We woke up again yesterday to a winter wonderland, but since it just snowed a significant amount on Tuesday, this snow feels less like wonder & more like plain ol’ winter. Betty White is further buried - I did dig her out today, though, & the full-body ache is slowly setting in as I type - the sidewalks are icier where neighbors are, like myself, too lazy to dig, but in my kitchen, we’re defying winter. Who says you can’t have ice cream when the mercury dips below a certain point? Not me. & to all the naysayers out there, I wave my delicious cup of ice cream in front of your faces.
The truth is, being cold outside can go two ways: either your heat is malfunctioning & you desperately need something hot to warm your icy innards, or you’re so into being cozy, with the fireplace & the blankets & the warm clothes, that you’re actually quite warm & could use something chilled. Hopefully you are in the latter category (if not, I send happy space heater thoughts your way), & will indulge me in a ice cream so chock-full-o’ coffee that you might as well have it for breakfast.
& if you were in Italy, I think that would be perfectly acceptable. After all, according to many sources, ordering a cappuccino in an Italian cafe after 11am is punishable by death (I don’t entirely believe them, as I was never even slapped in the face when I ordered a post-prandial espresso & milk combo), but before the almost-noon hour, it is the drink of choice, & it is to be consumed standing up, at an espresso bar, in just a few sips. It is served hot but not scorching, so no need to let it cool off or blow on it, just tilt it back with your head & get on with the morning. So, cappuccino in ice cream (ok, it’s not gelato, but maybe next time), I can only assume that it would be welcomed with open arms & baci.
However, cappuccino’s namesake might not be so open to such a decadent breakfast. Cappuccino gets its name from the Capuchin monks, an order of the Catholic Church that arose in the early 1500s. The Capuchins are a Franciscan offshoot whose followers wanted to live more primitively than the Franciscan monks at the time - no one was to touch money & everything was to be acquired via begging - & so, like most stories of how radical religious sects begin, the Capuchins were initially persecuted due to their differing strain of beliefs. They eventually found refuge among another sect of monks & in gratitude, the Capuchins from then on donned the same hoods that this other sect wore (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?) - hoods called cappuccio.
Current speculation suggests that, in another act of flattery, cappuccinos are named after the Capuchins, since the frothy milk looks like a little hood on the espresso. I don’t think the monks would be too thrilled about this connection. They might, however, appreciate the naming of the Capuchin monkey…
This recipe makes a strong batch of coffee-infused ice cream, & I mixed in some cacao nib brittle to add a little extra dimension & crunch to it. That part is certainly optional if you’re just looking for your caffeine fix, but the light chocolate aroma & hint of sweetness from the brittle make a good companion to this ice cream.
Cappuccino Ice Cream
- 3 cups half & half
- 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1/4 cup coffee, medium grind
- 4 egg yolks, whisked together
In a saucepan, gently heat half & half, sugar, vanilla, & coffee over medium heat until the mixture begins to steam. Then, little by little, add it to the egg yolks, stirring all the while so that the eggs get accustomed to the heat.
Pour the yolk mixture back into the saucepan, & continue to heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens (running your finger through the mixture on the back of the spoon will leave a trail that doesn’t drip off).
Set a mesh strainer over a bowl, & once the mixture has thickened, strain it into the bowl - this will catch larger coffee grounds & any egg yolk that might have cooked.
Let this cool in the refrigerator for at least three hours before freezing it in your ice cream machine.
Cacao Nib Brittle
from Joanne Chang’s Flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup cacao nibs
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Pinch of salt
Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper & spray with canola oil.
In a sauce pan, heat the sugar & water over high heat until it boils. Continue to boil for about 5 minutes, or until the color of the syrup changes to a golden brown.
Pour in the cacao nibs & swirl them around in the saucepan until the golden turns to amber.
Then, remove form heat & whisk in the butter & salt. Quickly pour the mixture into the cookie sheet, tilting the sheet a little in every direction to let it spread evenly.
Let it cool for about an hour. When you’re ready, break the brittle up into whatever size pieces you need. Larger pieces look nice for garnishing, but smalled pieces are good for mixing into the ice cream. To get them nice & small, but the brittle into a Ziploc bag & use your rolling pin over it to crush the pieces. Stir them into the ice cream after it’s already been frozen in the ice cream machine.
Eat & Enjoy!