I have a thing for Mexican chocolate. That gritty textured chocolate with a hint of almond and a punch of cinnamon and spice, how can you not? I’ve done cupcakes (which, after all these years are still one of my favorites), and a rich ganache tart… it’s about time it made its way into ice cream.
I finally found actual Mexican chocolate at an international market (or, actually made the effort to look for it). What makes this chocolate different from your typical baking chocolate is the texture. It’s rough. Gritty. You can feel the grains of sugar in your mouth. It has a hint of cinnamon and almond, and sometimes even a bit of spice. It’s these extra flavors and the raw texture that make it so unique.
Yes, you can always “fake it” by using regular chocolate and adding spices, but if you have an international market, or even a regular market with a robust international aisle, definitely make the extra effort to find the real stuff. It’s meant to be melted down into a hot chocolate-like drink (must try this once things cool down a bit more), but I can imagine there are a myriad of other ways to use it.
3 cups half and half, divided
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
5 ounces Mexican chocolate such as Ibarra or Abuelita, or good-quality semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces (about 1 heaping cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 cup sugar
5 large egg yolks
1 cup sliced almonds
In a medium saucepan, combine half of the half and half with the cocoa powder and simmer over medium-low heat for about a minute, stirring with a whisk until all the cocoa lumps are broken up. Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate, stirring until pieces are melted. Stir in vanilla or almond extract, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Set aside.
Whisk together the sugar, egg yolks and salt until pale yellow.
In another medium saucepan, bring the remaining half and half to a simmer over medium-low heat.
Once milk mixture is hot, remove from heat and slowly pour into egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour milk and egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until it registers 170°F on thermometer and a finger drawn across the back of the custard-covered wooden spoon leaves a mark.
Remove from heat and pour through a fine-meshed sieve into a large heat-proof bowl. Pour in chocolate mixture, scraping with a spatula to get ever last bit. Whisk until custard is smooth. Stir in sliced almonds. Set bowl over ice water bath to chill for 15 minutes.
Once ice cream base is cold, cover and place in the refrigerator to chill completely, at least 3 hours or overnight. Once chilled, freeze in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.