There's something about an affogato—cold vanilla gelato drowned in piping hot espresso—that makes it an ideal dessert. There's no baking or whipping involved, just two ingredients that create something delightfully complex and perfectly complementary.
Given the minimal list of ingredients used, you'd think there would be little variation in this dessert, but you'd be wrong. I've had wildly different experiences with affogatos, the worst case scenario being when it arrives as a puddled mess, forcing you to sip it like lukewarm soup. But considering the actual chemistry of the two ingredients, is there really any way to prevent this?
There is! An Italian chef once told me his tip: scoop your gelato ahead of time. Freezing the gelato scoops as long as possible before serving them ensures that they become ice cold and will retain their shape to withstand the hot espresso pourover. For serving large groups, scoop the gelato balls onto a sheet tray and store them in the freezer until ready to serve.
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Once you've nailed that part, you're free to riff on the formula. Here are a few ideas to mix it up:
Keep it simple
Use your favorite gelato (or ice cream) flavor instead.
For more ice cream recipes, tips, and saves for when things go awry, check out Ice Cream & Friends, our cookbook dedicated to ice cream and all its pals: pops, gelato, milkshakes—sprinkles, cones, and so much more.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).