I sprained my foot last week. I wish I had a great story to go along with my swollen foot, but the truth is that I was walking Cookie past down next-door neighbor’s sidewalk and the next thing I knew, I was on all fours in the mud. It was not my finest moment, but it was far from a foreign moment—I’m an accident-prone kid and have plenty of scars and silly stories to prove it. I pulled myself back together and hobbled back up my stairs.
As I was hopping one-footed around my apartment (I’m sure my downstairs neighbor wondered when Tigger moved in), I got to thinking about mobility—how critical it is to my life, how easy and natural it is to take it for granted, and how much I want to take care of myself so I can maintain it. I always try to strike a balance between keeping my body healthy and in fighting shape, and enjoying life’s little pleasures, like a scoop of full-fat ice cream. I believe it can be done.
I’ve also been thinking about ice cream and the generally accepted assumption that it’s “bad”. Bad because it’s composed of cream, milk, sugar and if you’re buying it in a carton, probably ten other ingredients that aren’t so easily pronounced. I’m tired of this way of thinking about food—that some foods are bad and we should feel guilty after eating them, and others are good, and assumed bland and unsatisfying. No! Foods range a full spectrum from better to worse, and quality of ingredients and portion size are major factors that are too often ignored. Single servings of ice cream are not the problem, but regular consumption of a large milkshake with a burger and fries will lead to problems.
Furthermore, I suspect that this black-and-white way of thinking (that foods are either bad or good) contributes to our difficulties in making healthy eating choices. If we’re feeling guilty for eating something bad, we might as well give up, right? But if we accept that we ate something less healthy earlier in the day, we can make up for it by eating something more healthy later on in the day. It’s that simple.
Enough ranting: this homemade ice cream is for savoring. Once I got my hands on Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, I had a terrible time decided which flavor to make first. Roasted Strawberry and Buttermilk? Lime Cardamom Frozen Yogurt? The Milkiest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World?! The black coffee ice cream recipe lingered on my mind because I had some incredible Camp 4 Coffee organic French roast left over from my trip to Crested Butte. I decided black coffee ice cream would be my first ice cream recipe of the year.
Thanks to Jeni’s incredible, eggless technique, this ice cream turned out astonishingly creamy and the rich coffee-infused flavor is almost caramel-like. The time and effort I put into this ice cream may have made it taste that much sweeter, but I’m being 100% serious when I say it’s the best coffee ice cream I’ve had in my life.
I served up one scoop at a time in my grandmother Mimi‘s little bowls and used her little ice cream spoons to savor every single bite. My grandmother’s generation started off with the right proportions—smaller bowls and plates, 6 ounce bottles of Coke that were a real treat, and so forth. My grandmother played golf with her lady friends until she was 80 and lived to 90. She had a soft spot for shortbread, chocolate and pecans. Mimi found the balance I strive for, and she lived well.
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons corn starch (or tapioca starch)
- 3 tablespoons (1½ ounces) cream cheese, softened
- ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ¾ cup turbinado (raw) sugar
- 3 tablespoons agave nectar
- ¼ cup dark-roast coffee beans, coarsely ground
- In a small bowl, mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the corn starch to make a smooth slurry.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the cream cheese and salt until very smooth.
- Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
- Combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar and agave nectar in a 4-quart saucepan. Bring the mixture to a slow boil over medium heat and boil for four minutes. Remove from heat, add coffee grounds and let it seep for 5 minutes.
- Strain the milk mixture through a sieve lined with a layer or cheesecloth. (Or do as I did and strain it through a paint straining bag, which I also use to make nut milks. They’re only a couple of dollars at hardware stores.) Squeeze the coffee in the cheesecloth or paint strainer to extract as much liquid as possible, and then discard the grounds.
- Return the cream mixture to the saucepan and gradually whisk in the corn starch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until slightly thickened (about 1 minute). Remove from heat.
- Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold (about 30 minutes).
- Following your manufacturer’s instructions, pour the cold ice cream base into the frozen canister of your ice cream maker. Place your glass storage container in the freezer so it can get cold (that way the ice cream won’t melt on contact). Spin until thick and creamy.
- Pack the ice cream into your cold storage container, press a sheet of parchment paper directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm (at least 4 hours).
Recommended equipment: If you're in the market for an ice cream maker, this one has been very good to me. I also love these heavy-duty glass storage containers.