Coffee and milk chocolate combine for a custard to pour over plain vanilla ice cream. (Food styling by Joan Moravek.) (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
Photo: Michael Tercha/TNS
Photo: Michael Tercha/TNS

Coffee custard transforms plain ice cream into sundae with a kick

Affogato means drowned, and it’s a distressing thing to witness after dinner. Innocent vanilla ice cream, cowering in a cup, is doused with scalding espresso. Way too “Game of Thrones.”

The Italian dessert is supposed to serve up contrast: hot and cold, sweet and bitter, vanilla and espresso. But the hot shot melts the cold scoop, yielding lukewarm coffee soup. 

I called in rewrite. In this version, the ice cream keeps its cool in a chilled glass. It’s lavished with coffee custard and finished with a swirl of whipped cream. 

Maybe the dish veers toward all-American sundae. But it makes for a very happy ending. 



Prep: 15 minutes 

Cook: 3 minutes 

Makes: 4 sundaes 

1 pint vanilla ice cream 

2 egg yolks 

1 teaspoon water 

2 teaspoons instant espresso powder 

1/2 cup strong coffee or espresso, hot or cold, caf or decaf 

1/3 cup heavy cream 

2 ounces best-quality milk chocolate, chopped 

2 tablespoons sugar 

1/8 teaspoon salt 

2 teaspoons coffee liqueur 

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Whipped cream 

1. Freeze: Scoop 4 ounces ice cream into each of 4 small glasses. Freeze. 

2. Whisk: Drop yolks and water in a bowl and whisk briefly. Keep handy. 

3. Melt: Dissolve espresso powder in coffee. In a medium saucepan, heat coffee, cream, chocolate, sugar and salt over medium heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves and chocolate melts. 

4. Temper: Whisk a little of the coffee mixture into yolks. Whisk yolks back into coffee mixture, and cook over medium heat until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes. Stir in coffee liqueur and vanilla. Strain this custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large glass measuring cup. (Makes about 1 cup coffee custard.) 

5. Serve: Pour 3 to 4 tablespoons hot coffee custard over each serving of ice cream. Top with a spoonful of whipped cream. Enjoy. 

Whipped cream: Using an electric mixer or a whisk, whip 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract to soft peaks.

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