If you're a fan of masala chai — the Indian tea filled with warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom — then make these bars immediately. They come from Dorie Greenspan's new cookbook, Everyday Dorie, and as you would expect from the baking queen, they are tender, fragrant, and oh-so lovely.
They're perfect with an actual cup of tea or coffee as a mid-afternoon treat, or served after dinner as a simple dessert. Oh and they freeze well, which means you can (and should) keep them on hand for sweet-tooth emergencies.
Spicy Cake Bars Where the Chocolate Is (Sort of) Optional
The cool fall air has me craving all the warm baking spices like cinnamon and ginger, making these bars feel super appropriate for this time of year. Using actual chai from tea bags means you don't have to dig around too much in your spice drawer, and you'll get pretty black flecks strewn throughout the bars, too.
Dorie says the melted milk chocolate that's poured over the top of the bars is optional ... but is it really? Chocolate is never optional in my mind, but you do you. I will say the creamy richness is a total knockout against the tender bars.
One note: Dorie calls for clementine or orange zest in the batter to brighten the flavor. I opted for an orange (and perhaps it was an especially large one), but I found its flavor overpowered the chai spices. The bars had a Chocolate Orange (remember those?) thing going on, which I definitely didn't mind, but I felt it masked some of the spicy goodness tucked inside. I'd recommend opting for one clementine or a small orange if you'd like those flavors to be more prominent, too.
Dorie Greenspan's Chocolate-Covered Chai-Tea Bars
Makes 16 bars
Finely grated zest of 2 clementines, 1 tangerine, or 1 orange
large egg whites, at room temperature, lightly beaten with a fork
(1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
loose chai tea leaves (from 3 teabags)
coarsely chopped milk chocolate, for the glaze (optional)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Put both the flours, sugar, ginger, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl and whisk (or stir with a fork) to blend and work out any clumps of almond flour. Stir in the zest. Pour the whites over the dry ingredients and mix them in with a flexible spatula. It takes a minute or so to blend in the whites; when they’re in, you’ll have a thick batter. Stir in the honey and vanilla. Stir the tea into the warm melted butter and pour the butter over the batter. Working patiently (you’ll think there’s too much butter, but there isn’t), stir and fold the batter until the butter is fully incorporated. You’ll have a beautiful, smooth batter with a silky sheen. Scrape it into the pan — it will be a thin layer — and use the spatula to even the top.
Bake for 25 to 27 minutes, until the cake is a deep golden brown and just starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Poke the top, and it will feel firm and just a bit springy; a tester inserted into the center of the cake will come out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and wait for 3 minutes, then run a table knife between the cake and the sides of the pan. Invert the cake onto the rack, peel away the paper, invert onto another rack and allow to cool to room temperature.
If you’d like to glaze the bars, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water or in the microwave. However you do it, melt it slowly and carefully — milk chocolate has an unpleasant way of going from smooth to grainy and then burnt; baby it. Pour the chocolate over the top of the cake and spread it evenly over the surface. Slide the glazed cake, on the rack, it into the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to set the chocolate.
Cut the cake into 16 bars or, if you’re not using the entire cake, only as many bars as you need; the rest of the cake will keep better if it’s in a larger piece. If the cake was glazed and refrigerated and the bars are still cold, let them sit until they come to room temperature.
Storing: Glazed bars will hold for about 2 days at room temperature; unglazed bars will be good for up to 4 days. Glazed or not, the bars can be frozen for up to 2 months.