Chai scones. A brilliant idea, no? As soon as the concept occurred to me, I knew that it had to happen. The only problem was: how to make the best chai scones possible.
I immediately dismissed the idea of simply throwing the contents of a few teabags into the flour. Although it might work, it didn’t seem to me like the best way to maximize the chai flavor. Instead, I came up with two completely different concepts. The first concept was to use chai tea concentrate and milk, in equal parts, as the liquid for the scone. To make up for the loss in fat, I added more butter than usual (a full stick), but I used no added sugar, since the concentrate is pretty sweet already. To these scones I added some toasted pistachios. For the second chai scone, I infused cream with a few bags of chai tea, just like in the saffron scones, to use as the liquid for the recipe. Then I added much less butter (the cream provided plenty of richness) and some sugar. I also threw in some dried currants and candied ginger. If I were a scientist, I would have used pistachios in both to minimize the number of variables, but I guess that’s why I’m a classicist instead. I then brushed the top of scone 1 with more chai concentrate and the top of scone 2 with more chai-infused cream, sprinkled each with raw sugar, and baked. For scone 1 I made a glaze using powdered sugar and chai concentrate, and for scone 2 I used the sugar and very strongly brewed chai tea.
Two testers and I tasted both scones, and scone 2, the chai-infused cream scone, was the clear winner. The chai flavor came through much stronger, and – let’s face the truth here – cream is definitely the way to go when you’re making a sweeter, non-fruit-based scone. I still much prefer buttermilk or yogurt in a savory scone, but regular milk yields a scone that was just too bread-y for the chai flavor.
How do I feel about this outcome? Basically, awesome. Chai concentrate is expensive, and teabags are cheaper and easier to come by. Additionally, this result feels like external validation for my infused-cream scone method that worked so well with the saffron scones and the improved lavender scones (I keep teasing you with those! I’m awful.)
These are some of the best scones I’ve made in a long time, and I make a lot – like, a LOT – of scones. So what are you waiting for?