Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream with Candied Cacao Nibs

Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream_2


These days I see folks walking around with iced coffee drinks even mid-winter. Of course most of them are covered with whipped cream that is anything but fresh and occasionally sport a “caramel flavored” drizzle or poor quality sprinkle of chocolate. Not worth the calories, if you ask me. But what about an iced coffee dessert with attention to detail? Freshly ground coffee beans combined with sweetened condensed milk and cream for an Asian flair, real vanilla bean for an incomparable depth and sophistication of flavor all crowned with Espresso Caramel and Candied Cacao Nibs. This creation is from uber-blogger Tara O’Brady and excerpted from her book, Seven Spoons. Don’t miss her intro; her writing is as inviting as it is descriptive, or her other recipes for Roasted Grapes with Sweet Labneh. You will want to read her whole book. I am enjoying it in bed with me for storytime as well as in the kitchen.


Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream


Reprinted with permission from Seven Spoons: My Favorite Recipes for Any and Every Dayby Tara O’Brady, copyright (c) 2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Photography (c) 2015 by Tara O’Brady.


OBRA_Seven Spoons


Indians make something they call espresso, but it’s unlike any espresso you’d see in Italy; it’s actually closer to a Greek frappé, a bold brew of instant coffee whipped with an enthusiastic amount of sugar, and then combined with hot water and milk.

I’ve been a longtime fan of that coffee, so when I was first introduced to the Vietnamese version, a drink with very much the same uncompromising intensity, I was sold. When I decided to freeze it, well, then I was lost.

This is my full-stop favorite ice cream. A voluptuous mix of evaporated milks and cream gets infused with ground coffee, then chilled, churned, and swirled with caramel. Easy peasy, that’s that, and you’re left with an ice cream worthy of any and all accolades.


Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream
Makes: about 1 quart of ice cream
Espresso Caramel:
  • ½ cup (105 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup, honey, or glucose
  • ¼ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) heavy cream
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon finely ground espresso beans or espresso powder
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Candied Nibs:
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (45 g) cacao nibs
  • ½ teaspoon unsalted butter
Ice Cream:
  • 1 (14-ounce/400 g) can evaporated milk
  • 1 (14-ounce/400 g) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1½ cups (355 ml) heavy cream
  • 2 ounces (60 g) coffee beans, ground (see Note)
  • Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean, or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Generous pinch of fine-grain sea salt
  1. For the Caramel: In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, and salt, stirring until the butter has melted. Pour in the cream and espresso powder. Bring to a boil, whisking until the mixture is smooth and the sugar dissolves. Lower the heat and simmer, undisturbed, for 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally. If you are making this ahead of time, cover and refrigerate until needed, then rewarm gently before using. NOTE: Leftover caramel can be used on pound cake or plain ice cream, or stirred into a milkshake or warm milk. Any and all of these can be made all the more enticing with a share of whiskey. (Makes about ⅔ cup).
  2. For the Cacao Nibs: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a wide, heavy skillet over medium heat, warm the sugar for a minute, without stirring. Scatter the cacao nibs over the sugar and leave the pan undisturbed until the sugar begins to melt. With a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, quickly stir the cacao nibs into the liquid sugar, incorporating any unmelted sugar as you go. Once most of the sugar has coated the nibs, remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in the butter. Immediately spread the cacao nibs onto the prepared baking sheet, pressing them into an even layer with the back of the spoon or spatula. Leave to cool.
  4. Break the cacao nibs into tiny clusters by hand. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month. (makes about ½ cup).
  5. AUTHOR NOTE: Making the caramel and coating the cacao nibs goes fast, taking maybe 5 minutes total; be sure to have everything ready by the stove, and don’t leave the pan unattended at any point.
  6. For the Ice Cream: Combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, cream, coffee, vanilla, and salt in a saucepan set over medium heat. Cook, whisking often, until the mixture begins to steam. Remove from the heat and let steep for 20 minutes.
  7. Using a fine-meshed strainer or a standard strainer lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter, strain the liquid into a bowl. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours, but preferably overnight. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s directions.
  8. Spoon a third of the ice cream into a lidded storage container. Smooth the top, and pour over a few tablespoons of the caramel in long stripes. With the tip of a knife, lightly marble the caramel into the ice cream. Layer in half of the remaining ice cream, splatter with more caramel, then swirl again. Repeat the layers once more, ending with a drizzle of caramel. There will be caramel left over, so cover and refrigerate it for later. Cover the ice cream and freeze for at least 6 hours. Enjoy as is or sprinkle the ice cream with Candied Cacao Nibs just before serving.

AUTHOR NOTE: Grind regular or decaffeinated coffee beans to a medium grind. For a milder, rounded flavor, use 2 tablespoons of instant espresso powder or 3 tablespoons instant coffee powder instead of ground beans.

Chocolate fudge can take the place of the caramel.

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