Saturday, June 30, 2012

Philthy Living: Aztec Chocolate Ice Cream

Yes, not the most original name, there's a (very nice) Flickr set with the same title here, but so much of the shape of my life right now seems built upon the fact that I'm living in Philadelphia, living in an urban area instead of the suburban Midwest that I grew up in that it deserves highlighting in the title.

So, the story: I'm going salsa dancing with some friends and someone I might be interested in. My friends don't know she's coming and may be bringing someone to set me up with—a nice gesture, but give a brother the head's-up if you're doing it, please?

Since it's going to be a Latin dance night, I figured I'd prepare a Latin meal and talk through the various recipes as I put them together. First, the menu:

Opening: Gazpacho soup
Main dish: Quinoa and black bean soft tacos
Side dish: Mexican blackened corn
Dessert: Aztec "hot" chocolate ice cream

I was thinking of having chips and salsa as an appetizer, and salsa as a garnish, but that gets to be a bit much, more along the lines of what I'd plan if we were only having dinner or if I was hosting a dinner party. You'll notice, if you click through to the recipe sources, that they're all vegan except (obviously) the ice cream which is merely vegetarian. This isn't accidental. Partly because I find vegan/vegetarian food allows for more play with flavors and spices, and partly because I don't want my date overstuffed with meat and thus too logey for dancing. While this meal provides a nice mix of proteins, carbs, and fats, it won't leave us feeling bloated the way a side of beef tends to do.

I'd go through the gazpacho, but it's literally slice the ingredients, dump in a food processor/blender, chill overnight. The easiest thing to make and it's very satisfying, especially on hot summer days when you don't use air conditioning (though maybe I've said too much).

I'm going to focus instead, this time, on the ice cream. The recipe is here and I pulled it from the same book they cite. I'm not reprinting it here because I do not have, nor have I sought, permission. I was initially introduced to this flavor by an ex-girlfriend who made it for me one very fun night and it's what prompted me to buy my own ice cream maker. If you're thinking about getting an ice cream maker, I'll note two things. 1: it doesn't make ice cream cheaper so if you eat a lot, you're better off buying it from the store unless you like specialized flavors, and, 2: avoid buying retail if you can. Lots of people buy them, never use them, then post them on Craigslist. Give it a little time and you can find a brand-new one for $25 like I did.

Anyway, here's a shot of all the ingredients lined up plus the Philly Roller Girls' mug that I'm going to drink a milkshake out of once this ice cream is done.
You'll notice that while the recipe calls for brandy, I'm using Kahlua, because that's what I have and because the hint of coffee adds an extra richness/darkness to the flavor. I'm also using imitation vanilla flavor instead of extract. I've been told vanilla's only added for taste and the flavor does the same job at a much lower price so I use that.

I combine the cream, cocoa, and sugar in the saucepan and heat. I, unfortunately combined them while heating which produced pimples of unincorporated cocoa powder. I recommend stirring it all together as much as possible before you start heating. You can make the pimples disappear, but I think it's simpler to get it all as mixed together as possible before you start.

Now I add the chopped chocolate. I didn't have any problem with the chocolate melting as pieces, but, as mentioned earlier, I don't use A/C so my apartment can get pretty hot. In this or other chocolate ice cream recipes, it can be useful to grate the chocolate or run it through a food processor so it's in small, easily-melted shavings, or to just melt it in a microwave and dump it in. If the chocolate doesn't melt all the way, the ice cream can come out with a slightly gritty texture. Not a problem if you're adding various chips or chunks, not great if the ice cream's supposed to stand alone.

I transfer the mixture to the cooling bowl—just the piece of Tupperware I'd typically store the final product in—and add the milk, spices, and other ingredients.

The recipe calls for putting the mixture in a blender to smooth it all out. I've never found that to be necessary, but it does help integrate the spices a little more. Unfortunately, I don't have a blender. I do, though, have an immersion blender which seems to do the job fine (and is an essential purchase if you ever eat hummus. Seriously. It's like a dollar a batch if you make it at home and what's it cost to buy? You make your money back in 4 batches or less).

I put the mixture in the fridge to cool and, when I'm about ready to pour it into the ice cream maker, put it into the freezer, stirring periodically. You don't want it to start to freeze, but you want it to be as cold as it can be before adding it to the mixer. I had to try 3 times to make my first batch before I figured this out. This may also be a consequence of no A/C. Regardless, let it get cold before adding it to your mixer.

This batch froze up problem free, actually becoming full-on ice cream and not just soft-serve before I scooped it out. The batch, about a quart, fit perfectly in the larger Jämka containers from IKEA, which makes me glad I bought them.

The girl, for those seeking narrative closure, declined my invitation for dinner at mine so we're going out before dancing instead. We'll see how it goes, but at least I have some delicious ice cream waiting for me when I get home or for the next time I have a chance to make dinner for someone.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Story Slam: Detours

I promise, I'll have content beyond just these stories soon. Until then, the story of how I became the Reverend and the best possible way to quit a job.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Story Slam: My Favorite Mistake

What it actually takes for me to cut a person out of my life and why I don't talk to the people I've dropped. I almost won this time.