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Worth the Effort: Mocha Almond Fudge Ice Cream

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

When I was in high school, one of my favorite ice cream flavors was mocha almond fudge because it was like a portable coffee and chocolate sundae, with the fudge and nuts neatly packed inside. For some reason I have never really considered making it, perhaps because I was unsure of how to marble the fudge with the ice cream. Last June, Kieran from Ice Cream Ireland put out a call for readers to try out some of his recipes in anticipation of his new book (still not readily available in the US, but you can order it from the publisher if you are eager like me—will let you know when it arrives) and I decided to try making his Kahlúa Espresso Ice Cream (my post about it here). The coffee flavor of this ice cream was amazing, and I knew right away I had to adapt it to make some mocha almond fudge ice cream. Nearly a year later, here it is.

I knew I already had the perfect fudge sauce recipe for this ice cream, but I needed to reduce the hot fudge sauce recipe by about half to provide just the right amount for this ice cream. Of course, I ended making a regular batch of hot fudge sauce later that night since my daughter loves it and was disappointed to learn there wasn’t any leftover after the smaller batch I made for this ice cream. While I was waiting for the ice cream to freeze in my ice cream maker, I thought about how hard the fudge sauce might get when once it was frozen. The original hot fudge sauce recipe is intended to be heated and poured over the ice cream, resulting in a thick, warm sauce. I decided to get a preview of what I might end up with and placed some sauce on a spoon and left it in the freezer. After 10 minutes, I knew that it would be too hard once frozen with the ice cream. I salvaged the first batch of fudge sauce by adding a little more evaporated milk and stirring it in to the still warm sauce, resulting in just the right texture once frozen.

The first time I made this I added the almonds and the fudge to the ice cream maker immediately before shutting it off, but the fudge ended up getting too blended. In addition, the almonds generally sank to the bottom of the ice cream as it ripened in the freezer. To remedy both problems, I decided to let the ice cream firm up in the freezer for an hour before layering in the almonds and room temperature fudge sauce. A few plunges of the spatula into the ice cream broke up the layers and gave the fudge marbling a more random appearance, while still preserving the yummy chocolate veins.

There are a lot of steps to this recipe, but you can take advantage of the chill time of the ice cream base, the initial freezing of the ice cream, or the hour of firming up in the freezer before layering the almonds and fudge sauce. I’ve arranged the steps in the recipe to take the least amount of time possible, but you could toast the almonds or make the fudge sauce ahead of time. If the sauce is chilled, you will want to get it to room temperature so that it will be easier to distribute in the ice cream layers. Once the ice cream is finally ready to eat, you will understand that your efforts were worth it and why I didn’t think twice about making this a second time to refine the steps for this recipe. The Kahlúa, although not necessary if you have issues with alcohol, adds a wonderful depth to the coffee flavor in this ice cream. You will be thinking about your next batch as you finish the first.

Ingredients for making Mocha Almond Fudge Ice Cream.

Beat 5 egg yolks and 1 cup of sugar until light and fluffy.

Heat 1 1/4 cups of whole milk, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder and 3 tablespoons of espresso powder until simmering. Slowly add this to egg and sugar mixture while mixing on medium speed.

Return custard mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it reaches about 165° F.

Pour custard base through a sieve or chinois to remove any egg bits and chill in ice bath.

While custard base is cooling, prepare fudge sauce. Cook 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup evaporated milk, and 3 tablespoons corn syrup over medium heat.

Boil fudge sauce for 5 minutes and then remove from heat. Stir in 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons butter and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and let cool to room temperature.

Once custard base has chilled to less than 45° F, add 1/4 cup of Kahlúa and stir to blend.

Beat 1 1/4 cups of whipping cream until soft peaks form and gently fold this into chilled custard base.

Pour ice cream base into ice cream maker and freeze according to your maker’s instructions.

While ice cream is churning, chop about 2/3 cup of almonds. Use a colander to help remove the smaller, dustier particles.

Arrange chopped almonds in flat layer and toast in 350° F oven for 5 minutes (toaster oven is fine). Let cool to room temperature.

Once ice cream has finished churning, transfer to a dedicated, odor-free container and let ripen in freezer for one hour.

Remove ice cream from freezer and begin layering another container with a layer of ice cream and then a scoop of room temperature fudge sauce.

Add a layer of the almonds and repeat the layering of ice cream, fudge sauce and almonds. Plunge a spoon into the layers several times and then let firm in the freezer for several hours or overnight.

The recipe pictured above, with detailed instructions and exhaustive photo gallery can be found on the Mocha Almond Fudge Ice Cream recipe page.

Snickerdoodles: The Common Cookie with the Uncommon Name

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

Snickerdoodles. I can’t think of too many other cookie recipes with a silly name that gives you no clues about what is in it, what it looks like, who created it or perhaps who frequently consumes them. What is certain, however, is that there are as many versions of this recipe as there are theories about their origin. Snickerdoodles are one of the early recipes I remember baking with my mom 30 years ago. Essentially a sugar cookie with a little cinnamon on the outside, what isn’t there for a kid to love?

As a recipe, I think snickerdoodles are pretty forgiving and hard to mess up. Perhaps that explains the many variations of the recipe. It would be interesting to take a half dozen variations head to head to see what the differences are. Depending on your mood, you can bake these crunchy or soft and the two textures result in very different cookies, equally delicious (though I like them a little soft in the middle).

There are a lot of people that debate the cream of tartar in snickerdoodles. The accepted explanation indicates that the cream of tartar acts as an acid to assist the baking soda. I can see how this would makes sense given my college background in science, but the ingredients in this recipe aren’t all that different from the popular chocolate chip cookie, so I don’t know if the cream of tartar does all that much for the baking soda and probably alters the taste just enough to make it worthwhile to leave it in. Maybe someday I’ll experiment with it, but after 30 years with this snickerdoodles recipe, I don’t have any complaints.

Ingredients for making Snickerdoodles.

Cream 1 cup butter, 2 eggs and 1 1/3 cups of sugar until light and fluffy.

Add 1 teaspoon baking soda to 3 cups of flour.

Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of cream of tartar to dry ingredients.

Add a pinch of salt and mix dry ingredients until thoroughly blended.

Slowly add dry ingredients to butter, egg and sugar mixture, scraping sides of bowl occasionally to ensure even mixing.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls and then roll in cinnamon sugar mixture made of 1 tablespoon cinnamon and 3/4 cups of sugar.

Arrange dough balls evenly on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 – 12 minutes in 375° F oven until lightly browned. Let cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet before cooling on racks.

The recipe pictured above, with detailed instructions and complete photo gallery can be found on the Snickerdoodles Cookies recipe page.