Good humans are among us. I recently started dating one.
For one, he always puts the half and half away after making coffee in the morning. This may seem simple. But you might want to think twice about a person willing to let your milk spoil.
He was also able to provide three concrete reasons for getting a Christmas tree this year. The smell. The lights. And as a meaningful adjunct to holiday cookies.
He counts his afternoon walk to Flour Bakery, for a coffee and chocolate chip cookie, as activity points.
He is concerned about taking too many dinner helpings for fear there won’t be lunch leftovers.
And though he doesn’t play fast and loose with compliments, they are really something when he dishes them out.
They catch you off-guard. Like claiming you look gorgeous after having just brushed your teeth. Or calling you a genius for making ice cream.
You’ll find instructions for such praise-inducing ice cream below. A version of this one. But featuring local stout aged on cacao nibs from the Taza chocolate factory in Somerville, Massachusetts. Then more of the same chocolate is finely shaved with a knife and added in shards the Italians call stracciatella, meaning little tears or shreds.
Stracciatella is often made by pouring a thin stream of chocolate into cold, churning ice cream and served con panna, or with whipped cream, at your request. And reminds me of the gelato I had in Rome over a decade ago. So I borrowed on this memory, adding in some espresso for good measure. The bitterness, balanced by dark beer and set upright by chocolate, somehow makes the final product even greater than its parts.
And I really can’t take credit for all of that. The praise belongs mostly to the instruction of Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. And to the fine people at Taza chocolate and Night Shift Brewing who did the heavy lifting, lending talent and honoring fine ingredients.
But that’s the thing about cooking. The one in front of the stove gathers the spoils. You can use a blueprint belonging to someone else, selfishly add some favorite flavors, and a memory or two from your past, and suddenly you’re the genius. The good humans who have lent part of themselves in the way of instruction, or cacao, or beer make it all possible though.
In many ways, this all makes very little sense. And, yet, perhaps the best way to reconcile it is to pillage yet another idea. A witticism from a storyteller artist and fellow human.
“There are things you do because they feel right and they may make no sense and they may make no money and it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other and to eat other’s cooking and say it was good.” –Brian Andreas
To share, and to care, and to eat chocolate may very well be the answer. Merry Christmas.
Double Taza Stout and Stracciatella Espresso Ice Cream Con Panna
Adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home
2 cups whole milk, divided
1½ tbsp cornstarch
1½ ounces cream cheese, softened
1¼ cup heavy cream
2/3 cup dark muscovado sugar
2 tbsp brown rice syrup
pinch of salt
2 tbsp instant espresso
80 grams (just shy of 3 ounces) dark chocolate (i.e. Taza), cut into small shards
½ cup chocolate stout (i.e. Night Shift Brewing Taza Stout)
Optional: ¾ cup heavy cream (for a whipped cream topping)
In a small bowl, mix 2 tbsp of the whole milk with the cornstarch. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth.
In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining milk, heavy cream, sugar, brown rice syrup, and salt on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture boils. When it reaches a slow rolling boil, continue to stir occasionally for 4 minutes more.
Remove pan from the heat and stir in the instant espresso until it dissolves. Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl with ice and a little water and put a smaller bowl inside the larger bowl with ice.
Return the infused espresso milk back on medium-high heat; gradually add in the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until it thickens (this will take a few minutes). Remove from heat and slowly whisk some of the hot liquid into the cream cheese until smooth. Add the cream cheese mixture to the saucepan with the remaining liquid; add stout; whisk to combine.
Pour into the prepared bowl on ice. Let cool for about 30 minutes and then refrigerate until fully cooled (or overnight).
When ready, churn the mixture in an ice cream machine for 20 to 25 minutes, or until it gets thick and creamy and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. At the very end of the churning, add in the chocolate shards (we are technically cheating here, deviating from stracciatella form). Pack the ice cream in an airtight container. Cover with parchment paper cut to fit the container and freeze for at least 4 hours.
If desired, before serving whip ¾ cup heavy cream and top ice cream.
Makes about 1 quart.
-Chocolate covered cacao nibs would likely be great here too for added texture, but I'd encourage the chocolate shards regardless, they melt ably in the mouth.
-The brown rice syrup here is a stand-in for corn syrup, which can be used in a pinch. As can dark brown sugar in place of the muscovado.