Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

I'm not a coffee drinker, so I've never really cared for coffee-flavored foods. Case in point, at our first ice cream party, I didn't even offer a coffee flavor. The second year, I recited a list of potential flavors to a friend and when she realized coffee wasn't on the list, she said, "I'll bring some coffee ice cream." It dawned on me.

Since then, I'm happy to report, coffee has always been on the list and I've even learned to love it. One of my favorite coffee ice cream recipes is Nigella Lawson's super easy no-churn version. For the taste/effort ratio, it's hard to beat.

This year, though, I was inspired to try something a little different along the lines of Humphry Slocombe's Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee. Their recipe calls for Blue Bottle artisan beans plus ground chicory, a plant root which was historically used to extend and/or replace coffee beans during wars and embargoes.

I used Cafe du Monde's blend in the orange tin (found at our nearby Cost Plus World Market) which already includes the chicory. In fact, this is the brand used by a lot of Vietnamese-Americans for their coffee drinks - although I found out later some people consider it a bastardized version, the true authentic Vietnamese brand of choice being Trung Nguyen (which does not contain chicory). But really, you can use any strong-flavored coffee.

And what makes a coffee Vietnamese? Well, aside from the disputed chicory, the must-have ingredient is sweetened condensed milk (not to be confused with evaporated milk which is much thinner). When the French introduced coffee to Vietnam in the 1800's, the Vietnamese did not have a strong dairy industry, nor was it easy to store fresh milk in a hot, humid climate. So, they solved their problem with canned sweetened condensed milk and dare I say, in the process, made coffee even better!

Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream
Makes approx. 1 quart

In a medium mixing bowl, beat until well-combined and smooth:
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar (50g)
Set aside.

In a 4-qt saucepan over medium heat, combine and heat until steaming, but not boiling:
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
pinch of salt
1/4 cup coarse ground strong coffee (25g)
1/4 cup sugar (50g)

Heat until you see steam just starting to rise, then remove from heat. Let steep for 20 minutes. 

Reheat again until just steaming. Temper the egg yolks by pouring a small stream of hot cream into the bowl of egg yolks while whisking the egg yolks continuously. Pour in about 3/4 - 1 cup of cream. Then pour the tempered eggs back into the saucepan while constantly whisking the cream.

Heat over medium heat, stirring with a heatproof  spatula until mixture has thickened so that you can draw your finger across the spatula and leave a trail. Remove from heat and strain thru a cheesecloth-lined fine sieve into a medium-sized, easily pourable bowl or container.

Add and whisk to combine thoroughly:
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

Place a paper towel over the bowl (to absorb any water vapor) and then cover with plastic wrap. Use a rubber band if necessary to hold the paper towel and plastic wrap in place. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer ice cream to a freezer-proof container. Cover ice cream with a sheet of parchment paper before putting the lid on. Harden in freezer for 4 hours before serving.

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