Elevate A Classic Hot Chocolate With A Dash Of Chai Spice

chai spiced hot cocoa
chai spiced hot cocoa - PopTika/Shutterstock

As the weather gets colder, the drinks get warmer, and a cozy hot chocolate is the perfect companion to last you the rest of the winter. But after the holidays pass, you may be looking for a way to change up the hot chocolate routine you've followed for months. For an extra-comforting flavor, turn to the spices found in Indian chai: cardamom, cinnamon, clove, and star anise, as well as other warm and complex spices, depending on the mix. Combined with the richness of chocolate, chai spice brings a new depth of flavor that's more dynamic and exciting.

You can find different brands of chai spice mix in the spice aisle of your local supermarket, or you can purchase whole-spice or ground versions from online retailers. If you're willing to put in a bit of extra effort for the freshest, strongest chai spice mix, you can combine the spices yourself. Try the mix of spices used in a popular chai recipe as your base.

From there, you can either mix the ground spices into your cocoa powder or hot chocolate mix, or steep the whole spices in milk or directly into your finished hot cocoa. Even just a small pinch of chai spice can add an instant flavor boost to your hot chocolate, but if you're a chai fiend, you can add even more.

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Customizing Your Chai Hot Chocolate

whole chai spices on black dish
whole chai spices on black dish - Anna_Pustynnikova/Shutterstock

A standard chai spice mix includes the aforementioned cardamom, cinnamon, clove, and star anise, but some brands and recipes also add fennel seed, nutmeg, coriander, and/or black pepper, among others. Whether you prefer a more warm and sweet or sharp and spicy flavor, experiment with different brands of spice mix or your own combinations. If you can infuse fresh, whole spices into your hot chocolate, even better.

Chai-making methods differ, but most traditional recipes use whole spices added to boiling liquid, whether it be water or milk. To adapt this to hot chocolate, put a whole stick of cinnamon into your saucepan full of milk or hot cocoa, and let it infuse the liquid with an extra-warm, spicy cinnamon flavor. You can then add your other whole spices, or mix in a pinch of ground spices to finish it off.

Just as your choice of milk can affect the flavor of your chai, it will impact chai hot chocolate, as well. Whole milk is the most neutrally-flavored choice, if you want the chai spice to shine. It's also the best choice if you want to froth up your chai hot chocolate, due to the milk's high fat content and velvety, thick texture. But plant-based milks like almond or oat milk can bring a nutty creaminess to your hot chocolate as well, while being friendly to dairy-sensitive folks.

Toppings And Other Uses For Chai Spice

hot cocoa served with cookies
hot cocoa served with cookies - Oksana Karuna/Shutterstock

Now that you've created your delicious chai hot chocolate, make things extra sweet with some fun toppings. Classic marshmallows are always a great choice, or you can make your cozy drink extra chocolatey with some chocolate shavings on top. And you can't go wrong by indulging in a dollop of whipped cream. A sprinkle of cinnamon will complement the cinnamon already found in the chai spice. Of course, you can also add a dash of the chai spice mix itself on top -- just be mindful that it's stronger than plain old cinnamon, so be sparing.

For an even better drinking experience, serve your chai-infused drink alongside simple biscuits or cookies, mixed roasted nuts, or even jam on toast or crumpets. These side nibbles go well with standard chai, so they'll also make great complements to your cocoa.

Having a chai spice mix on hand is great for more than hot chocolate. A dash of the spice can liven up bland oatmeal or a nutritious morning smoothie, such as this banana-chai turmeric smoothie. In lieu of using the powdered spices, you could even brew the chai first and use the plain or milk-infused tea in your recipes. And for the avid baker, chai spice will become a go-to for experimenting with baked goods and candies, like homemade chai spiced toffee.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.