Just as I have too much cocoa powder sitting around, so di I have a decent- sized box of Mexican Chocolate, which is most commonly used to make delicately frothed Mexican hot chocolate. The foam is courtesy of the hand-propelled action of the molinillo–one of which I also have but I find to beautiful to have ever used, even though I bought it for a buck or less on a trip in Ciudad Juarez and could just as easily find it here if I wanted). I think my molinillo alone is enough to make me like Mexican chocolate. Of course, I have not made any such hot chocolate, with or without molinillo, nor have I even cracked open the package on my shelf.
Just a few weeks ago, I read Rosamaria’s blog post on Mexican Hot Chocolate and was reminded of the gold mine in my own pantry. Somehow I’ve not been so in the mood for hot chocolate, but it got me thinking nonetheless. I inexplicably decided I would make ice cream. (You read right: in the dead of winter I rejected the hot steamy sweet mug of chocolate for something frozen and cold).
For those who don’t know Mexican chocolate, there’s a slight difference from “regular” chocolate–sweet Mexican cinnamon (canela, which is different to “regular” cinnamon) and possibly other spices. The brand I always see, Ibarra, comes packaged in a yellow hexagonal box with disks of chocolate individually wrapped. When making the drink, you simply break out a few wedges and melt into milk (and use your molinillo to help things along, if you have one).
You can see from my photo that the chocolate is coarsely mixed together with the sugar–this is nothing like a buttery-smooth chocolate bar in texture, it’s earthy and rustic.
I used about half my box, and then some. Luckily it was fairly easy to chop compared to other chocolates–perhaps the texture helps, and also the fact that it’s designed to break off into triangles. You can see that the chocolate has “bloomed”–chocolate is infinitely picky about temperature changes and develops a whitish coating if things are not JUST right. For chocolate candy, this would be disastrous; for our purposes it’s merely cosmetic.
Here’s the chocolate just added to the milk and cream mixture;
And fully melted–gorgeous!
You then temper the mixture with eggs and re-heat to form a custard, as is fairly typical for ice cream recipes.
You then pour/push the mixture through a sieve (you have to help it along, so to only say “pour” would be misleading). My mixture looked perfectly smooth before this step, but here’s visual proof that you should always strain it–scrambled eggs are fine, but you don’t want it in your ice cream.
You then set what is essentially a pudding over an ice bath to help it cool as quickly as possible. A metal bowl is even better; but you make do with what you have.
When chilled, start up your ice cream maker, and you’ll soon enough be enjoying a rich, slightly unusual (but not too unusual) chocolate dessert–almost like eating a frozen mousse. Chocolate, but just a little bit different–que disfrutes!
Note also that you don’t technically have to buy Mexican chocolate, as you could just add the necessary spices in, but Mexican chocolate is not too hard to find and in contrast to other imported chocolates, is pretty reasonably priced.
Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream (adapted from Epicurious)
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 11 oz Mexican chocolate (3 1/2 disks; preferably Ibarra), coarsely chopped
- 3 3/4 cups half-and-half
- 3 large eggs
- Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
Halve vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape seeds into a 3-quart heavy saucepan. Add chocolate and half-and-half and bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking. Remove from heat.
Lightly beat eggs with salt in a bowl, then add hot chocolate mixture in a slow stream, whisking. Transfer custard to cleaned saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard registers 175°F on thermometer, 1 to 5 minutes. Immediately pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Put bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and cool, stirring occasionally.
Freeze custard in ice cream maker. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and freeze until hardened, about 1 hour.
Per epicurious, the ice cream keeps 4 days-though I don’t understand why that’s the case unless it’s just about peak quality.