Monday 6 June 2011

An Evening of Coffee & Ice Cream

I have spoken recently of my longing for an automatic ice cream maker and it seems as though the ice cream gods have been listening as last week I was invited to attend an evening of coffee and ice cream run by Gaggia – an Italian company who make great coffee machines and also…a professional automatic ice cream maker!

Feeling very excited I turned up at a secret location in London (La Cucina Caldesi Cookery School) where I met up with two other bloggers – Dom from Chocoblog and Kevay from Kevay Eats, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting before.

We were introduced to a top barrister, Paul, who took us through the finer points of coffee growing, the importance of grinding and how to make the perfect cup of coffee. This was really interesting and I picked up lots of hints and tips. What Paul doesn’t know about coffee isn’t worth knowing!

Did you know that despite popular belief that keeping coffee in the fridge will keep it better this is actually not true – not in terms of brewing the perfect coffee anyway. It’s the oils in the coffee that contain the flavour and so keeping them in a cold place will make them harden and not release their flavour so effectively when used – imagine what would happen if you tried to keep your olive oil in the fridge. Also, taking the coffee in and out of the fridge every time you use it will keep altering the humidity and temperature within the bag, creating moisture, which will probably actually speed up the rate of deterioration. It’s best to just squeeze the air out of your bag of coffee and keep it in a cool dark cupboard instead.

Paul also explained how when using freshly ground coffee its important to only use the first shot, around 30ml to get the best purest flavour. An espresso shot amount. If you want a larger or weaker cup of coffee than an espresso, don’t simply leave the water running through the machine for longer, as this draws the bitterness out of the coffee resulting in a poor tasting coffee. Instead, just dilute your espresso shot with clean hot water or milk. To prove this to us he made an espresso shot of coffee, which produced a rich darkly coloured liquid with a thick crème head that smelt rich, slightly sweet and smoky. He then took another shotfull, which turned out much weaker in colour, with no crème head and smelt strongly like stale ashtrays – not pleasant. If you had used a large cup and left the water running you would ruin your first run of fabulous coffee by adding the stale ashtray into it. Try making a cup yourself both ways and you’ll see what I mean (sorry the photos a bit blurry).
We then got to experiment with the machines ourselves making espresso’s and cappuccinos.

Buzzing with caffeine we then moved onto ice cream. This was run by Jo Pratt who is a food stylist, writer and presenter. She was lovely and very easy to talk to. She showed us how to make two different batches of ice cream using the new automatic Gaggia Gelateria which doesn’t need any pre-freezing. One was a divine salted caramel ice cream and the other a delicious fresh strawberry and marshmallow ice cream.

The salted caramel one was divine – unbelievably smooth and so creamy. Just like the gelato I remember eating in Italy a few years ago. I’m not normally a caramel fan, as it often tastes just of sugar, but this one had such a depth of caramel flavour, sweet yet with a salty note. Jo also showed us how to make some cinnamon roasted pecans to accompany the ice cream. These were divine and I couldn’t stop munching them, were fabulous with the ice cream.

The strawberry ice cream was made with fresh pureed strawberries. This resulted in a pale, yet naturally pink tinted ice cream and the flavour…WOW! It was so fresh and summery and obviously strawberry flavoured. Goodness knows what shops put into their strawberry ice cream, but they never taste like this.

Then oh joy of joys, we were presented with an ice cream machine and a table of ingredients from which to create our own ice cream flavour – eeeeeeee!

I created a cinnamon (obviously) ice cream with fresh blueberries and crumbled pecan nuts. It was so much fun watching it churn in the ice cream machine and as I hadn’t added any additional liquid ingredients to the ice cream base, my ice cream was ready in about 20 minutes! You can’t beat that for speed. It ended up wonderfully thick and creamy. The cinnamon flavour was really pronounced, but I think next time I would cook the blueberries a bit of sugar as they stayed restively whole and went a bit hard. My ice cream was also lacking a bit of sweetness, I’ve learnt you have to over sweetened the mix as the sweetness flavour lessens after it’s frozen. I’ll know for next time.

Kevay created a delicious, yet incredibly alcoholic ice cream using chocolate liqueur, kahula coffee liqueur, chocolate chunks & toasted pecans. Whoa! This tasted almost of pure alcohol, but would be fantastic served in shot glasses with a dessert at a dinner party. Not one for children or the afternoons though.

Dom made a caramel ice cream with chocolate chunks, pecans and Grand Marnier liqueur. I really liked the combination of the chocolate and orange liqueur.

Everyone gabbed spoons and went round tasting all the different ice creams. Ooff I ate so much! I couldn’t decide which was my favourite and kept having ‘just one more spoonful’ of each just to check. I think in the end Jo’s strawberry ice cream (minus the marshmallows) was my favourite. It was so fresh and fruity.

The evening ended with Paul making some coffee cocktails and some amazing coffee art on the tops of some frothy coffees. Much more impressive than the usual cocoa dusting.

