My dad is serious about his coffee. And I mean SERIOUS. From the time I was little, I remember him constantly seeking out substantial dark roasts long before gourmet coffee was widely available. While my friends’ parents usually had Folger’s or Maxwell House percolating in their countertop coffee makers, my dad would grind his beans fresh and make a heady brew in a French press pot. I used to sneak sips of his coffee when he wasn’t looking, trying to figure out why he was so crazy about it. My 8-year-old palate couldn’t understand how something with such an intoxicating aroma tasted like hell, but eventually I learned to love coffee—maybe not as much as my dad, but appreciatively well enough.
Dad also had a cappuccino machine when I was a kid, something I also never encountered in any of my friends’ houses. Long before the proliferation of Starbucks on every street corner, my dad’s college students used to show up at our home late at night, desperate for espresso. They always came bearing gifts of Haagen-Dazs, knowing that they could easily bribe their way in with pints of rich ice cream. On those nights when I was awakened by the doorbell, the sound that invariably followed was the buzzing of the coffee grinder. Even though I usually didn’t join these impromptu parties as I was supposed to be asleep, it always made me happy to hear Dad cranking up the espresso machine for his students. I found it comforting to hear the milk frother screeching and steaming away amidst the animated voices that came bubbling from the kitchen, as though all was right with the world.
Affogato is the Italian word for “drowned”, which is what you do to the ice cream by flooding it with a shot of espresso. I think this dessert is appropriate in any season, and I’ve been known to happily enjoy one of these in winter or summer alike. I suppose it’s gilding the lily a bit to top this simple creation with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and a few chocolate covered espresso beans, but it is my dad’s birthday after all...
This is such a simple thing to prepare, I feel slightly foolish writing down a formal recipe for it. Use your favorite premium vanilla ice cream or gelato to combine with the espresso, though you could also substitute chocolate ice cream for a mocha version. A few weeks ago, the affogato that got me on this big kick was made with grappa-raisin gelato. I sometimes recreate this Italian version of rum raisin ice cream by plumping some raisins in grappa brandy before stirring it into the vanilla gelato.
½ cup heavy cream
1 pint vanilla ice cream or gelato
4 shots hot espresso (or see Note below)
chocolate-covered espresso beans, for garnish (optional)
Whip the heavy cream in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Scoop the vanilla ice cream into each of four glasses or small dessert bowls. Prepare 4 shots of espresso and pour one over each dish of ice cream. Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream, garnish with the optional espresso beans, and serve immediately. Serves 4.
Note: If you don’t have an espresso machine at home, you can approximate it by mixing ½ cup boiling water with 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder in a glass measuring cup. When the espresso powder has dissolved, proceed with the recipe, dividing it equally among the four dishes.
Happy birthday to the man who introduced me to the notion that quality is well worth seeking out, especially when it comes to ice cream and coffee!