Coffee ice cream will always make me think of the Caribbean.
I’m aware of how horribly pretentious that sounds, but bear with me. I’m pretty sure there’s a blog-worthy story hidden somewhere within that statement.
When I was about eleven, my parents took us on holiday to the Cayman Islands. My Dad spent part of his childhood living in Jamaica and still has some family on the islands. This holiday was the perfect opportunity to introduce us to a few distant relatives, as well as a wonderful excuse for a serious dose of sun, sea and sand.
The ten days or so we spent out there are ingrained in my memory in that way in which all the very best holidays are. I can still imagine the heat of the sun, smell skin sticky with sunscreen, the scent of barbecues on the beach and see the beautiful, bright colours of the coral, tropical fish and flowers.
Underneath the more general memories of sight, sounds and smells are random, more specific moments – seeing a fresh coconut cracked open for the first time, snorkelling in t-shirts to protect our backs from burning in the sun, discovering a pufferfish bloated out like a balloon and seeing how many times we could somersault underwater in the ocean without coming up for breath.
And then there was the coffee ice cream.
I’m not a coffee drinker, but have always liked the flavour – even the age of eleven and especially when loaded with enough sugar and cream. The ice cream we ate on the veranda of our apartment set back from the sea was rich, dense and full of coffee flavour. It came in a tub bigger than anything I’d ever seen back in England (I imagine the American influence on the island), tasted totally delicious and is the coffee ice cream against which I’ll always compare other every other.
Now’s the part where I’m supposed to describe how it came from an undiscovered artisan producer, hand-churning ice cream in their tiny local kitchen. Where I explain the proximity of growing bean to bowl of ice cream. And when I explain that I’ve always wanted to recreate this flavour at home as I’ve never been able to find it anywhere except on that one, far away island.
Except that the ice cream in question was Haagen Dazs.
Sometimes memories do that to us. The delicious wine we drank on holiday, the best burger we ever ate or our Mum’s homemade [insert childhood comfort food of choice] can sometimes be so wrapped up in sunshine and friendship and nostalgia that it’s completely impossible to separate the taste from the moment.
I haven’t eaten Haagen Dazs coffee ice cream since that holiday. And I’m pretty sure that if I did, it might not taste as good. So instead I’ve made my own version, full of delicious ingredients, scooped into crispy choux pastry and drenched in hot chocolate caramel. It’s a little more hearty – a coffee ice cream for colder, more British climes – but no less delicious for it. Maybe one day I’ll go back to the Caribbean and the Haagen Dazs will taste amazing. Until then, I’m more than happy in my little London flat with a big bowl of this.
I’ve made the decision to move down to just one post a week for the foreseeable future. I want to be 100% happy with every recipe and photograph I post in this space with all the wedding planning and everything happening in 2013, I wouldn’t want the quality of each post to suffer. I’ll be back next week with a new recipe, see you then!
Coffee Ice Cream Profiteroles with Hot Chocolate Caramel
(makes about 16 profiteroles)
For the ice cream (adapted from this Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe)
250ml full fat milk
500ml double cream, divided
50g whole coffee beans
5 large free range egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
60g golden caster sugar
60g light muscovado sugar
For the choux pastry (adapted from my chocolate pistachio éclairs)
50g unsalted butter, cubed
50ml full fat milk
1/2 tsp fine salt
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
125g plain white flour, sifted
3 medium free range eggs, beaten
For the chocolate caramel
200g golden caster sugar
300ml double cream
Large pinch fleur de sel
100g dark chocolate, chopped
For the ice cream
In a medium sized saucepan, bring the milk, 250ml of double cream and coffee beans to the boil. Remove from the heat and set aside to steep for two hours (or longer if you want a stronger coffee flavour – I guess up to about five hours).
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the vanilla extract and salt until pale and thick. Put the remaining 250ml double cream in a separate bowl set over an ice bath.
Strain the steeped coffee mixture into a small bowl using a metal sieve, pressing down on the coffee beans to extract every last little bit of liquid and flavour. Place the metal sieve over the bowl of cream then return the coffee liquid to your saucepan, add both sugars and bring back to the boil.
Remove from the heat and pour into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Return the whole mixture to the saucepan and cook over a medium low heat until thick enough to coat the bottom of your spatula, stirring constantly to prevent it from sticking.
Strain your custard through the sieve into the cold cream and whisk until thoroughly combined. Chill the mixture overnight then churn according to your manufacturer’s instruction. Transfer into a container and freeze until needed.
For the choux pastry
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Place the butter, milk, water, salt and sugar in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan and bring quickly to the boil. As soon as it reaches boiling point and the butter is melted, add the flour, beating with a wooden spoon until a ball of dough forms that leaves the sides of the saucepan clean.
Lower the heat and beat the mixture for 30 seconds to dry it out slightly then remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing each thoroughly into the dough before adding the next. It may look a little lumpy at first – continue to beat and you’ll get a lovely smooth mixture.
Transfer the choux paste into a piping bag fitted with a large plain nozzle and pipe large bun-shaped balls onto your baking parchment, making sure to leave a couple of inches between each one to allow them to expand as they bake.
Bake for 20 minutes at 200 degrees C then turn the temperature down to 180 degrees C and bake for a further 10 – 15 minutes until crisp and golden. Remove from the oven, pierce a small hole in the bottom to let the steam out and leave to cool while you make your caramel.
For the chocolate caramel
Spread the sugar evenly over the base of a heavy bottomed saucepan. Heat gently until the sugar begins to caramelize around the edges. As it does so, carefully pull the hot liquid sugar into the centre with a spatula and cook until your caramel is a beautiful dark amber colour.
Remove from the heat and immediately stir in half the cream, being careful as it will fizz up. Whisk in the remaining cream and salt, followed by the chopped chocolate. You should have a lovely smooth caramel, but if any of the sugar seizes or hardens, return the pan to the heat for a few minutes until dissolved.
Slice one choux bun in half. Place a scoop of coffee ice cream on the bottom, top with the other half and repeat for all sixteen buns. Flood with hot chocolate caramel and serve. Two buns per person is a generous portion size, although if pushed I could probably manage a couple more …