Some Like It Hot...

Now that I'm over a month into my promised moratorium on Martha, I've been forcing myself to not only expand my repertoire beyond recipes from Martha Stewart but also to dessert items other than cookies. With that in mind, I decided to use up the leftover cream and milk from last week's banana cream pie and Boursin mac and cheese in order to try my hand at ice cream again. After all, given the unrelenting summer heat we've been experiencing this summer, I'm eager to sample just about every frozen dessert I can get my hands on.

Despite my recent mishap with David Lebovitz's apple sorbet recipe, I had long had a recipe from The Perfect Scoop for Mexican hot chocolate-inspired ice cream in my recipe queue, and I felt long overdue in finally giving it a try. As I've wrote back when I tried his recipe for cinnamon ice cream, cinnamon might just be my favorite flavor. I love it in all kinds of dishes, both sweet and savory, and hot chocolate is no exception. When I was in college, for instance, I very seldom imbibed alcohol, and didn't have my first alcoholic beverage until well after my 21st birthday. As a result, my greatest vice by far was the Aztec hot chocolate they sold at the coffee shop in the main campus library, which I would often pick up on the way to class with a scone or croissant. Without a doubt, those spicy, cinnamon-spiked hot chocolates are the only campus food I still crave from those days.

Hence, I was inspired when I got my copy of The Perfect Scoop several years ago and saw Lebovitz's recipe for Aztec "Hot" Chocolate Ice Cream, even though it's taken me an embarrassing number of years to eventually get around to making it. I was particularly excited to try this recipe because it creates a Philadelphia-style ice cream, meaning the base contains only milk and cream, no egg-based custard. I feel less intimidated by such custards than I did when I first got The Perfect Scoop, but making them is still a hassle, and calls for a ludicrous number of egg yolks, leaving me with a surplus of whites that I can never figure out what to do with, short of making myself a very health-conscious omelet. Most Philadelphia-style ice creams don't require heat of any kind (a godsend in hot weather), though this particular recipe does call for boiling the cream in order to melt the chocolate. Still, it was an easier recipe than most, and that definitely drew my attention.

I think I actually preferred the eggless ice cream; the flavors that resulted were cleaner and more crisp, without that subtle background note of egginess that I've noticed in the custard-based ice creams I've made in the past. The mouthfeel was a bit chewier almost, definitely more toothsome, but still creamy overall. Of course, given the flavors involved -- chocolate, cinnamon, and a touch of heat from chili peppers, there was really no doubt that I was going to love this ice cream. When you place a spoonful in your mouth, you get the flavor of rich, deep chocolate right away, followed by a wallop of cinnamon, and then a lingering spice that creeps up on you as you continue eating. I simply adored this ice cream, and given how simple it was to make, you better bet I'll be making it again soon.

Aztec "Hot" Chocolate Ice Cream
adapted from David Lebovitz

2 1/4 c. heavy cream
6 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 c. sugar
3 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 c. whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or 2-3 teaspoons ancho or chipotle chili powder
2 tablespoons vodka

Whisk together the cream, cocoa powder, and sugar in a large saucepan. Heat the mixture, whisking frequently, until it comes to a full, roiling boil (it will start to foam up). Remove from heat and add the chocolate, then whisk until it is completely melted. Stir in the milk, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, chile powder, and vodka. Use an immersion blender to blend for 30 seconds, until very smooth.

Chill mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.

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