Ok, so I am sure you are looking at your screen thinking “Tequila Ice cream? Really?”. I know I certainly had some doubts when I saw this recipe on Serious Eats. However, my culinary curiosity got the best of me and I decided to give it a try. Final results: Un. Real. (that is unreal with a dramatic pause in between) This Smoked Chocolate and Tequila Ice Cream pairs an intriguing lineup of spices with bittersweet chocolate, tequila and two different caramels. While I can’t say this is an easy recipe, I would highly recommend giving it a go. With each rich and creamy bite, the flavors seem to dance across your palate creating a completely unique ice cream experience. Continue reading for the recipe.
Smoked Chocolate and Tequila Ice Cream
Adapted from Serious Eats.
3 cups half and half
1 cinnamon stick
5 black cardamom pods, crushed*
2 small pieces of star anise
1 tablespoon whole coffee beans
1 cup turbinado sugar
6 tablespoons good quality tequila
¼ cup water
¼ cup raw honey
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
6 egg yolks
Place half and half, cinnamon, black cardamom, star anise and whole coffee beans into a large saucepan. Bring mixture to just below a simmer over medium heat (the liquid should just begin to bubble). Remove the saucepan from the heat and let steep, uncovered for 45 minutes.
Return the pan to the heat and cook until the liquid is just below a simmer.
In another saucepan, mix the turbinado sugar, 2 tablespoons of tequila and water and cook over a medium heat. The mixture will eventually come to a bubble and then start turning a light caramel color (no need to stir). This caramelization process takes about 8 minutes. Slowly pour the warm caramel** into the saucepan with the half and half and spices, stirring to combine.
Add the raw honey into the saucepan used to caramelize the sugar, and cook over a low heat. Caramelize the honey using the method outlined above. This should take about 5 minutes. Slowly pour the honey caramel into the pot with the half and half mixture, stirring to combine.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks until the color lightens and the consistency thickens a bit. Slowly, while whisking, add ½ cup of the hot half and half mixture to the yolks. Take your time here so you don’t scramble the yolks. Once the ½ cup of hot milk is whisked in, add the remaining half and half mixture (this process is known as tempering).
Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. Place bittersweet chocolate chips in a medium bowl and have a fine mesh basket strainer ready.
Return the custard mixture (half and half and egg yolks) to the same saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. You will know the custard is thick enough when you see steam rise from the surface and the custard coats the spoon.
Pour the hot custard mixture through a strainer into the bowl with the bittersweet chocolate chips. Discard the spices. Stir the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated into the custard. Place the bowl in the ice bath and stir in the remaining 4 tablespoons of tequila. Continue stirring frequently until the mixture has cooled. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator. Its best to let the ice cream base chill overnight; however, you can take it out after 4 hours if you are strapped for time.
Freeze custard in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.***
Makes 1 quart.
*Black cardamom gives this dish its smokiness. The flavor does not compare to green or white cardamom pods, so I can’t suggest them as substitutes. I managed to find a small box of black cardamom pods at Whole Foods. You can also purchase them online. I highly recommend taking the time to seek this spice out – it is wonderful!
**Please use extreme caution when working with hot caramel. It is considered culinary napalm!
***Since this ice cream has a good amount of tequila in it, it might not freeze to a completely solid state. My version was fairly soft and melted quickly. This certainly doesn’t affect the taste, but I did have difficulties photographing a good scoop! If you like a harder ice cream, try adding less tequila or more bittersweet chocolate chips.