I made a trip to my favorite local spice shop, North Market Spices, with my sister a few weeks ago because I needed some more vanilla beans, but I always like to browse through their selection to get inspired. They have a ton of proprietary blends, especially infused sugars, that I want to try, but I always decide against it because not everyone who reads my blog lives in wonderful Columbus, Ohio. (Really, it’s your loss.) So I try to stick to stuff that could be purchased at a grocery store or, at the very least, online.
The ancho chiles called to me because Cinco de Mayo is coming up, but I picked up and put down the same bag about six times because I couldn’t decide if I would actually use them. (In case you don’t know, ancho chiles are dried poblano peppers, which are maybe my favorite pepper ever. In my list of Top 10 homemade dinners, a modified version of Serious Eats’ Tacos de Rajas con Crema comes really close to the top.) I finally decided to take the plunge on the ancho chiles when I saw a bag of cacao nibs on another shelf, and my ice cream wheels started churning.
The long-haired, charming fellow who rang me out asked what I was doing with my strange compilation of spices (I also grabbed wasabi powder in a moment of insanity), and I was like, “Pffffft, I have no idea, dude.” He told me that ancho chiles are getting popular in beer brewing, which made me sad because we have lots of great local breweries around here and I’m off the sauce, of course. I told him as soon as I pop this baby out of me, I will definitely check it out.
I spent the rest of the afternoon chiding my sister for not asking out Spice Guy and going on a brewery date and then getting married and making little Spice Babies. If they were all girls, I would call them the Spice Girls. But that’s neither here nor there. (Spice Guy, I will totally give you her number if you ever read this. But only if I get a family discount on spices from now on.)
Anyway, every time I did a search for ancho chile ice cream I got a ton of results for chocolate-based ice cream, and that’s not what my heart wanted from these chiles. I don’t want to hide you behind dark chocolate, baby. I want to let you shine, Ancho. (I like to sweet talk my chiles. It helps their flavor.)
When nothing like what I had in mind came up in the search, I thought two things simultaneously: 1. I am a culinary genius who is breaking new ground in food, and 2. This recipe is destined for failure. Thankfully, the latter isn’t true, but I’ll let others be the judge of whether or not I’m a genius.
My husband, who uses anchos frequently in dinner-making, warned me that the ice cream would probably be pink, which made me indescribably happy. Really, it turned out more of a terracotta color, and I think it’s beautiful. The anchos are mildly spicy, so the ice cream won’t set your tongue aflame, but it does have a little kick. The ancho lends a sweet and smokey flavor to the cream, which is complemented by the bitter, earthy cacao nibs. Because when you’re making ice cream at home, why not go for something you won’t find in the grocery store? Get a little weird with me.
- 1 dried ancho chile, stem and seeds removed
- 2 cups (450 ml) heavy cream
- 1 cup (225 ml) whole milk
- 3/4 cups sugar (150 grams), divided
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 5 large egg yolks
- ½ cup cacao nibs
- Heat a small saute pan over medium heat.* When pan is hot, add ancho chile and toast for 40-60 seconds on each side, until the chile is fragrant. Remove from heat.
- Combine cream, milk, ½ cup (100 grams) sugar in a large saucepan. Cut down the center of the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds into the cream mixture, then throw in the vanilla bean pod. Add the toasted ancho chile. Bring the cream mixture to a simmer, then remove from heat and let steep for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks together to break them. Add the remaining ¼ cup (50 grams) of sugar and whisk until thick and pale yellow, about 4-6 minutes. (Yeah, your arm might hurt. Suck it up. You can take a break.)
- Remove the vanilla bean pod from the cream mixture, leaving the ancho chile. Puree the cream mixture and chile in a blender until smooth, then return to the pot.
- Ladle 1/2 cup of cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking with your other hand, to temper the eggs. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the cream, and place over medium-low heat. Stir until the custard thickens slightly and the temperature reaches about 160°F. Do not bring it to a boil!
- Transfer custard to a bowl, and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight. Pour the custard into the bowl of an ice cream maker* and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions. When the ice cream has reached soft-serve stage, add the cocoa nibs and churn a bit longer. Transfer the ice cream to a covered container and allowed to freeze fully, at least 4 hours.
- *This is the machine I use and love, but I do get commission if you buy it through this link!