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Amongst the people I know, Chocolate and Chilli Ice Cream seems to be either passé or too strange to dare tasting. There is at least one ice cream shop (and a rumoured second) in Melbourne that sell this so it isn't entirely new to my experience, nevertheless I still get a lot of strange looks from people who hear of it and my housemates refuse to have more than a taste and they profess to like chilli. Despite this, I find the combination a natural one albeit with an intense and confusing taste experience. The first impression is of a rich chocolate ice cream but as the chocolate fades, the chilli remains and begins to burn, this is easily remedied by another spoonful of ice cream but only for a few moments...

The recipe for this is largely derived from Sneff's Honey ice cream recipe which I have found a good base for flavoured ice creams (substituting whatever for the honey), there are some additional steps for this of course and so I've noded the full recipe below, credit where it's due however, Sneff is my absent and unknowing mentor in all things ice cream.

The version I node below isn't quite the version I made, I used lactose-free milk and lactose-free low-fat cream. The low-fat cream probably contributed to a slight flaw in the finished product which is that it freezes very hard and needs to be thawed for a few minutes before it can be served. I used low-fat cream only because it was the only lactose-free cream I could find. In Melbourne where I live, cook and node, one can obtain lactose-free milk and cream from some major supermarkets, this is regular bovine extracted milk with an enzyme added to metabolise the lactose into simpler, more digestible forms. This makes the resulting ice cream digestible with slightly less side-effects for myself and a number of my friends.

Custard based ice creams like this one are usually flavoured during the simmering process but after thinking about it for a while and consulting a chilli-head friend of mine (thanks Sean), I decided to break the infusion process up into three steps. The final step is just dissolving cocoa powder into the hot milk so that doesn't really count but the two chilli steps are more complicated and due to some inherent complexities, you might not want to go exactly according to my recipe.

Knowing, or at least being of the impression, that the heat compounds in chilli were concentrated in the membrane of the seeds; I cut the chilli very finely so as to bisect or nick as many of the seeds as possible. The reasoning for this is that I wanted the ice cream to have a noticeable chilli kick and because as a fatty, dairy based food, the chilli would have an uphill fight to achieve a strong enough heat to be worthy of the name. After chopping the chillies, we soak them in milk for a week. This isn't as dubious as it sounds since you can use UHT milk in an airtight container in the fridge, you could probably use regular milk as well since we're only talking a week and milk can last quite a bit longer if properly kept between 1 - 4c. If you're making ice cream then you already have a fridge/freezer thermometer so check your fridge to be sure.

The second step in infusing is to purée the milk and chilli; you might want to skip this step as when I did it I curdled the milk. This was repairable with an immersion blender (before and after simmering) and didn't seem to harm the ice cream any but still, you might get just as good results without that step though you would miss out on the small flakes of chilli in the ice cream that are a nice surprise now and then.

Ingredients

  • 600 ml (2.2 cups) full fat milk (lactose-free optional), UHT recommended but probably optional
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 200 gm (7.055 oz) caster sugar
  • 500 ml (2 cups) cream (lactose-free optional, I used 17% fat but 30% would probably be nicer)
  • 1 Vanilla Bean
  • 160 gm (5.644 oz) Cocoa powder
  • 5 small Serrano Chillies

Method

Wash, pat dry and chop the chillies into 1-2 mm sections, aiming to leave no seed untouched. Add these to the milk in a very clean airtight container and remove to fridge. Leave for one week.

Remove the milk and chilli from the fridge and purée (or optionally skip the puréeing, see above). Chop one vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds, add the bean and seeds to the milk and bring the milk to a simmer as slowly as possible, aiming for approximately an hour. Remove from heat once a simmer is reached. If you puréed the milk and chilli and found the milk curdled then you need to now remove the vanilla bean and again purée the curdled milk.

Prepare 1 litre of boiling water in a large saucepan suitable for use as a double-boiler and set aside.

Combine the yolks and sugar in a large heatproof bowl (preferably stainless steel) and whisk until just combined.

When the milk has come to a simmer, remove the vanilla bean and pour onto the yolks and sugar, immediately whisking to combine. Do not delay at this point as the hot milk can cook the egg yolks. Once combined, add the cocoa powder gradually and whisk until dissolved.

Reduce the boiling water to a simmer and set the bowl over the double-boiler. Stir the custard continuously until it is cooked. To test, lift the stirring spoon out of the custard, the back of the spoon should be fully coated and your finger will leave a distinct line in the custard if you run it along the spoon. Alternatively, test with a sugar thermometer. The mixture is cooked at 83°C (180°F).

Pour the custard into a very clean, covered glass bowl and cool in the fridge for about ten hours. When cool, remove and if you experienced any curdling previously, inspect again and purée if required (I think I didn't have any problems at this stage but it doesn't hurt to be certain, this is also a solution for lumpy custard). Stir in the cream then pour the entire mixture into an ice cream machine and churn. Once churned, remove the ice cream to the freezer for about three hours to complete the process though it will be edible and delicious immediately!

If you are unfortunate enough not to own an ice cream churner, it is probably still possible to make ice cream but will simply take either a tank of liquid nitrogen (there are plenty of recipes on the net for N2 based ice cream as well as right here) or patience. The ice cream churn simply performs the task of simultaneously freezing and stirring (churning) the mixture. You can do this manually by placing the mixture in a covered bowl in the freezer and removing to stir well for 30 seconds every 30mins. Repeat for five hours. This process works fine for sorbet and I've done it in weather too hot for my ice cream churn to work properly though I've never done it for a custard based ice cream. The theory is probably sound however so good luck with it!

I recommend serving over diced mango and enjoying slowly.

Sources: As stated, this recipe owes a great deal to Sneff's Honey Ice Cream which I used as a starting point, much of the method steps and the first four ingredients are merely restated from his node.

There are also some additional methods of making ice cream manually here.

Obligatory meta-node link: Cookery

Update: Karma debt points out a boutique ice creamery that makes something similar (though with cinnamon as well) called Queen City Cayenne. Further proof that this isn't as unnatural a combination as my housemates believe.

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