Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Week Eighteen - Chocolate Almond Brittle

I shall begin this long-overdue post with a giant hug and an apology: I'M SORRY I AM THE WORST AT BLOGGING! I've had quite the busy May, beginning with a back injury, then a trip to Florida and a trip to our nation's capital, then a thirtieth birthday (eek!) and a few friends' birthdays sprinkled in between all that fun. So I haven't forgotten about you, my loyal readers. I've merely been selfishly concentrating on me. And for that, I am truly sorry. I promise to make it up to you by writing multiple spellbinding posts this week! And we'll start with this one, Chocolate Almond Brittle...

This flavor was intended for the first week of May, during which my big brother had a birthday. In deciding on a flavor fit for this Canadian King (This shall henceforth be your nickname, brother. At least, for the length of this post.), I wracked my brain for something that reminded me of him: Pizza Goldfish-flavored ice cream? I'd probably eat that but I fear I'd be alone. Perhaps something inspired by the Chunky candy bar, which he would oddly accept in a monumental candy swap at Halloween for four delicious Fun Size Snickers bars? I didn't like Chunky bars then and I'm sure not changing my tune now. But wait! What was that silly salad he tried to pawn off on the family at Christmas a few years back? It was his infamous "Chocolate and Almond Salad", a salad that sounds most delicious but is quite deceiving in its title. Allow me to further explain...

I take you now to Christmas Eve, circa 2005ish, at my parents' house in New Jersey. For a few years now, my family has been eating Christmas Even dinner at the Chinese buffet. Gross and classy, I know. But it was my grandfather's only Christmas wish and we were happy (through gritted teeth) to grant the man this much. This year, however, we were taking a stand. You see, my grandfather has passed away at this point and it had come out in the past day or so that none of us actually enjoyed eating at the Chinese buffet. Why then, we wondered, would we keep the tradition alive? We would not! We quickly scrapped the Chinese buffet plan and began working on a new one, one that involved all of us cooking a different course of the meal and then voting on the best - because we're glory hogs like that. At this point, it was 4pm on Christmas Eve and we all piled into the car to head to the grocery store to procure the necessary ingredients. Alas, friends, grocery stores don't stay open this late on Christmas Eve. Up the river we went, utterly paddle-less.

It was at this point that my darling mother remembered a beloved tradition from her childhood, whereby my Nana would decide she didn't feel like cooking for her family of eight and she would loudly declare "EXPERIMENTAL DINNER!" This declaration would bring her six children barrelling into the kitchen on a mission to create the most delectable dishes the could using only what they could find in the cabinets. As she finished the explanation, my siblings and I let out an astounding "Yes!" in unison. "This is a challenge we are willing to accept!" (Note: We didn't actually say that but I'm building the story so bear with me.) So off to the kitchen we scurried, tearing open cabinets, drawers, and refrigerator doors. The youngest of us took off to prepare his favorite, Chicken Francaise. I zeroed in on a box of graham cracker crumbs and a package of instant chocolate pudding...to the wine glasses for a tasty parfait dessert! My sister began to pile up the veggies and in steps the Canadian King with the suggestion of his "Chocolate and Almond Salad". "That sounds great! What is it?" we asked, excitedly. And then he showed it to us: a cereal bowl filled with a sad melange of slivered almonds and chocolate chips. We scoffed at him, because obviously that is no salad, and then gladly ate the entire contents of the bowl.

Meals were plated, food was pushed around, and eventually a winner was declared. It had been decided that the egg hadn't been given enough time to drip from the chicken before breading it in the Chicken Francaise dish, thus leaving us with Lemon-Flavored, Scrambled Egg-Coated Chicken Surprise. Slight fail. My sister's dish mustn't have been too horrible, nor too memorable, because I have no idea what it was. (Sorry, sis.) The red beans and rice that my older brother eventually decided upon were palatable, though they lost the bulk of their points when he explained that "you can tell when they're done when the go from looking like baby vomit to baby poop." Mmm. And my beautiful parfaits were enjoyed for at least two minutes before I declared that they were disgusting and everyone loudly agreed: while an inch-thick layer of graham cracker crumbs might look nice, it ends up creating the sensation of ingesting sawdust. So in the end, the winner of this sad meal was my father's cornbread. Cornbread that came from a ten cent box. Dinner was served.

So there you have it. The inspiration and insanely long tale behind it. I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I've enjoyed eating this new flavor...

Chocolate and Almond Brittle Ice Cream


1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 1/2 cups almond milk
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
2 cups almond brittle (recipe to follow)

1. In a saucepan, combine the cocoa powder, 1/3 cup sugar and the water. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about three minutes.

2. Chop the chocolate and add to the cocoa mixture, stirring until smooth.

3. Pour the almond milk and heavy cream into a saucepan and heat over medium high until bubbles start to form around the edge.

4. In a bowl, combine the egg yolks and sugar and whisk to combine.

5. Add a small amount of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Once combined, slowly pour egg mixture into the milk mixture, whisking constantly to avoid curdling.

6. Add the chocolate mixture and continue to cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon.

7. Pour into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it down directly on top of the mixture. Refrigerate until completely cooled.

8. Transfer cooled mixture into bowl of ice cream maker and churn. When done, mix in the almond brittle and pour into a freezer-safe container.

9. Enjoy after dinner, preferably not an experimental one.

Almond Brittle, adapted from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home


1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
3/4 tsp salt
8 tbs butter
1 1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 tsp baking soda

1. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat and spray lightly with cooking spray.

2. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt and heat over medium-high, stirring constantly.

3. Once the sugar is dissolved, insert a candy thermometer and add the butter, allowing the mixture to come to a boil.

4. When the temperature comes to 300 degrees, remove from heat and add the almonds and baking soda, stirring quickly to fully combine.

5. Pour the mixture onto the prepared sheet and spread with a silicone spatula. Allow to cool.

6. When completely cooled, break the brittle into smaller pieces and put in a zip top bag. Using a mallet (or ceramic spoon rest, in my case) break the candy into bite-size pieces.

7. Keep two cups aside for the ice cream and enjoy the rest! Beware, it is probably not good for those with fillings or crowns. Or anyone who cares about their teeth, I suppose.