be the perfect solution to this! You drink your skim cap, I drink my chai latte. Everyone is happy and we are all being trendy and maybe we should make it soy.
But when I was little I poured a huge mug of it down my shirt and had to rip it off on a busy street in India. Now the smell of it reminds me of burning skin, green polo shirts and blushing humiliation. There isn’t a particular element that I don’t like. It’s not the cinnamon, ginger, or milk, it’s the actual combination together. It just makes my skin crawl.
Last week I was at an ice cream shop with friends and one of them ordered a scoop of chai gelato. I had the tiniest bite to see what it was like, and a strange thing happened. It wasn’t that bad. I wouldn’t have eaten the whole scoop but the coldness of the ice cream meant it was different enough from the drink that my brain didn’t go into its usual panic mode of chai? CHAI! RUN!.
I thought maybe if the elements were taken far enough from the original I could actually like it. Thinking about it, each part of chai is actually really awesome. Spices like cinnamon, ginger, I use them all the time in so many things. And steamy and warm too? Yes please.
So these chai cupcakes were born. The cupcakes themselves are gently spiced banana cupcakes that are gluten and refined sugar free, but so moist and flavoursome! The texture is so soft it’s almost like a steamed pudding, and you get the slightest hint of coconut from the flour. For those that are dairy free these cupcakes are good enough on their own without the icing, especially warmed up for breakfast.
But the yogurt cream! Oh my goodness. I’ve been thinking about something like this for ages and finally got around to trying it. Strained yogurt, called labneh, looks like ricotta cheese and tastes like cream cheese, but it’s way better for you. As well as this it is full of probiotics and often the level of lactose is low enough for intolerant people to enjoy as well. Here the labneh is flavoured with honey and chai spices to top the cupcakes. It is so delicious. You could eat it over fruit, as a cream on a sponge, on its own with berries, nuts, granola, anything! It’s rich and smooth and creamy and perfect. The longer you drain it the thicker it will be, but I wouldn’t go much longer than eight hours or it will get very strong in flavour.
Once iced, it’s best to keep these cupcakes in the fridge because of the yogurt topping. However the texture of the base won’t suffer! They taste great cold too.
If you want to try some more gluten free or healthy muffins, here are some I’ve been reading recently and getting inspiration from:
Banana Cupcakes with Yogurt Cream: Adapted from Green Kitchen Stories
70g (heaping 1/3 cup) almond flour
65g (1/2 cup) coconut flour
60g (1/2 cup) buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch each ginger, cloves and nutmeg ground
180g (3/4 cup) mashed banana (about 2 to 3 bananas)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
80ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
100ml (1/3 cup) honey or maple syrup
250ml (1 cup) soy, almond or coconut milk
Preheat oven to 180C. Line 12 muffin tins with cases. Sift together the dry ingredients and spices in a bowl. Separately, mix together the wet ingredients in a large bowl. Sift over the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until crunchy on the outside and risen.
For the icing:
450g (1.5 cups) natural greek yogurt (reduced fat ok)
80ml (1/4 cup) runny honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp each nutmeg, ginger, cloves, star anise ground
optional: pinch of ground black pepper, 2 tsp raw sugar for sprinkling
In a medium sized strainer, place a clean tea towel or cheese cloth and spoon in the yogurt. Tie the tea towel around the yogurt in a bundle with a plastic rubber band. Place in the fridge over a deep bowl and drain for at least six hours, until thick.
Mix in the other ingredients and chill until ready to use. Ice over the cupcakes evenly and either eat straight away or put back in the fridge. Sprinkle with the sugar just before serving.