Suzi's Blog

Coffee Nutella Ice Cream

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From your advanced calculus course, you may remember the definition of a fixed point for a mathematical function f:

An attractive fixed point of a function f is a fixed point x0 of f such that for any value of x in the domain that is close enough to x0, the iterated function sequence xf(x), f(f(x)), f(f(f((x))), …converges to x0.

No, Suzen is going to see this and freak. “What do you think …”

Here’s what I’m trying to say. Suppose you try something over and over again and you keep getting the same answer most of the time and then, eventually, the same answer every time. That same answer is the “fixed point.”

When Suzen prepares her seasonal menus for Cooking by the Book twice a year, she assembles many options for first courses, main dishes and sides, and dessert. Every client has potentially 1000 different meals they can select from the menu, yet Suzen finds that clients “zone in” on just a few combinations. And sometimes, for say dessert, everyone wants the same thing.

This spring and summer dessert at Cooking by the Book has been a Killer Brownie with Coffee Nutella Ice Cream. It’s been a fixed point. Just one of these two would be a grand finale. Taken together, this is a double dose of chocolate that will keep you up all night.

This pairing happens to be so richly delicious that you don’t want to be asleep anyway. In the end, it all works out. You can be awake to enjoy hour after hour of after taste. And, Suzen gives you the recipe so you can repeat the whole experience over and over again. Think of all you can accomplish in life if you are not distracted by having to sleep? You could even learn calculus.

This ice cream is non-Philadelphia, meaning it is made with lots of egg yolks plus cream and milk. It’s devilishly rich with an incredible texture, dense yet soft. From the first spoonful, you’ll understand why everyone has enjoyed this dessert. But, you ask, Suzen’s clients selected this dessert off the menu before they tasted it, so how did they know it would be so good?

That’s why it’s called a fixed point. I can suggest some really calculus books if you want.

The proportions of ingredients here can be described in one word: perfect. The first time out, do just follow the recipe. If you want to play with the Nutella or number of egg yolks or the amount of nuts, wait. Make the original so you have the experience of an exceptional recipe. For the record, the first batch of handmade Nutella was crafted by an Italian baker in 1946. 300 kilos of the stuff. It took 18 years, but in 1964 commercial production began and has never decreased. You may want to make a note in Outlook: February 5 is World Nutella Day. 

Killer Brownie recipe is tomorrow.


Coffee Nutella Ice Cream

Yield: 16 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 ⅓ cup Nutella or other hazelnut-chocolate spread
  • 1 cup roasted hazelnuts, chopped

Preparation:

In a sauce pot set, bring the cream, milk, espresso and salt to a simmer.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar with the egg yolks. Slowly pour one-third of the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs. Once eggs are tempered pour them back into the pot with the remaining milk cream mixture.

Return the sauce pot to the stove top over low heat. Stir the mixture constantly until it is thickened and coats the back of the spoon, 10 minutes. Remove the custard from the heat and strain it through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Then add Nutella to the mixture. Set the bowl over an ice bath and stir until cool, 15 to 30 minutes.

When completely cold, transfer the custard to the ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's specifications. Add hazelnuts as ice creams reaches soft serve stage.

Source: Marc Forgione

Photo Information Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4.5 for 1/60th second at ISO‑3200

 

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Ice Cream Bases, Melissa Clark, and Philadelphia: A Road to the Best Ice Cream

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If you are a fan of the Wednesday New York Times Food Section, as I am, then you recognize that picture above. Red hair, strong nose, wide eyes, and studied intent. Melissa Clark is my favorite Times writer. When I pick up the Wednesday paper, I scan first for her. Does she have an article this week? Yes, wonderful. No, hell, now what do I read about? The Crimea? The Mexican border? I need Melissa.

Beyond her Times work, Melissa has well over two dozen cookbooks under her apron, mostly as co-author. Why has she teamed up with so many prominent chefs to co-write an entire shelf of books? It is not just that she is a gifted writer. It is that her writing reflects a sense of organization and priority that makes cooking transparent to so many of us. Melissa is always inviting and always exceptional. Just calm and simple and understated.

Until last week. Her article on ice cream bases was called “A Frozen Canvas, a Spectrum of Flavors.” But the headline on Page 1 of the Food Section said, “The Only Ice Cream Recipe You’ll Ever Need.”

