Only 4 more weeks of ice cream left after this week. The decision to transform from Sunday Slow Bakers to Sunday Slow Scoopers, using David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop to make ice creams and sorbets has been a great choice. I have made more frozen concoctions in the last 2 months than previously in my lifetime. But although I have enjoyed this time, it's now winter in Alaska and I'm looking forward to turning my oven on each week rather than putting something in the freezer.
This week, our choice was Chocolate Ice Cream. But rather than using a specific recipe, we could choose any of the chocolate ice creams from David's book. I chose the Aztec Ice Cream. This ice cream is flavored with both cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate, then spiced with cinnamon, chile powder, and brandy.
I decided to research the history of chocolate, and came across a great website called ALLCHOCOLATE. This website explains that it was not humans, but monkeys, who were the first to find the cacao plant edible. But it wasn't the bitter bean, or seed that they ate, but the sweet pulp. Man also began eating the sweet pulp, and the bitter seeds were discarded, spreading throughout Mesoamerica and making the cacao trees very plentiful in South and Central America. It's not known when or how it was first discovered that the bean could be used. It is known that the Olmecs, an ancient tribe from the tropical lowlands of South Central Mexico (1200 to 300 B.C.), were the first to domesticate the cacao plant and use the beans. They called the bitter seeds kakawa, or cacao, and they believed that these seeds held the secret to health and power.
The Mayans (Mayan Classic Age 300-900 A.D.) are considered the most culturally advanced among the Mesoamerican civilizations. They were the first true chocolate aficionados, believing that it was a restorative, mood-enhancing cure-all. It became an integral part of their society. They ground the beans into a course paste and mixed it with spices, water and chilies to create a variety of hot and cold bitter drinks.
The Aztecs led an empire of almost 15 million people between the 14th and 16th centuries. During this time, chocolate was reserved for the rich and the nobles. Because it was so highly prized by the Aztecs, it was their form of currency. The Aztecs also consumed chocolate in liquid form like the Mayans. It was served cold and frothy, and they believed the foam held the chocolate's fundamental essence. So creating the foam became a ritual. They would pour the chocolate mixture vertically from one vessel to another, and continue pouring it back and forth until a froth was formed.
At this time, chocolate was still a bitter concoction, but I'll let you read more about the history on the above website, and will just say that it wasn't until after the Spanish arrived in the New World that this would change.
Okay, it's now time for Ice Cream. This recipe contains heavy cream and whole milk like previous ones we've made, but it did not contain eggs. So no having to make the custard and trying not to curdle the eggs. As I had the heated mixutre ready to go into the fridge, I had to have a small drink. Let me tell you, even if you don't own an ice cream maker, or don't want something cold, make this mixture and serve it as the best, richest hot chocolate you will ever taste. One word of warning though-be careful how much chili powder you use. I used a wonderful chipotle chili powder that is very hot. The recipe calls for 2 to 3 teaspoons, and I used 2 thinking it wouldn't be so hot. I was wrong. Although I love it this hot, others might not.
I served my ice cream with Mayan Chocolate Mocha cookies. I'll post about those in the next couple of days.
AZTEC "HOT" CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM Makes about 1 quart
2 1/4 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
3 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 to 3 teaspoons chilie powder
2 tablespoons brandy
Whisl together the cream, cocoa powder, and sugar in a large saucepan. Heat the mixture, whisking frequently, until it comes to a full, rolling boil (it will start to foam up). Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, then whisk until it is completely melted. Stir in the milk, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, chilie powder, and brandy. Pour the mixture into a blender and blend for 30 seconds, until very smooth.
Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.