iced chai & cardamom almond cookies

several weeks ago i taught a really fun pizza making lesson to two lovely indian mothers whose kids adore pizza! both moms were fabulous cooks themselves, one even previously owned a restaurant in india. but making pizza dough and forming pizzas was a new experience for them. we made four different kinds of creative vegetarian pizzas, with fun homemade sauces and piles of veggies. not your typical kid cheese pizzas... and yet their kiddos didn't shy away from the unfamiliar broiled radicchio and balsamic reduction on top of their pizza slices. i was so impressed be their willingness to try just about any combination of veggies! these kids had taste. they ate so much pizza, hardly a slice got saved for the husbands. my favorite moment of the night was when one of them mom's turn's to the other, mouth half full of pizza, and says: "if this is pizza, what in the world have been eating?" ... 

mind blowing pizza. it's what i do... 

anyhow, at the end of the lesson, before we tackled the dishes and the dusting of flour that settles after a pizza making storm, the host made a big pot of chai tea. a little dash of this and that, a large amount of fresh ginger, all warmed with milk and served piping hot. it was such a lovely gesture and a reminder of how much i love chai! years ago, i fell in love with two locally brewed chai tea mixes/concentrates (traveler's and harmony chai). out of convenience, i've enjoyed many chai lattes made from these concentrates, but for something so simple to make, it's funny that i've never made it myself. 

this is now my second batch of homemade chai concentrate, and i'm looking forward to experimenting with adding additional spices like clove, coriander, or fennel. but for now, this simple recipe is satisfying my cravings for iced chai lattes. i've been enjoying it chilled, mixed with equal part date-sweetened almond milk. but it could certainly be enjoyed warm with any type of milk you prefer. paired with these incredible, chewy & soft cardamom almond cookies... afternoon tea is just heavenly. 

chai tea concentrate ~ makes 2 quarts
1/4 cup grated or minced ginger, peeled
40 green cardamom pods
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper, or more to taste
1 ceylon cinnamon stick
1/4 cup assam loose leaf black tea
1/4 cup honey

peel ginger and grate with microplane or chop up finely in a food processor. crush cardamom pods with mortar and pestle, or in a spice grinder or food processor. they don't have to become a powder, but just opened up and slightly crushed. 

bring 2 quarts of water to a simmer in a small sauce pan. add grated/minced ginger and simmer for 2 minutes. add cardamom, black pepper and cinnamon and simmer for 2 additional minutes. remove from heat, add tea leaves and let rest for 5-6 minutes. strain through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth. dissolve honey into finished tea concentrate and transfer into large jars. let cool and store in fridge. 

mix chilled concentrate with equal parts milk of choice and serve over ice. i love using my date-sweetened almond milk for a little added sweetness. 

cardamom almond cookies ~ makes about 2 dozen
1 cup raw almonds
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cardamom 
pinch sea salt
7 oz almond paste (not marzipan
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

note: this recipe is also wonderful without cardamom. you could add vanilla bean, cinnamon, or a touch of nutmeg instead, if cardamom isn't your "cup of tea"! 

pulse almond in food processor until finely chopped - slightly coarser than almond flour. add sugar, baking powder, cardamom, salt and almond paste and pulse until crumbly. add egg whites and extract and process until just combined. the mixture will be crumbly but sticky. transfer mix to a bowl. 

preheat oven to 325 and line a baking sheet with lightly oiled parchment paper or a silpat baking sheet. use slightly damp hands to form 1 tablespoon at a time into small balls (damp hands helps the dough from sticking to your palms). space the cookies out on your baking sheet and bake for 14-17 minutes, until the bottoms are lightly brown and the sides and tops of the cookies just begin to turn a shade darker. remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes than transfer to a cooling rack. once cooled, store in an airtight container or freeze some cookies to be enjoyed at a later date.