I discovered Melissa Clark’s recipe for an ice cream base at the beginning of the summer. Sadly I didn’t own an ice cream machine. Yet. For my birthday David and his family got me a gift card to take into Williams Sonoma so I could live out my creamy dreams.
I’ve made a number of ice creams since then, but this is the one I’m most happy with. When David looked around for recipes there were two major problems. First was that everyone seemed to use a different form of coffee to infuse the ice cream with flavor. Second was the number of recipes that added cream cheese (David says cream cheese is my second most favorite food). But despite my alleged love affair with cream cheese I wasn’t planning on putting it into my ice cream.
Melissa Clark’s base works for ice creams that are infused with aromatic ingredients in a saucepan on the stovetop. It doesn’t call for cream cheese. (Although it does call for six eggs!) The question was whether to steep the coffee beans whole or to coarsely grind them up.
David Lebovitz’s recipe for coffee ice cream calls for 1 and 1/2 cups of whole beans. While I’m sure this produces amazing results I didn’t want to go out and buy a lot of coffee just to make two pints of ice cream. What did work was far less coffee, around 4 heaping tablespoons, coarsely ground. Straining the coarse pieces out wasn’t difficult and the flavor wasn’t bitter like an over-brewed coffee.
When it comes to cooking with coffee, I like to apply the same philosophy as cooking with wine: if you wouldn’t drink it, why would you cook with it? We use coffee from La Colombe, a Philadelphia based coffee roaster that produces some of the best coffee in the city.
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup whole coffee beans, coarsely ground (something you would make coffee with)
6 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (Diamond brand recommended)
4 oz. chocolate chunks
Warm the cream and the milk in a saucepan until it comes to a simmer. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the coarsely ground coffee beans and cover, letting it sit for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile whisk the egg yolks, sugar and salt together in a large bowl.
After the coffee has steeped in the cream and milk for 15 minutes, slowly strain a small amount of the mixture into the eggs while whisking vigorously (you may need a friend). Slowly strain the rest of the coffee mixture into the eggs, being careful not to go too fast (so that the eggs don’t cook and create clumps).
Once the coffee grounds have been filtered out/the eggs have been combined with the cream you need to clean out your saucepan for any residual particles of coffee grounds. Add the combined mixture back into the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. (If you don’t know what that means and you have a thermometer, you can also just cook it to 170 degrees Fahrenheit as I learned from Melissa Clark).
Pour the thickened mixture into a container and store in the refrigerator at least 6 hours but preferably overnight. It seems like forever when you want ice cream NOW, but it is worth it because the ice cream will not be icy if it is cold enough before you add it to the machine.
Follow the instructions that come with your ice cream maker to finish making the ice cream. Ours takes about 15 minutes to go from soup to perfection although I sometimes add 5 minutes if it still looks goopy. In the last minute of churning add the chocolate chunks into the ice cream maker. Working quickly transfer the ice cream into a container for storage in the freezer (the same container as you use for chilling it overnight works really well). At this point the ice cream will be barely frozen and will need some time to firm up.
If the ice cream has been in the freezer it may get a little too hard to scoop. Leave it out on the counter for eight minutes and it will be soft enough to scoop.