Affogato

Jim Berman
Exploring the Marche region of Italy a few years’ back, Affogato shimmered to life for me. On a caffé menu, this unusual presence piqued my attention. The suave barista explained that a scoop of gelato was dowsed with a shot of espresso - an Italian version of a hot fudge sundae? And it was amore at first taste! And, well, I was sampling this amazingness whilst lounging on a gravel terrace overlooking the Piceno valley at sunset, so, naturally, it had to be good. Of course, it was good. Upon returning to the States, I had sought out the affogato and found it was not as much an anomaly as I had expected. But would it be as good? Literally, drowned, “affogato al café” has gone through Starbucks-ization and survived to be a respectable figure in smaller coffee houses here and there.
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Our classroom is the fortunate beneficiary of a La Cimbali M21 Espresso Machine from the generous support of ChefTalk. With the espresso maker, a Compak grinder came along, as well. It has been an authentic learning adventure to glean the basics of operating those machines. And, goodness, getting frothed milk for the top of a cappuccino is article-worthy in itself. So much to learn about the right grind, the humidity’s effect on said grind, weighing the grind, tamping the grind… and we haven’t even added the water. But we will.
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Espresso is no easy gig; the equipment is pricy, finicky, and, well, not necessarily a staple of every kitchen. There is more than just a little endeavor in getting the sublime espresso. Hell, there is more than just a little work getting a passable espresso draw. Getting the right crema on an espresso is a course in itself. If you have a decent method to work caffeinated magic, an affogato is within your grasp.  Let’s go with this: make an espresso and we’ll cover the construct of said elixir at a later date. But, once we could pull a shot, we needed to dig into the counterpoint of the hot coffee and get the icy component right.
Let’s not get crazy about the gelato. Sure, the frozen scoop of ethereal magic was perfectly crafted. But that was is in Italy. And there are some great gelaterias around that offer their craftily produced frozen magic. Classic, traditional ice cream will work very well. But make your own. We use:

Schoolmade Vanilla Ice Cream:

2 cups, Milk, whole

1 quart, Heavy cream

¾ cup, sugar, granulated

1 teaspoon, vanilla paste

Pinch, fine salt

Combine all the ingredients and freeze according your machine’s directions.

You see, we had this notion to bring a coffee program to life using the new M21 espresso machine that ChefTalk brought to us in our little student-run café. In search of our invention, bringing the goodness of our own espresso to the altar with our schoolmade ice cream, we lit upon creating a blended affogato as our signature drink. We rifled through websites of coffee shops, chain peddlers and local venues. And the research was rather rewarding, if not a bit jolting to our caffeine-fueled nervous systems. We tried various incarnations of frozen/blended/frapped/mixed/shaken coffee drinks. Some good, some… well, not so much. Some using double-strength iced coffee, some using coffee syrup (gasp!) some using coffee powder (gasp and gag!) and some using honest-to-goodness espresso. At Lomo in Wilmington, the frappe went through a slushy process in a mighty Vitamix blender. Not bad! The coffee concoction known as a Mochaccino at the big double Ds, is not so good. It is sugar-fueled and overloaded with too much ‘stuff’ to discern the goodness of any single ingredient. ‘Convoluted’ comes to mind. While researching coffee formulations, we stumbled upon the Aussie Coffee at Pie Face in New York City. T.S. Elliot kinda said that good writers borrow from other writers and that great writers steal from other writers. Can the same be said for hopeful coffee shop operators? We plucked the Aussie Coffee from Pie Face through a series of visits and conversations with their counter staff. This is what we wanted. Espresso. Ice cream. Milk. Vanilla. Amore!

Our version: (Per serving)

2 #10 scoop (3 3/4oz by volume), schoolmade vanilla ice cream

1 double-shot of espresso (~ 2.5oz)

2 oz, whole milk

½ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

Blend at a high rate (using a Vitamix or similar) until smooth, approximately 10 seconds. Serve immediately.
As a culinary program, we wanted to bring a coffee program to life for our students and customers. It was the next logical step for our restaurant operation. Students are exposed to myriad aspects of the kitchen as well as cash handling, customer service, marketing, food costing and recipe development. A coffee platform to spur morning sales seemed reasonable; there is a flood of coffee coming into the building in take-out cups, so why not try to provide that service? Over the next several months, I will share our experiences with getting our concept going.