The following is frozen confection, a Oaxacan speciality that performs their usual trick of looking quite normal, but astounding with a complexity and depth of unexpected flavour. Literally "Icy treat of burnt milk", the leche quemada possesses a nutty caramel taste but is marked by the smokey notes of the burnt sugar. Many are delighted by the uniqueness of this frozen treat, and crave its morish flavour.
Note the smoke swelling out of the pot, the same permeating the dark caramel.
The trick I think, is to really embrace the smoke. I mean, it really does look -according to most everything you've learnt about cooking, and certainly what you know about desserts-quite the opposite of the desired result. But let it burn like a bonfire. Use good quality milk, good eggs and take your time.
Nieve de Leche Quemada
1 Litre whole cream milk (7-12% fat)
1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
1 2" stick cinnamon
1 cup and two tablespoons raw sugar
4 egg yolks
- Warm the milk, cinnamon and vanilla together in a small non reactive saucepan. Just as it comes to the boil, remove it from the heat and leave to infuse for 20 mins.
- Place a quarter (60g) of the sugar in a large heavy based pot and place on a medium heat. The sugar will liquefy and begin to darken in colour. Soon, patches of it will start to give off smoke, let this go for about 10 seconds, but make sure you are no higher than a moderate heat. Quickly add the milk to the burnt sugar. Be careful, as the mix will bubble vigorously for a few moments. Simmer the mixture until the caramel has completely dissolved. Remove from the heat, and remove the cinnamon.
- Whisk the egg yolks together with the remaining sugar until pale. Pour the hot milk mixture in to the bowl slowly, stirring all the while.
- Place the mixture in a clean saucepan and place back on a low heat. Stir and cook slowly until the mix is at 82 degrees Celsius (180 Fahrenheit), or until the mix is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl. Place the bowl into a larger bowl filed with iced water to chill it rapidly and stop it from cooking further.
- Freeze by manufacturers directions of your ice-cream machine. If you don't have an ice-cream machine, chill the mix in the fridge over night, then place in the freezer in the morning. As the mix starts to freeze, whisk it until all the ice shards have broken up. Keep your whisk cold in the fridge, and continue to whisk throughout the day until it is too firm to whisk any longer. Before serving, let it warm enough that you can move it around with a wooden spoon.
Good vanilla, organic milk and sugar, vividly coloured yolks.
Just after adding the milk, the mixture will boil vigorously.
After adding the egg and sugar mix, keep cooking gently until you reach 82-85ºC. This is the point at which egg yolk dispersed in milk and sugar is cooked. Incidentally, yolk cooks at 72º when the proteins are not disrupted by extra liquid.