Molecular Gastronomy Hot Ice Cream (+ Hot-Buttered Drinks!)
This post is going to be a tricky Technicolor dreamcoat to weave. I have a lot to say and I somehow have to tie it all up in a hot ice cream bundle and deliver it to your eyes in a sort of cornucopia fashion since it’s Thanksgiving. You are scratching yourself wondering what hot ice cream has to do with Thanksgiving, no doubt. Well considering the fact that it is currently 26°F and snowing in generally temperate Seattle, if I’m going to be eating any ice cream, it’s going to be hot. Hot like your short-shorts-clad bootay on pleather car seats in August in Texas. If that’s not a good enough justification for making hot ice cream in November, I don’t know what is.
First of all- What the HELL is hot ice cream? Well, bitches, I’m going all molecular on your asses again, yes I am. Hot ice cream is a fucking cool concept that the folks over at Ideas in Food came up with, near as I can tell. They make theirs with cream cheese, but I wanted to substitute mascarpone because I wanted the dish to be a take-off of the traditional Italian dessert- affogato. Affogato literally means “drowned” in Italian, and consists of a scoop of gelato that is drenched in hot espresso. I figured affogato would be the perfect way to serve hot ice cream, simply by inverting the two ingredients, aka hot ice cream and cold coffee.
The magic molecular ingredient that makes hot ice cream possible is called methylcellulose. It is a vegetable-derived chemical compound that has the intriguing property of being a thermo-reversible gelling agent. What that means is that unlike the gelling agent you are perhaps most familiar with- gelatin- methylcellulose sets as it gets hot. Gelatin, as you know, sets upon cooling. If you are like me, reading this paragraph had undoubtedly catapulted your brain into a deep mineshaft of endless crystalline possibilities. Stay with me for a moment, while we indulge in mine.
The ice cream was straightforward enough, but I spiced it up by adding butter, because, you know, straight mascarpone couldn’t possibly be creamy enough, right? But the real trick, the real trick indeed, was turning this into an affogato corretto- that means “drowned corrected.” If you didn’t get it from the connotation, Italians believe that to “correct” something means to add booze to it. Let’s call that reason #4269 why I LOVE that heady land. So I corrected the error of my sober ways by tossing in a hefty shot of Ron Anejo Aniversario and lo! Suddenly this classicly warped affogato became not only a reverse dessert, but also a hot-buttered rum! Can somebody get me a mensa application, please?
I’ve been trying to figure out a way to segue gently from hot ice cream toddies to what I really want to say in this post, but there is no subtle transition, unless you’re drunk from said toddy, in which case life in general will be one giant subtle transition (#notaeuphemism). Thanksgiving. It’s a time of year to engorge, play couch calisthenics, and surround yourself with the ones you love. It’s also the time of year when most folks go around the table and share tales of why they are thankful. This year I have been thinking more about this than ever before because I have many reasons to give thanks.
I have so many reasons, in fact, that I cannot help but think of the innumerable souls out there who have less. This year doing my part means gathering warm clothes, blankets, socks, and bringing them to the shelter. It means putting my money where my mouth is as much as possible. It means not forgetting that people fall upon hard times 365 days a year, not just during the soup-kitchen glory days when it’s fashionable to don a ladle and a pious smile.
It also means thanking you for taking this journey with me and giving me support when I feel down. After more than a year having a blog and immersing myself into the milieu of social media, I have realized that in a way I am on constant public display. Random people in coffee shops stop me and ask where to get cheese curd or if they can try some of my salt. Lasting friendships are formed on the strength of watching someone perfect the art of the macaron over several months.
We champion each other to strive for big opportunities and console one another when our dreams are temporarily dashed. What I am trying to say is thank you, community, for showing me that this world is truly my home more than any physical address ever could be. My slice of hyperspace is brimming with great things, and in large part it’s due to you. Thank you for still liking me while I geek out, do insane things, wax on about fruity protuberances, and frequently fail. Happy Thanksgiving, world. Love, Linda
Hot Mascarpone Butter Ice Cream
Takes 15 minutes active time plus overnight to set, makes 10 affogatos
- 200 grams mascarpone cheese, softened
- 50 grams quality butter, softened
- 100 grams sugar
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Seeds from ½ vanilla bean ( I like the Tahitians from Marx Foods)
- 120 grams water
- 20 grams methylcellulose (note: I use methylcel from Willpowder.net. Different methylcel’s have slightly different properties, and you may find with other brands you have to use more or less in order to achieve the right level of gelling.)
- 1. Using an immersion blender, mix the mascarpone, butter, sugar and salt until just blended. (do not aerate too much or mixture will separate)
- 2. Place the vanilla bean and water in a small saucepan and bring to simmer.
- 3. Whisk in the methylcellulose until incorporated.
- 4. Drizzle the methylcellulose water into the cream mixture and blend until just combined.
- 5. Place in the refrigerator in a sealed container overnight.
- 6. The next morning, bring a saucepan of water to a low simmer. Using an ice cream scoop or a small ladle, gently nestle scoops of the cream mixture into the water. For the first minute, keep the cream in the ladle, since this is when the shape is setting. After a minute, gently dislodge the scoops and allow them to continue to set in the gently boiling water for an additional 2 minutes.
- 7. Serve scoops in a cup with iced espresso and rum poured over.