Those are fighting words. In essence, the Times is calling this the best ice cream recipe. Now, food writers deal in two things: food and adjectives [and adverbs, too]. So we talk about “good, grand, exceptional, top, marvelous, sublime, …” We don’t say "best" because someone is going to respond with an email. And someone else, and someone else, and … It can be savage.

Suzen and I make a lot of ice cream. In the summer, her culinary team building events almost all end with ice cream of some sort. So we naturally wondered what made Melissa go out on a literary limb. Her whole recipe is at the end of this post, but the key thing is her ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • Your choice of flavoring, like a vanilla bean or two

I wondered how this recipe would compare to one from my ice cream bible, David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop, simply the best ice cream book of recent history. I went to his vanilla ice cream recipe and I found ……… exactly the same ingredients.

Well, almost exactly. He wants ¾ cup of sugar. What’s the difference between ¾ and ⅔? It is a mere one tablespoon of sugar. And in a mixture that yields 1 quart of ice cream, I for one would be hard pressed to tell you the difference. The cold, the richness of the diary and any flavoring like vanilla would simply preclude my being able to distinguish between the two sugar amounts.

If, by chance, you can tell the difference then you should open a new browser window and look for a great career opportunity in food testing and flavor creation. There are people out there who want your tongue and nose, and will take the rest of you as a necessity.

I checked other sources, both books and on the web, and I have to say that this mix of ingredients is one that many would agree is top of the heap. There are variations, of course. In his authoritative [and useful] book The Ultimate Ice Cream Book, Bruce Weinstein calls for a full cup of sugar, no milk but 1 ½ cups of half-and-half, one cup of cream, 7 egg yolks. Suzen and I are going to have to take that one for a test drive and do the comparison.

Finally, I looked at two standard references, The Joy of Cooking and The Gourmet Cookbook. Suzen, as a point of full disclosure, has about three years of time spent being the test kitchen for the last two editions of The Joy, a book conceived in Depression-Era America. The vanilla ice cream there has 3 cups of heavy cream to 1 cup of milk, but no egg yolks. Right below that fundamental recipe though is one for French Vanilla, which matches Melissa except for using only 2-3 egg yolks. And that same recipe is what you will also find in The Gourmet Cookbook.

So, with modest differences, a lot of authorities want a 2:1 ratio of heavy cream to milk. And egg yolks, from a few to many. Melissa explains that you can vary the number of egg yolks from 2 to 8; with fewer yolks you add more milk to compensate for liquid volume. And the amount of sugar, she admits, can vary. In fact, to match that eggy yellowness, you can substitute some honey for the sugar. More eggs mean a richer flavor, and more yellow color, too.

When I was growing up, there was a Chinese restaurant with a short menu but a long refrigerator case filled with ice cream. They realized that their deep fried fan tail shrimp did leave an aftertaste. I must have been ten when I had my first. French vanilla that is. Rich and eggy and distinctly yellow. Once you have discovered the power of egg yolks, you don’t return to plain old vanilla. Which by the way, has a name: Philadelphia style ice cream, no egg.

Lovely city, great museums, interesting food, but they just never learned the power of the egg.

If Melissa wants to call this the only ice cream base you need, if she wants to call it the best, then all you have to do is taste and agree.

Here is  the recipe with instructions. This recipe is for a base that you can flavor countless ways. Vanilla of course but in her Times article Melissa provides 16 flavoring ideas with aromatics like vanilla, fruit like peach and strawberry, chocolate aplenty and a forest of nuts. You can spend your entire ice cream summer just working with this marvelous recipe. The best.

Oh, one last little thing. Eight or seven or six egg yolks? What to do with the egg whites? Search for meringue on this website and you’ll find [currently] 38 other recipes for using the egg whites in meringues, many of them from Meringue by Linda Jackson and Jennifer Evans Gardner. Good book.

 

Melissa Clark’s Ice Cream Base

Yield: 1 quart

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • Your choice of flavoring, like a vanilla bean or two

Preparation:

In a small pot, simmer the cream, milk, sugar and salt until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Whisking constantly, slow whish about a third of the hot cream into the yolks, then whisk the yolk mixture back into the pot with cream. Return the pot to medium-low heat and gently cook until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon [about 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer].

Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Cool the mixture to room temperature. Cover and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.

Churn in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve directly from the machine for soft serve, or store in the freezer until needed.