I grew up drinking a lot of Mexican hot chocolate, made from those granular discs of Ibarra Mexican chocolate that were always stashed somewhere in our pantry. Whizzed with hot milk in the blender, it made a great morning treat. Sometimes Mom added a dash of almond extract.
It's only a matter of time before I turn something I love into ice cream. This is how a recipe evolves.
Now I make Mexican chocolate ice cream with a pinch of cayenne as a nod to the traditional Mayan roots of chocolate drink when it was mixed with chiles for a spicy, frothy drink, and I add bit of toasted almond.
Mexican Chocolate and Almond Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart
3 cups half-and-half, divided
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
5 ounces Mexican chocolate such as Ibarra or Abuelita (see Recipe Note), or good-quality semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces (about 1 heaping cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 cup sugar 5 large egg yolks
Pinch fine salt
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted Optional toppings: cayenne pepper, flaked sea salt
Prepare an ice bath inside a large mixing bowl or roasting pan. Set another large mixing bowl inside the ice bath and set a fine-mesh strainer over top.
In a medium saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups of half-and-half with the cocoa powder. Simmer over medium-low heat for about a minute, stirring with a whisk until all the cocoa lumps have broken up. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate, stirring until melted. Stir in the vanilla or almond extract, cinnamon and cayenne pepper.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg yolks and salt until pale yellow.
In another medium saucepan, bring the remaining 1 1/2 cups of half-and-half to a simmer over medium-low heat. Once hot, remove from the heat and slowly pour about 1 cup of the half-and-half into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to avoid cooking the eggs. Pour the milk and egg mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until it registers 170°F on a thermometer and a finger drawn across the back of the custard-covered wooden spoon leaves a trail.
Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture through the fine-meshed strainer into the bowl over the ice bath. Pour in the chocolate mixture, scraping with a spatula to get every last bit from the pan. Whisk until the custard is smooth. Stir in the sliced almonds. Chill over the ice bath for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once the ice cream base is cool, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the custard. Refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 3 hours or overnight. Once chilled, freeze the ice cream base in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a freezer container and freeze until hard.
Serve the ice cream with optional cayenne and or salt topping, just a tiny pinch.
Ibarra Chocolate is pretty easy to find at gourmet markets. In NYC, I've seen it at Fairway and Whole Foods. Another brand is Abuelita, made by Nestle. Ibarra is also available online at MexGrocer.com ($4.25)
This recipe has been updated. Originally published August 2008.