Roasted Almond Affogato
With the unearthly timings the World Cup matches are broadcasting locally, a single cup of coffee is just not enough to last us through the night. Or should I say early morning. In any case, we are surviving on an average of two to three hours of sleep these days. And no matter how many cups of coffee you down, the caffeine seems to stop its magical effects after awhile. (I tried drinking a total of 8 shots once. Please do not try it unless you wish to have an accelerating heart rate.)
Sometimes, we do get a little hungry in the middle of the night. Swearing at the television and watching 22 men kick a ball can take up a lot of energy. Especially if your team is not playing up to expectations, hunger plus anger, on top of fatigue, makes a rabid fangirl. To combat potential crazy breakdowns, we figured a simple dessert would calm even the most frantic. (No, really, I actually lost sleep because Germany drew an equaliser with Ghana. A sleep-deprived person who can’t fall asleep. The world could have combusted.) A word of caution though: the sugar and caffeine rush might work differently on different people. And this is not for those worried about their waistlines.
Let’s turn back the clock a little. One of our very first meals in London was at Polpo and to beat the jet lag, we decided to have an affogato after our very satisfying meal. A dessert in a cup of coffee, nothing beats the simple combination of pure vanilla ice cream melting in your cup of rich espresso. I don’t know if it was the excitement of being on a holiday or that we were hungry and cold, but it was one of the most luscious cups of heaven we have had. Ever since then, we knew we had to recreate it when we go back home.
Back to the present, we came across the cookbook ‘One’ by Florence Knight, who is the head chef of Polpo. And to our delight, within it lies a recipe of an affogato. Traditionally made with vanilla ice cream and a cup of espresso, this version is a much richer concoction with its inclusion of roasted almonds. And boy, when we both tasted the dessert, it was like we were transported back to London and into the cosy corner of the bar at Polpo.
The combination of the caramelised almond ice cream lifted the bitterness of the coffee. We used a deeper roast of beans as we favoured the contrast of bittersweet. You can add pralines to the dessert for an extra indulgence but for convenience’s sake (half time is only 20 minutes), we are satisfied with just almond ice cream and coffee. In fact, almost too satisfied because we just downed two cups each. Well, stomachs come first, guilt can come later.
Roasted Almond Affogato
By Florence Knight (One: A cook and her cupboard)
Serves 6 to 8
For the praline
250g confectioners’ sugar
For the ice cream
125ml whole milk
750ml double cream
10 medium egg yolks
175g brown sugar
6 shots of espresso, to serve
Preheat the oven to 180C. Lightly oil a baking tray.
Once the oven is hot, spread the almonds on a dry baking tray and toast them in the oven for a few minutes until light brown. Pour them into the oiled baking tray and set aside to cool.
Tip the confectioners’ sugar into a heavy-bottomed pan on a high heat and gently pat with a spatula to dissolve. The sugar will melt around the edges first; swirl the pan around until the melted sugar is a deep terracotta colour all over. Remove from the heat and dollop in the butter. Shake the pan and swirl the mixture again until the butter has completely melted. Pour the caramel over the almonds on the oiled tray and leave to cool.
When it’s cool enough to handle, tip the praline out of the tray onto a chopping board and roughly chop it. Divide the praline in half; put one half in a large bowl to use to flavour the ice-cream, and the other half in an airtight container to sprinkle over when serving.
In another heavy-bottomed saucepan, warm the milk and cream over a medium heat to just below boiling point.
In a large bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar until they’re light, frothy and thick enough to hold a ribbon on the surface of the mixture. Pour the hot milk and cream in a trail over the yolks, stirring non-stop. Return the mixture to the saucepan at low heat, stirring constantly to stop the mixture from turning into scrambled eggs. When mixture reaches 85C or is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, remove from heat. Strain it through a fine sieve over the praline and stir to combine. Press clingfilm over the surface of the custard so that it doesn’t form a skin and chill overnight in the fridge.
The next day, strain the mixture again, pounding it was a ladle to squeeze as much of the nutty flavour out of the praline pieces as possible, discarding the gloopy praline left in sieve. Pour the strained custard into an ice-cream machine and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions. Store in the freezer with clingfilm on the surface, then covered with a lid.
Serve each scoop of ice-cream in a small glass with a shot of hot espresso poured over it and some praline pieces sprinkled on the top.