Tuesday, February 01, 2011

January 22-23, 2011: Spicy pecan chocolate icecream

More than a month after my icecream party, we finally got down to the last few leftover scoops and I could justify popping the canister back into the freezer for dessert with Mike and Jo.  Loosely following the Latin theme and swinging away from our vegan stock, I browsed David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop and picked out the Aztec "Hot" Chocolate Ice Cream.  Unlike many of his other recipes, this one is egg-free and isn't too equipment heavy - all the ingredients are whisked into the one saucepan, though David instructs us to blend them before chilling and churning.  Instead I strained my mixture between chilling and churning and I'm quietly confident that my icecream was just as smooth.

I didn't have any fancy smoked chile powder but I reckon my stash performed pretty well.  The unchurned mixture and first day's scoops brought a gentle, slow warmth to the back of my throat, leaving plenty of room to taste the rich, satiny chocolate.  A few days later the chile was more outspoken and the chocolate receded into the background; the smooth texture largely remained.

The cookbook points out a recipe for Spiced Pecans as the perfect pairing to this icecream, and I was keen for the extra texture.  Ironically, this recipe does use egg whites - how much more convenient it would have been if this icecream had been one of Lebovitz's yolk-heavy standards!  They're used as a binder for the sugar and spices and are no doubt supposed to leave the pecans with an attractive lacquered surface.  I didn't get this bit quite right.  Where the recipe says 2 tablespoons, I used the whites of two eggs.  This was clearly a larger volume and led to some awkward frothy batter bits once the pecans began baking.  In future I'd be tempted to do away with the egg altogether, substituting it and the brown sugar for maple syrup or agave nectar.

The pecans were pretty great, nevertheless, and I chopped about half of them up to churn through the icecream.  These ones didn't make much of an impact.  The other half, which we used whole as a garnish, held their crunch much better and made that promised perfect pairing.

Spicy chocolate icecream
(a very nearly faithful rendition of David Lebovitz's Aztec "Hot" Chocolate Ice Cream from The Perfect Scoop)

2 1/4 cups cream
6 tablespoons cocoa
3/4 cup castor sugar
85g dark chocolate
1 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon chile powder, or to taste
2 tablespoons brandy
1 cup spiced pecans, optional

In a large saucepan, whisk together the cream, cocoa and castor sugar.  Place the saucepan on medium-high heat and bring the mixture to a boil.  Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the chocolate until it's completely melted through.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly to combine.  Chill the mixture thoroughly (preferably overnight).  Strain the mixture to remove lumps and churn in an icecream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

If you're using the spiced pecans, chop them roughly and add them to the churner 10 minutes before the icecream is done.

Spiced pecans
(from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop)

2 tablespoons egg whites (yes, really - not just '2 egg whites')
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chile powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups pecans
spray oil

Preheat the oven to 150°C.  Line a baking tray with paper and lightly spray it with oil.

In a medium-large bowl, whisk the eggwhite briefly so that it's nice and loose.  Whisk in the brown sugar, spices and vanilla, then toss through the pecans until they're evenly coated.

Transfer the nuts to the baking tray and spread them out evenly.  If you have extra liquid in the bottom of the bowl, it's probably best that you don't pour it all over the tray.  Bake the pecans for about 30 minutes, tossing them at 10 minute intervals, until they're toasty and dry.  Allow them to cool completely before using them.

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