David and Laura are opening an ice cream shop in The Avenue and we're helping them with their coffee ice cream!
I've always found ice cream to be a fascinating exploration. So many possibilities and those of you who have been visiting Spro over the years know we've done limited runs of different ice creams and paletas (Mexican style popsicles), but one of the challenges has always been to do a thoughtful coffee ice cream.
But what do I mean when I say "thoughtful"? Quality and locally-sourced ingredients are a must, and so too is a a faithful representation of coffee in the ice cream. Problem is that most coffee ice cream (and their recipes) call for all sorts of paths that just don't fit into what we do, namely instant coffees, dark-roasted coffees, coffee flavorings, etc. What we've been wanting to do is develop a coffee ice cream that can be successful with two important criteria:
1 - deliver nuance and flavor distinct from one another and true to the original coffee
2 - not be brown
The first criteria: can we make a series of ice creams that are as readily identifiable as the coffees we serve on our normal menu at Spro? Meaning, can we create a Lekempte G4 Ethiopia that is true to the flavor and identifiably different than a Finca Cual Bicicleta Honduras that is also true to the flavor of the original coffee? To me, that's the golden crown. We want nuance and finesse in the flavor without the bitterness. Something that's upfront but also slightly elusive. A flavor that you want to sample more because you're trying to understand it better: to figure out if you really are tasting what you think you are tasting.
Secondly, I don't want it to be brown. I've long held the thought that the most unfortunate thing about coffee as a culinary component is its color. That heavy brown taints everything and nothing can clear it or cover it. The brown muddles all other colors. That said, can this coffee ice cream have all of the first criteria and none of the brown?
In order to address the first criteria, we had to figure out how to get the coffee flavor into the mix. Tests with our house-made coffee liquor were promising but the remaining alcohol content was readily apparent and would not be suitable for minors. Normally, we could heat the cream and do an infusion with the coffee but manufacturing regulations and restrictions placed on The Charmery for actual production meant that adulterating different components of the ice cream mix were not possible without significant investment in additional capital equipment, so that was out.
That meant we had to find a way to achieve our goals using their base mix and it could not be heated or changed in any significant way - a true challenge.
I consulted a chef friend for advice on how we might approach this problem and we came up with several possible approaches. After whittling them down, we came up with two methods that might give us the results we desired. Both would cold-infuse the mix with the coffee. The first was a ground coffee infusion and the second was a whole bean infusion. Once narrowed down, it became a matter of time and ratio.
After a few weeks of testing and lots of errors and failures (but can it really be considered a "failure" when the result is the "tasting" of ice creams?), we came up with some solutions that we think achieve the stated criteria: a coffee that delivers nuance and flavor without being brown.
The coffee ice cream will be an on-going project with David and Laura that will explore various single-origin coffees, as well as select blends. Be sure to come down to The Charmery for a taste when they are released!