I grew up drinking Mexican hot chocolate, made from those granular discs of Ibarra Mexican chocolate that were always lurking somewhere in our Los Angeles kitchen. Combined with hot milk and whizzed in the blender, it made a great morning treat. Later on in life, I discovered that a shot of Amaretto in a mug of Mexican hot chocolate made a great late-night treat.
Just yesterday I discovered that a Mexican Chocolate ice cream with a hint of almond is pretty scrumptious. The pinch of cayenne is nod to the traditional Mayan roots of chocolate drink when it was mixed with chiles for a spicy, frothy drink.
Mexican Chocolate and Almond Ice Cream
makes about 1 quart
3 cups half and half, divided
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
5 ounces Mexican chocolate such as Ibarra or Abuelita*, 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 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 cup sugar
5 large egg yolks
1 cup sliced almonds
In a medium saucepan, combine half of the half and half with the cocoa powder and simmer over medium-low heat for about a minute, stirring with a whisk until all the cocoa lumps are broken up. Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate, stirring until pieces are melted. Stir in vanilla or almond extract, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Set aside.
Whisk together the sugar, egg yolks and salt until pale yellow.
In another medium saucepan, bring the remaining half and half to a simmer over medium-low heat.
Once milk mixture is hot, remove from heat and slowly pour into egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour milk and egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until it registers 170°F on thermometer and a finger drawn across the back of the custard-covered wooden spoon leaves a mark.
Remove from heat and pour through a fine-meshed sieve into a large heat-proof bowl. Pour in chocolate mixture, scraping with a spatula to get ever last bit. Whisk until custard is smooth. Stir in sliced almonds. Set bowl over ice water bath to chill for 15 minutes.
Once ice cream base is cold, cover and place in the refrigerator to chill completely, at least 3 hours or overnight. Once chilled, freeze in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
*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)