Monday, September 10, 2012

Coffee chip ice cream


Besides the many fond memories and the result of some shopping sprees that we brought back from our vacation, there is another very tangible reminder of our trip to the US: my kids' English. As much as I love to see my kids flipping through childrens' classics and looking at their impossibly cute new Converse, the thing that really makes my heart soar is hearing them speaking to me in English.
It is strange and sometimes hard to watch my own flesh and blood speaking (and gesticulating) in a language that is not my mothertongue; when the music and songs of their childhood are not the ones I grew up with; when their passport is another color than mine, when they say "Mommy, your flag" whenever they see an American flag.

Naturally, I have been reading to them in English since they were babies and every time I go to the States I expand our collection of American and English classics. I taught them the songs of my childhood and showed how to make an itsy bitsy spider with their hands. We have fun, if very muted versions of Halloween and Thanksgiving at home and they are learning that it is important to Mommy that the American flag is "our" flag and not just mine. But I realize, as much as I try to teach them about my American (and German) heritage, that they are ultimately Italian kids. That now that they are in school, they share songs and stories with their friends and are forgetting the words to The Wheels on the Bus. That my daughter is learning to read, write, add and subtract in Italian and that she will automatically count in Italian for the rest of her life, even if she becomes fluent in English, just as I still count in English, even now that my Italian has probably surpassed my mothertongue.
I know from experience this is a good thing, even if it may not sound like it reading this, because it is not always fun being the odd-one-out wherever you are. It is good to feel like you belong, that you are just like everyone else, especially when you are a child. But I can't help feeling a little pang when they call me mamma.
Since we have gotten back, however, when we sit around our kitchen table, I am no longer the only one speaking English. I love the sound of it, I love every mistake and mispronunciation, when my son says "Kepach" instead of ketchup and my daughter says "don't can" instead of can't. Yesterday my little boy said "Mommy, I want to go into the pool con you" and I was in so fast even he couldn't believe it. On Saturday morning I heard giggles and shouts of "one for the money, two for the show" (where the heck did that come from by the way???) from the living room and I smiled while I was making ice cream. For now F is Daddy instead of me being mamma. I know it won't last, but I will enjoy every minute of it until it does. And in the end, it will all turn out all right. I am sure my kids will be a wonderful mix of all the good things our two countries have to offer because they are lucky enough to have the best of both worlds.

Oh, about the ice cream I mentioned...
Of course the first thing I had to do as soon as I got back was pull out my latest favorite cooking gadget, my ice cream machine. I had been dreaming about making coffee ice cream studded with tiny nuggets of chocolate. Not too sweet, not too strong.
I found the recipe I wanted on Foodgawker. I had to make a variation because I did not have instant espresso and used two cups (espresso-sized cups) of espresso instead. The result was perfect flavorwise but less creamy than I was hoping. I am thinking that half a cup of coffee may be a little too much if you want to keep the base really creamy. Next time I will try using only 1 espresso cup plus the indicated amount of instant espresso. The custard in itself is actually very creamy: I used the same base to make an ice cream for the kids (that I will be telling you about soon) and it was perfectly creamy.
Ingredients (1 quart)
1½ cups heavy cream
1½ cups whole milk
3 egg yolks
2 eggs
½ cup sugar
2 cups (espresso-sized cups!) espresso* 
1 tsp instant espresso
5 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped finely

Make the espresso and dissolve the instant espresso into it. 
In a mixing stand, whisk together eggs, yolks and sugar until pale yellow. In a heavy-based saucepan, heat the milk and cream until almost boiling and turn off heat. With the mixer running on medium speed drizzle in ½ of the hot milk/cream into the egg mixture to temper it. Then pour mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk/cream.
On medium low heat, stir constantly until the consistency is thick enough to coat the back of a spatula/spoon. Take off heat, mix in the espresso and let cool until you can put it into the fridge. When the custard has completely chilled in the fridge, pour into the bowl of your ice cream machine and churn following instructions. In the meantime, finely chop the chocolate. When the ice cream is ready, after about 15-20 minutes, mix in the chocolate chips and pour into a freezer container to continue the freezing process.
*If you are only reading the recipe, see paragraph above ingredients for possible variations.


  1. Coffee ice cream is one of my absolute favourites and you can never go wrong when adding chocolate chips! I've never made ice cream with egg whites in addition to the yolks - maybe leaving them out would help with the creaminess factor?

    1. I like the idea of also using whole eggs so I don't have so many egg whites in my fridge/freezer at all times. You may have a point, although the custard I made for the kids' ice cream (using the same recipe, I just doubled the amounts) turned out much creamier, so I tend to think it was the coffee.

  2. I love this post: It must be sort of strange and wonderful to hear those little Italian-accented English words. Kids are already a bit like a friendly alien race to me (though I do love them), so I can sort of giggle at the thought of them learning English and trying it out.

    Oh, and coffee-chip iced cream? Don't mind if I do!

    1. Of course, you the coffee fanatic! How could I forget!

  3. This is what all of our migrant families must feel, knowing that they may never go back to their country of birth to live (or never wish to, either). And that their children are a different nationality to themselves and have a different accent. Thanks for writing about it. It sounds so cute to hear what your children are saying in their Italian English.
    My daughter has learnt French and I love listening to her converse to her French (host) family now that she is back in Australia. I don't understand a word of it, but love the fact that she speaks two languages.
    Your ice cream looks beautiful too.

  4. Hi anilou, thank you for writing. I agree, I think it is a wonderful opportunity for our kids to be exposed to more than one language.
    I however find that migrant families, people who leave their country because they are looking for a better future and that do not intend to go back home, usually tend not to teach their children their native tongue, here in Italy at least, where immigration is still a pretty new concept. They speak to them in their new language because it is very important for them that their kids be a part of the new country, fit in.

    1. Hmmm it may be a little different here. There are many old European migrants here who don't know English. They rely on their children to translate for them. Probably not the case now though for newer arrivals.

  5. When I was at school and having to learn Italian, I always found it very difficult to count. It's quite a different system. That's so great that your children will be bilingual. I do hope they keep it up xx

  6. Your kids must be so cute trying to speak English in their Italian accent. :)
    Sometimes I fear that if I have kids while living in Holland, even though both my partner and I are Greek, they'll have an "accent". I don't think I can handle that!

    Your ice cream looks amazing. I made a coffee ice cream about a month ago and it was a revelation. I' trying your recipe next.

    1. Let me know how the texture turns out, I am curious.
      The accent is cute but also tough to hear when you feel like your kids have so little of your heritage. With both of you being Greek and you two always speaking Greek at home, it should not be an issue although they will probably be more drawn to Dutch in their school years.

  7. Yet another reason to covet an ice cream machine. Knowing my caffeine loving spouse, he would gild that lily even further, and drown it as an affogato...

  8. We're getting into warmer weather here so I just made an ice cream too! What a sweet story about your kids and I can imagine how wonderful it was to hear them speaking English to you :)


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