Homemade coffee ice cream gets a twist from crumbles of sesame halva and drizzles of bittersweet chocolate stracciatella.
Before we get down to ice cream business, a bit of news about my cookbook(!). First, it has a new cover! And second, we decided to move the release date from April to September in order to put out the best book we could. Alternative Baker: Reinventing Dessert with Gluten-Free Grains and Flours will now come with layflat binding (which is a godsend when you’re trying to work from it in the kitchen, whether or not you have a nifty cookbook holder), as well as better photos, better edits, and the aforementioned shiny new cover. I couldn’t be happier with this decision, and I hope that those of you who have preordered (THANK YOU!) won’t mind the wait. Come September, you’ll be able to hold over 100 brand-new recipes in your hands.
Let’s celebrate with ice cream!
Sesame desserts have been around for ages, but lately there’s been a resurgence of sweet treats made with tahini, halva, and black sesame. The black sesame I can get behind big time, but I’ve had a kind of love/hate relationship with tahini and halva – they both have an intense richness and robust flavor underscored with bitter notes that I used to find hard to take in large doses. My mom used to buy bars of halva swirled with chocolate and I always thought the sesame got in the way of pure, unadulterated sweet goodness.
Cut to last week. Sarah and I were slated to style Melissa Clark’s Flourless Chocolate Cake With Halvah Honey Sauce for the New York Times. No problem, I thought, and picked up ingredients from our local co-op. At least, I picked up everything but the halva. I stood in the sweets aisle for about 20 minutes before finally asking a worker where I could find the bars of sesame sweetness.
“We don’t carry any,” she replied, and went on to explain that the healthy brand had gone out of business and all the others were made with artificial vanilla. (This is why I love our co-op.) Back at home, I spent the better part of an hour on the phone with different grocers explaining what halva is and how to spell it, only to be told I was SOL. Finally Jay suggested checking our tiny neighborhood market whose owner hails from the Middle East.
“Of course we have halva – two different kinds!” he said to my relief, and handed me a 1-pound brick of the stuff.
The cake was delicious – a classic flourless beauty topped with a sauce of cream, tahini, honey, and chopped halva. I wanted to lick the sauce off the spoon forever and ever. I would have happily bathed in it. And it went beautifully with the cake, the toasty sesame playing off rich chocolate the same way that peanut butter does. I was hooked.
Luckily for me and my newfound sesame obsession, I had the better part of a brick of halva left over, and the rich flavor inspired me to pair it with coffee. Thus this ice cream was born.
Loads of crushed coffee beans flavor a classic ice cream base, leaving little flecks and adding loads of flavor. Crumbled halva and drizzled bittersweet chocolate get layered into the churned ice cream. As you’re eating a scoop, you get rich creamy coffee, then toasty-sweet bits of halva, and finally chunks of dark chocolate melting in your mouth and forcing the next bite. The cream and milk round out any rough edges of bitter coffee, chocolate, and halvah, and these strong flavors keep the ice cream from tasting overly sweet or rich. I have a weakness for chunky ice cream, and Jay has a thing for coffee ice cream, meaning that we’ve already worked our way through three batches of the stuff. Not sorry.
Luckily, I now know where to go for my halva fix. I’ve got another sweet sesame recipe in the works, and I’m eyeing this beautiful tahini stracciatella number, too.
Thanks for reading! If you make this recipe, show me! Take a photo and tag @The_Bojon_Gourmet and #BojonGourmet on Instagram.
- ¾ cup (75 g) coffee beans (medium or dark roast)
- 1 ½ cups (355 ml) heavy cream
- 1 ½ cups (355 ml) whole milk
- ½ cup (100 g) organic granulated cane sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 large egg yolks
- 3 ounces (85 g) chopped bittersweet chocolate (1/2 cup), melted and cooled slightly
- ¾ cup (90 g) roughly chopped or crumbled sesame halva
- Pulse the coffee beans gently in a coffee grinder to break them up a bit. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a bare simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat, add the crushed coffee beans, cover, and let steep while you make the custard, about 10 minutes.
- Prepare an ice water bath. Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl that will fit in the ice water bath.
- Place the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan with a heavy base and bring to a bare simmer. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and place the bowl on a damp kitchen towel. When the milk mixture is hot, gradually pour half of it into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling. Pour this mixture back into the milk in the pot and place over a low flame. Cook, stirring constantly with a flexible heat-proof spatula, until the custard begins to “stick” (form a film on) the bottom of the pot (you will have to tilt the pot to see this) and/or reaches 170ºF on an instant-read thermometer, 3-5 minutes.
- Pour the coffee mixture through the strainer, then pour the cooked custard mixture over the coffee beans in the strainer, and press on them to extract all the good stuff. Discard the beans. Place the bowl in the ice water bath and stir occasionally until chilled. Cover the custard and chill until very cold, preferably 4-24 hours.
- When ready to churn, place a loaf pan in the freezer. Have the chocolate and halva ready. Churn the ice cream according to the manufacturer’s instructions and when it’s ready, drizzle one-fourth of the chocolate mixture all over the bottom and sides of the frozen loaf pan. Spread with one-third of the ice cream. Drizzle with another quarter of the melted chocolate and crumble over one-third of the halva. Repeat until you’ve used up all of the ingredients, ending with a layer of halva. Work quickly so the ice cream doesn’t melt too much.
- Freeze the mixture until firm, 2-3 hours, then scoop and serve. To store the ice cream, scrape it into a jar or other airtight container and press a piece of parchment paper to the top of the ice cream to prevent crystallization. It will keep for up to 2 months.