It was a fabulous evening and I went home buzzing thanks to a concoction of coffee, alcohol and copious amounts of ice cream. I was so overly stimulated, and different ice cream flavours kept floating into my head, that I didn’t sleep a wink that night but it was so worth it! I am longing to have my own ice cream maker even more now. The extra exciting news, that had me jumping up and down in delight, is that Gaggia are going to loan me the Gelateria for a couple of weeks to see if I can create some new ice cream flavours!!! How cool is that?!

Below are the recipes for Jo’s caramel and strawberry ice creams, with (hopefully) some of my own to follow shortly.

Strawberry Mallow Ice Cream
150ml milk
2 large egg yolks
½ tsp vanilla extract
125g caster sugar
150ml double cream
250g fresh ripe strawberries
75g mini marshmallows, or larger ones, chopped

Pour the milk into a saucepan gently bring to the boil.
Beat together the egg yolks, vanilla extract and roughly half of the sugar until they are pale and creamy. Stir in the hot milk, return the liquid to the saucepan and stir continuously over a low heat until it thickens and just starts to coat the back of your spoon (it should be the consistency of double cream). Make sure you don’t boil the custard because it may separate and curdle. If you feel it is getting too hot, remove from the heat and just continue stirring until it thickens.
Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the cream and leave to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, place the strawberries and remaining half of caster sugar in a food processor or liquidiser and blend until smooth. Push through a sieve to remove any seeds. Stir into the cooled custard along with the marshmallows.
Place in the ice-cream machine and churn for 30 minutes, until thick and frozen.
Note: If you don’t have time to make your own custard, then simply use 250ml of bought ready-made custard and stir in 200ml double cream before adding the pureed strawberries and marshmallows.

Caramel Ice Cream with Cinnamon Pecans
The pecans are a delicious serving suggestion, but are equally good eaten on their own.
Caramel Ice Cream
150g caster sugar
200ml milk
4 large egg yolks
200ml double cream
large pinch of salt

200g pecans
½ egg white
½ tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
75g caster sugar

To make the ice-cream, place half of the sugar in a saucepan over a low heat, and gently heat until the sugar dissolves and turns to a deep golden colour. To ensure even colouring, swirl the pan a couple of times throughout. Once the sugar has caramelised, leave to cool for about 5 minutes before adding the milk. Return the pan to the heat and bring to the boil, stirring until the caramel dissolves into the milk.
Meanwhile, beat together the egg yolks, salt and remaining half of sugar until pale in colour. Stir in the caramel milk, then add the cream. Leave to cool completely before pouring into the ice-cream machine and churning for 30 minutes, until thick and frozen.

To make the pecans, pre-heat the oven to 200C/180C fan ovens/gas 6.
Lightly whisk the egg white until it is frothy. Add the pecans, cinnamon, salt and sugar. Mix until the nuts are evenly coated before transferring to a baking tray lined with baking paper. Spread into a single layer, and bake for 8-10 minutes until they are crunchy. Cool for a few minutes before breaking any that have stuck together.
The pecans are now ready to scatter over the top of the finished ice-cream.


Butter Hearts Sugar said...

Wow what an exciting experience, you are super lucky. All that coffee, all that ice cream, it sounds like it was a lot of fun. I'm dying to try making my own ice cream, the caramel ice cream with cinnamon pecans sounds like a winner to me.

Jessica said...

Thank you for this, I have learnt something and now I can et my husband to stop cluttering up my fridge with all his coffee!!

Monica H said...

Ah so much fun! I don'r know which I want more- the coffee or the ice cream.

Anonymous said...

that was a very enriching experience for you! and look at those gorgeously creamy concoctions!!

Johanna GGG said...

sounds like a great experience - love that coffee art and found the tips quite interesting even though I don't drink coffee - will be excited to see your ice cream creations

Please Do Not Feed The Animals. said...

Mmmm sounds like a very tasty evening!
I'd love an automatic ice cream maker too - just for the kid in me, really, but just don't have the pennies for such a frivolous item.
Wonderful that you are getting to borrow that one for a while - have fun!

Anonymous said...

What a fabulous experience - so glad I found you through Marie's wonderful The English Kitchen. The caramel ice cream in particular sounds amazing

Beth said...

This ice cream looks terrific. What a fun evening for you!

Chele said...

What a great night! I can;t think of much better things I'd like to do through the week!

Suzanne said...

Yum, the ice cream looks wonderful -- wish I could reach into the computer screen and grab some!

Unknown said...

Wow what a fun experience. SO much fun. I love my coffee, so I'm sure I'd love this ice cream too!

Aveen said...

You lucky lucky thing! Sounds like such a fun experience. I'd love a posh ice cream maker but I do have a little Kenwood one where you freeze the bowl - obviously it's not as convenient but it does work very well and it makes some gorgeous ice cream. You'll never want to go back to the shop bought stuff!

coffee percolator said...

mmm...I am a coffee and ice cream fanatic. Every photo on here has gotten my tastebuds craving a little of each. Loved reading this!

Helen @ Fuss Free Flavours said...

I am so annoyed that I missed this evening. But they are lending me a machine!

And that espresso art - how fab is that?