My favorite item at Starbucks is not one of their coffee drinks, but one of their pastries. I am obsessed with their pumpkin bread and find myself buying it year round. It's perfectly moist, to the point that it's malleable and squishy when you break off a piece and hold it between your fingertips. When you bite into it, the flavor bursts with sweetness and all the spices come to life.
I've tried numerous times to replicate it at home, but always something is lacking. The texture is drier. The flavor isn't as prominent. I couldn't solve the puzzle of what was missing until one day when I stumbled into a bakery in Downtown Long Beach called Sweet Dixie Kitchen. They were offering a pumpkin chai bread, which was absolutely fabulous other than the fact that it had raisins in it. I could have done without the raisins. But the flavor and texture were exactly what I was looking for, so I got to googling, found a million and one different variations of the recipe, and ultimately came up with my own. It's a combination of Chai Tea Muffins by Laura in the Kitchen and Best Ever Pumpkin Muffins by Lovely Little Kitchen.
One of the best parts is that the flavor in these muffins comes from only two sources: pumpkin pie spice and chai tea. No need to purchase ginger and cloves and nutmeg and all spice and cardamom . . . the list can go on and on sometimes, and spices are kinda pricey! With this recipe, simply purchase those two items and you're golden. Plus, they have very little oil because the pumpkin and chai-infused milk add so much moisture, it's not even necessary.
Most important of all, though: they actually rival the Starbucks pumpkin bread.
Pumpkin Chai Muffins
Makes 15 muffins
3/4 cup milk
4 chai tea bags
15 oz. can pumpkin puree
2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
Pour the milk into a small ceramic mug that is microwave safe. Heat on high for 2-3 minutes, OR heat the milk in a saucepan via stove top until it just starts to bubble. Remove it from the heat source and add all four chai tea bags, allowing it to steep until highly concentrated.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and coat 2 muffin tins with cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, eggs, and oil. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.
At this point, remove the tea bags from the milk and throw them in the trash. Check the temperature on your milk/tea brew, and if it is still quite warm, add just a few spoonfuls of it to the egg/pumpkin mixture and mix it up. This is called "tempering" the batter and will keep the egg mixture from scrambling. Add a few more spoonfuls of milk/tea, mix again, and then dump all of the milk/tea into the pumpkin bowl.
Next, add the dry ingredients to the wet until everything is thoroughly combined. If you have one, use an ice cream scoop to fill each muffin tin with batter. If not, simply spoon the batter until the muffin tin is about 95 percent full. Bake for 15-18 mins, or until a tooth pick is inserted into the center of the muffin and comes out clean.
Let the muffins cool, and then use a butter knife to loosen the edges from the tin. Enjoy them for breakfast with a steaming cup of coffee, or as an on-the-go snack later in the afternoon.