Friday, September 11, 2015

Almond Coffee Brittle Gelato

There’s been a heat wave in my part of the world, which calls for drinking lots of cool water and a good iced coffee or tea whenever possible.  And then there's ice cream, gelato and sorbet.

As far as ice cream goes, once we feel pleasantly satisfied with the simple glories of vanilla and chocolate, there is a certain restlessness to explore other flavor combinations and possibilites.  The beauty of buying an ice cream machine and making your own is not only the freshness but also the prospect of so many flavors and textures.  You can control the level of sweetness and fat, play with lots of intriguing additions and keep on going.  I’ve done a fair amount of experimenting here as well as in my cookbook, where I feature some of my favorite blends. 

Today’s journey is another iteration of some of my beloved flavors.  I love coffee and nuts and I also love creamy and I love crunchy.  So I set to work on putting these all together.  The result is a toasted almond and coffee gelato with an addition of some of Joanne Chang’s caramel coffee brittle, which adds a crunchy sensation of sweet and bitter.  I like the texture contrast but the gelato is also delicious without it.

I hope you’re cool wherever you are, enjoying a scoop of your favorite ice cream, gelato or sorbet.   

Bench notes:
- Make the coffee brittle first so it has time to cool and set up. I used 1/2 recipe from Joanne Chang. You’ll have some extra but it keeps well in an airtight container and you can garnish plain vanilla ice cream or enjoy with a cup of coffee.
- Some simple tips for making caramel:
*I use medium high heat and watch it closely.
*To prevent crystallization, have a glass of water and a pastry brush handy to wash down the sides of the pan a couple of times as the sugar is heating up.
*Do not stir caramel while it's cooking.
*Never turn your back on caramel once it begins to show the slightest hint of color. For better control, I like to let it get to a medium amber or honey color and when it starts to smoke, I take it off the heat. At this point, the temperature of the caramel is so high it will continue to cook, darken and smoke. When it looks like it’s reached the right color after about another minute or so, I add the next ingredient to stop the cooking.
*Once caramel starts to get near the right color, there are 2 ways to stop the cooking process: from below and from above. To stop the cooking of caramel from below, you can set the bottom of the pan in ice water to cool off the pan. However, it will stop cooking much faster if you cool from above, which means adding another ingredient, such as room temperature cream or water. For caramel syrup, you would add water. For caramel sauce you would add various ratios of cream and butter or orange juice, liquor, cider or other flavored liquid.
*Once you add another ingredient, You can expect the mixture to expand and sputter quite a bit for about a minute, so caution is in order. Make sure the pan is big enough to contain the expansion and sputtering.  Wear an oven mitt or rubber glove if you’re worried about getting burned from the caramel or from the steam.
*Ingredients added to stop the cooking should be at room temperature to avoid seizing the caramel. 
- Cornstarch soaks up water and inhibits ice crystal formation.  Egg yolks also usually perform that function but I wanted to make this without eggs.
- Toast the sliced almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 350 degree F oven for about 6 - 8 minutes. Watch them closely as they will burn very, very quickly.
- Homemade ice cream and gelato don’t have any commercial emulsifiers or additives.  So, depending on the level of sugar and fat, a fresh homemade batch usually needs to sit at room temperature for a few minutes to soften up for the best enjoyment.
- The cookies featured in these photos are Saucepan Fudge Drops.

Almond Coffee Brittle Gelato
Makes about 1 pint

Coffee Brittle
adapted from Joanne Chang
Makes about 1/2 cup

1 tablespoon (5 grams) whole coffee beans               
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) sugar
2 tablespoons (1 oz) water
1/2 oz (1 tablespoon) unsalted butter @ room temperature             
pinch salt

Almond Coffee Gelato
2 cups (16 oz) heavy cream                                 
1 cup (8 oz) milk, divided
1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz) sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (2 3/4 oz) granulated sugar 
2 tablespoons (26 grams) dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder       
pinch salt
1 tablespoon (9 grams) cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon almond extract                               

For the coffee brittle, line a baking sheet with a silpat or lightly greased parchment.  Crush the coffee beans with a rolling pin or a grinder to medium-fine crumbs.

Combine the sugar and water in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat, washing down the sides with a pastry brush dipped in water.  Cook until it turns light amber.  Add the crushed coffee beans (it will foam up a bit), swirl them around in the caramel and continue to cook until the caramel turns a medium amber.  Remove the pan from the heat and carefully whisk in the butter and a slight pinch of salt (it will sputter a bit).  Immediately pour the brittle onto the prepared baking sheet and quickly tilt the baking sheet to get the brittle to flow into a thin layer.  It’s very hot so be careful not to let it splash on you.  Working quickly, use a metal spatula to spread it into an even thin layer.  Cool completely.

Place 2/3 of the cooled brittle in a plastic bag and break it into small pieces by smashing it with a mallet or rolling pin.  Break the remaining brittle into shards and use them as a garnish.

For the gelato, place the heavy cream,  3/4 cup milk, toasted almonds, both sugars, instant espresso powder and a pinch of salt in a saucepan.  Whisk remaining 1/4 cup cold milk with cornstarch until smooth and set aside.

Simmer the cream and nut mixture on medium low heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the cornstarch slurry and cook for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened.  Take off the heat and add almond extract.  Taste and adjust for salt, if needed.  Pour into an airtight container and cool.  Cover and place in the refrigerator until thoroughly chilled. 

Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.  Fold in the crushed coffee brittle.  Pour into an airtight container, packing it down to eliminate any air pockets.  Press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface, cover and place in the freezer to firm up.

Let the gelato sit at room temperature for a few minutes to soften up before scooping and serving.


Unknown said...

Just made this last weekend and it was wonderful. Great flavor and texture combination with the almonds -would not have thought of that! Brittle puts it over the top and a shard of it looks lovely when serving. Could have eaten the whole recipe myself; so glad I had company to serve it to.
Thank you for this gorgeous and well written site- it is an amazing resource!

pastry studio said...

Liz, thanks so much for the fabulous feedback! I'm blissed that you enjoyed this as much as I did. It's hard to refuse that combination of flavors. The almonds really set it all off, I think. And making ice cream is just too easy to resist.