Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

Desserts, Ice Cream, Summer / Thursday, July 28th, 2011

If you’ve ever wished in vain for a cup of coffee that tastes as good as it smells, this is the ice cream for you.

What makes it Vietnamese? Sweetened condensed milk.

Yep, the same stuff your granny keeps in the pantry to make snow cream, danger pudding and her copycat recipe for O’Charley’s caramel pie.

Sweetened condensed milk has been used as a coffee creamer in Vietnam since the mid-1800s, when French colonists started growing coffee there and discovered the alarming lack of “au lait” for their café. At that time, milk couldn’t be stored for long, much less transported very far from the cow, so the colonists went with the next best thing: Gail Borden Jr.’s recently invented cans of sweetened condensed milk, which didn’t require refrigeration.

And the substitution was good. So good that it became part of Vietnamese culture.

For Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream, you start with coffee strong enough to make you feel like you could punch a hole in the sky, and whisk in some sweetened condensed milk, half-and-half and a pinch of finely ground coffee. Then chill the mixture, and freeze it in your ice cream maker.

At first, you only taste the rich sweetness of the dairy, but as the ice cream warms in your mouth, you get a rush of intense coffee flavor, free of the usual bitterness.

And then you take another bite.

Just don’t take too many, or you might find yourself wide awake at 2:30 a.m., writing about ice cream and watching infomercials for the Ninja Kitchen System 1100.

Totally worth it.

Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”

Makes about 1 quart

  • 1 1/2 cups (600 grams) sweetened condensed milk (almost 2 cans)
  • 1 1/2 cups (600 grams) brewed espresso or very strongly brewed coffee (use twice as many grounds as usual)
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) half-and-half
  • Big pinch of finely ground dark roast coffee
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients.
  2. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
  3. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker, and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions.

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