Helado de Chocolate Maya
Helado de Chocolate Maya (Chocolate frozen custard with achiote, vanilla, allspice, and chile)
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons recado rojo
2 cups Mexican crema, creme fraiche, or whipping cream
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
3/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder, or to taste
5 large egg yolks
8 ounces pasta de chocolate (or minimally sweetened chocolate sauce or fudge)
1 tablespoon vanilla
Place the milk and the recado in the jar of a blender; process for 1 minute; strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a heavy saucepan, discarding any residue that does not pass through; stir in the next 5 ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, 3-4 minutes, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot and bubbling around the edges. Do not allow to boil.
Using a handheld electric mixer or whisk, beat the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl until light and fluffy. Still beating, very gradually add about 1 cup of the warm milk mixture to the eggs and beat thoroughly; repeat 2-3 times to gently heat the eggs. With the beater running in the saucepan, very slowly stream the egg mixture back into the hot milk. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon 3-4 minutes, or until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon; a candy thermometer should read 180 degrees. Do not allow to boil or the eggs may scramble.
Remove the saucepan from the heat source and immediately add the chocolate. Stir briefly to melt then beat with the electric mixer until the chocolate is thoroughly incorporated into the custard mixture, about 1 minute. Allow the mixture to cool, stir in the vanilla, then cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or, preferably overnight. The resulting base will be thick and mousse-like after refrigeration. Process the custard in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Place the finished ice cream in a covered container and freeze to set 2-3 hours before serving.
Pasta de Chocolate (pure chocolate paste)
3 cups roasted, peeled cacao beans or cacao nibs
Fill the bowl of a small, heavy-duty food processor with the roasted, shelled beans (or crushed nibs). Turn on the motor and be patient: the beans will immediately be broken into tiny bits. Continue processing for 5 minutes or so, until the beans or nibs are ground into a fine powder. Eventually, the powder will clump into a clayey mass, but continue to process until you have a creamy, shiny black paste. The time required to finish depends on your processor.
For a finer product, continue running the processor for several minutes after the paste develops, or until it turns from a paste to a liquid, like hot fudge sauce. You will need to tend the machine only occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Give your pour machine a rest every 5 minutes or so to cool down. Transfer the paste to an airtight container and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.
Recado Rojo (Achiote seasoning paste)
1 cup achiote seeds (or powder - you can actually find it at Shaws in the spice isle!)
3/4 cup white vinegar
4 tablespoons whole Mexican oregano and 1 teaspoon cumin seed, lightly toasted together
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
12 allspice berries
3/4 cup orange juice
In a spice mill or coffee grinder, grind the achiote seeds in small batches until fine. Transfer to a fine-mesh sieve held over a plate or bowl. Tap and shake the sieve until all that remains is a coarse residue that looks like sand. Return the residue to the grinder and repeat the process one more time. Continue until all of the achiote has been ground; discard any reside that will not pass through the sieve.
Transfer the ground achiote seeds to a blender or a small food processor, cover with the vinegar, and process to blend. Leave the achiote mixture in the processor at room temperature to soften as you continue.
Place the oregano, cuminseed, peppercorns, and allspice berries in the spice grinder and process to a fine powder. Sift the powder through a fine-mesh sieve held over a plate, as you did for the achiote seeds. Return any stubborn particles to the grinder. Sieve again and discard any residue.
Add the ground spices, the garlic, and the juice to the achiote in the processor and process 3-4 minutes, or until the mixture turns into a thick paste. Store in an airtight container.