We All Scream for Ice Cream (experimentation edition).
A week or two ago I mentioned on Twitter a chocolate bar I had liked, made by Theo Chocolate under their Phinney 3400 label. It combines milk chocolate, coconut milk, and curry powder, three ingredients (well, the latter two are spectacular together, as any fan of Southeast Asian food will know) that you wouldn't expect to see together. It is warm and spicy and not too sweet, and instantly addictive. Another person Tweeted back at me, demanding a recipe. It's a chocolate bar, I answered, but...ooh! It could work as an ice cream. I agreed to try something, then forget about it. There were other ice creams I wanted to try first, and this would involve making up something as I went along, which often ends badly.
Then T. invited me to a barbecue. T. is a Food Person. The barbecue would involve lots of Food People, none of whom I had met before, and I worried for an entire day about what the hell I could possibly bring. Ice cream would be easy, I thought, but I wondered aloud (that is, on Twitter) about whether I should really experiment on people I never met before. However, the response (on Twitter) was loud and immediate. (BRING. IT. ON). This meant spending a full five minutes in the Asian food section of my supermarket shaking cans of coconut milk and trying to find the least sloshy one, wondering if my curry powder was still edible or if I should buy a new jar, and frantically flipping through the amazing David Lebovitz's seminal ice cream bible, The Perfect Scoop, looking for recipes that I could cannibalize into what I wanted.*
I toasted coconut and steeped it in hot cream, straining it all through a mesh sieve. The result was fragrant, but I thought it would be overwhelmed by the chocolate, and substituted the rest of the cream with the coconut milk. This mixture was heated with cocoa powder until just hot enough to melt a pile of chopped bittersweet chocolate (next time will go with all 56% instead of mix of 56% and 71%, which is all I had on hand), then set aside while I made the custard. I threw in a few peppercorns, some hot red pepper flakes; thinking of R., I toss in a bay leaf. I add curry powder to the chocolate-coconut mixture, and taste. When the custard is done I stir it into the chocolate-coconut-curry, which mellows the flavors, rounds it out into something smooth and warm with just a bit of spice to it. It tastes like the chocolate bar I remember.
In the morning I taste it again, when it has frozen properly, and the flavors have really come together. I feel relieved, but I worry there won't be enough, because I kept...tasting...and the end volume of ice cream was somewhat less than I expected. So I make another ice cream, a sherbet really, from David Lebovitz's website, a chocolate sherbet. Only I will do something different - infuse the hot milk-and-chocolate mixture with lime zest, and use vodka instead of Kahlua so as not to confuse the flavors. It turns into a dark, intense (71% chocolate) vat of chocolate with just a hint of cool lime, something unexpected. It is exactly what I hoped for.
*Ultimately, what worked was David Lebovitz's Chocolate Ice Cream, with thick coconut milk (look for something that does *not* include water in its list of ingredients) replacing most of the heavy cream, then adding curry powder to taste. Next time I will skip the steeping toasted coconut flakes in cream, and just use coconut milk instead of cream, and see if that is just as good. Simpler is usually better.