This ice cream is inspired by Vietnamese style iced coffee, which is typically very strong coffee served over ice with sweetened condensed milk.
The French influence in Vietnamese cuisine is undeniable, which is how you end up with such delicacies as Banh mi sandwiches with pork paté served on crispy French bread. Coffee was first introduced in Vietnam by the French colonists, who soon started to use sweetened condensed milk to sweeten the bitter brew when they couldn’t easily get ahold of Fresh milk. What grew out of necessity has now become widespread tradition, and what we know as Vietnamese coffee is the result.
While typically made with strong Robusta coffee in Vietnam, here in the states the tradition has developed to use the more readily available chicory coffee, and that’s what I’ve used here. If you wanted to be super authentic, you’ll need to get your hands on some actual Vietnamese coffee as well as Vietnamese-style sweetened condensed milk (Longevity brand is one to look for) which is creamier and less sweet than American style brands. But either will work in this recipe.
I love coffee ice cream, but I’m ultra sensitive to caffeine (so it’s been a long while since I’ve enjoyed a legit Vietnamese coffee – that super strong jolt of caffeine would just about kill me). The great thing about making homemade coffee ice cream is you can use decaf coffee beans! I know, right? What a concept! Now I can enjoy coffee ice cream without losing sleep over it.
The sweetened condensed milk is what makes this ice cream more than just regular coffee ice cream, as well as giving it a beautiful texture, rich and creamy and almost chewy (in a good way). While the coffee isn’t as strong as if you were sipping on a cup of traditional Vietnamese coffee, there’s no denying the flavors are spot on.
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup ground chicory coffee
- pinch salt
- 4 large egg yolks
- Pour heavy cream into a zip-top bag and place in a bowl filled with ice water. This will serve as an ice bath to quickly cool the ice cream base.
- In a saucepan, combine milk, sweetened condensed milk, coffee, and salt. Cook gently over medium heat, stirring regularly, until mixture just starts to steam. Remove from heat; cover and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove grounds.
- Return milk mixture to medium-low heat until it just starts to steam.
- Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks in a bowl. Slowly spoon in some of the warm cream mixture, 1/4 cup or so at a time, whisking vigorously. Continue to spoon in a little warm cream at a time until about half of the cream mixture has been incorporated and yolk mixture is warm to the touch. You want to do this gradually; doing so will temper the egg yolks rather than cook them.
- Pour yolk mixture back into the saucepan and return to medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spatula, about 5 to 7 minutes, or until it reaches approximately 170ºF. Do not let it boil.
- Pour mixture through sieve into bag with cold cream, discarding any solids. Seal the bag (pressing out as much air as possible), and submerge in ice bath. Once it has cooled to room temperature, remove from water and refrigerate until completely cool, at least 2 hours or overnight if possible.
- When ice cream base is thoroughly chilled, churn in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, until the ice cream is the consistency of soft serve. Transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze at least 2 hours or overnight until firm.