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Let’s start with a confession. I’ve been enjoying affogato since long before anyone knew they were a thing. Back in the early 1980s, I convinced a local ice cream parlor to pour a shot of strong, fresh coffee over a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a cup. The server was skeptical, but I insisted that she try it before I dug in. The next time I stopped in, my ice cream coffee was on the menu. It was at least 10 years before I heard the word “affogato,” but when I did, my first reaction was, “Well, duh! What took so long?”
At its most basic, an affogato is a shot of espresso – freshly pulled, of course – poured over a scoop of premium vanilla ice cream, served in a small cup or bowl. The drink contrasts sweet with bitter, creamy with dry, and cold with hot to create an amazing blend that highlights the best of all those flavors. While a purist might be content with a simple affogato, coffee people are tinkerers at heart. It was pretty easy to collect a dozen variation of a basic affogato from coffee shops and recipe sites around the world. Get your espresso machine primed and hot, and prepare to enjoy a cup full of pure heaven with one or more of these variations of a classic affogato.
In Italian, where the delicious dessert originated, affogato means “drowned” – ice cream drowned with espresso. To make a basic affogato, arrange two to three scoops of vanilla ice cream in a dessert dish or martini glass. Pour a shot of freshly pulled, hot espresso over the top so that it pools around the ice cream, and dig in. It’s a simple, elegant way to end any meal.
Change Up the Flavor
Not a fan of vanilla? Got a different flavor of gelato in your freezer? Switch up the basic affogato by using a different flavor of ice cream. Some very natural pairings include coffee or chocolate ice cream, but you don’t have to stop there. Try Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche or Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramel Core for an amazingly creamy variation on the basic affogato recipe.
Top Your Affogato
Pretty up your affogato – and add to the flavor – with shaved chocolate, a sprinkle of cocoa powder or a dusting of cinnamon. If you’re in a very festive mood, scatter tiny chocolate chips or rainbow sprinkles over the top of the ice cream after you drown it with espresso.
Start with a pool of hot fudge or caramel sauce in the bottom of the dessert dish. Add your scoops of ice cream, and pour on the espresso. For an extra flourish, drizzle the top with more fudge or caramel sauce – or use fudge in the glass and caramel as a drizzle.
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver uses affogato as the base for a deliciously different dessert – and a way to use up leftover desserts from last night’s service. Just crumble cake, pie or pudding into the bottom of a dessert dish. Top with a couple of scoops of ice cream, and pour on the espresso or a shot of hot, strong coffee. The coffee and the melted ice cream will soak into the dessert, giving it a lovely essence of tiramisu.
Give It a Little Crunch
Ice cream and coffee are both smooth – which is definitely not a bad thing – but you can add another layer of interest to your affogato by topping it with a little crunch. Try scattering the ice cream with crumbled peanut brittle or smashed toasted walnuts, pecans or almonds. For a truly amazing treat, brew up an earthy Sumatran coffee, pour over dulce de leche ice cream and top with shredded, toasted coconut.
Start with mint chocolate chip ice cream. Break up a frozen peppermint patty and tuck the pieces into the ice cream. Top with hot espresso and enjoy!
Starbucks Affogato Frappuccino
You won’t find this on the regular menu at your favorite Starbucks, but if you order any Frappuccino affogato style, you’ll get a Frappuccino served with a shot of hot espresso floated on top. Try it with a green tea or coffee Frappuccino for a different flavor variation.
Black Forest Affogato
Chocolate and cherry are a classic combination memorialized in chocolate-covered cherries and the traditional Black Forest cake. Coffee just makes the whole mélange even better. Scoop vanilla ice cream into dessert dishes. Add a few cherries scooped out of a can of cherry pie filling, top with chocolate shavings and pour on a shot of freshly brewed coffee or espresso.
For adults only! Drizzle a shot of Amaretto, Kahlua or Irish Cream liqueur (or pick your favorite poison) over three scoops of vanilla ice cream in a dessert dish. Pour on the espresso and enjoy!
Hot Chocolate Affogato
While the adults are warming up with a tips affogato, you can serve this variation to the kids. Just substitute prepared hot chocolate for the espresso and liqueur. Make it even more festive with a drizzle of chocolate syrup over the top.
Need we say more? Classic Italian molded ice cream meets espresso, and the combination is pure heaven. Because spumoni is molded, this works best if you do a little prep work first. Use freezer-proof glasses – I like rocks glasses for this. Use a glass to cut out rounds of spumoni from the squares and pack the ice cream firmly into the bottom of the glass. Pop the glasses into the freezer to chill until you’re ready to serve. Brew up espresso or strong, hot coffee and pour it over the spumoni. Top with a sprinkle of demerara sugar for a little extra crunch and sweetness.
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