Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book: Review and Recipe for Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

This article is more than 9 years old.

humphry slocombe ice cream book

June Gloom may have finally descended like the fog, just in time for summer, but 50-degree weather doesn't stop true San Franciscans from enjoying the summer, or the myriad pleasures of the city's many frozen desserts. While NYC melts, we shiver in hoodies, but ice cream's always worth the wait.

Especially if you're waiting in line at Humphry Slocombe, the popular Mission shop whose anything-goes vibe always gets a little more sparkly come Pride. What other ice cream shop would celebrate this weekend's festivities with a Rainbow Unicorn Sundae, made of strawberry and sweet-corn ice creams topped with multicolored sprinkles and an upside-down cone? Now, Sean Vahey, owner and operations manager and Jake Godby, chef/owner, reveal their secrets in the Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book. How they keep the cornflakes crunchy in the Secret Breakfast ice cream, the Elvis: The Fat Years' Bacon Peanut Brittle recipe, even the story (and names!) behind the two-headed calf mounted on the wall: it's all here, fans.

Since opening the shop in 2008, Godby and Vahey have been happy to swing both high and low, from Boccalone Prosciutto ice cream and, this week, last-chance Foie Gras Ice Cream Sandwiches to Red Hot Banana, banana ice cream studded with Red Hots ("And yes, we use actual Red Hots--why try to duplicate a thing that is already perfect?") and Open Hand Fluffernutter, Project Open Hand peanut butter ice cream swirled with housemade marshmallow topping. As they point out in the book, the shop has served plain strawberry ice cream only once, as a leftover from an all-day party featuring a strawberry/marshmallow/hot fudge/Trix cereal concoction they'd dubbed the Tranny Smackdown Sundae. Only when strawberry ice cream is studded with candied jalapenos or olives ("If they don't know any better, people won't even figure out that those are specks of olive. But when they do eventually put two and two together, they'll be very proud of themselves for expanding their horizons, to much deliciousness") does it find a slot in their regular flavor rotation.

So, this isn't exactly an ice cream book for the whole family, unless you really want to explain "tranny smackdown" to your kids, or why it's "ghetto style" to make ice cream without a machine.


But for grown-ups with a certain San Francisco attitude, the book is a scream. Written by the San Francisco Chronicle's Inside Scoop columnist Paolo Lucchesi, the book takes the sugar-high, caffeine-crazy voice familiar to @HumphrySlocombe's 300,000 Twitter followers—soaked in the pop culture of the moment, always up for a naughty double entendre or a Spice Girls reference—and makes it last from Rosemary's Baby (rosemary and pine nut ice cream) to Hibiscus Beet Sorbet.

The headnotes on many of the recipes are longer than the recipes themselves, which, like those in Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones, are pretty much all variations on the same basic stovetop-custard theme. The only exceptions are the sorbets, of course, and the chocolate ice creams, which use an interesting caramelized-sugar technique for extra smoothness.

Godby's flavors are more elegant, and restrained, than his cone tattoos and wacky-ice-cream-guy reputation might lead you to expect. There's Sweet Summer Corn, an essence of summer made from fresh white corn, milk, sugar, and a touch of sour cream; Honey Thyme; McEvoy Olive Oil with citrus zest; Balsamic Caramel (because "everyone had already done" salted caramel); and the intriguing (and delicious) Candy Cap, made from a sweet, maple-y dried mushroom.

A few words of advice on the following recipe: Don't think you can skip the chicory, even though the recipe only calls for one tablespoon. Without it, the added sweetened condensed milk, along with the sugar in the custard, makes the finished product too sweet. Also, it's called Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee for a reason; whether or not you use Blue Bottle, be sure to use freshly roasted, high quality coffee, grind it very finely, and strain the final mixture through a very fine-mesh strainer to avoid a gritty end result.

Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream
Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream. Photo: Frankie Frankeny

Recipe: Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee

We are both coffee whores—think three macchiatos every morning, followed by mid-afternoon cappuccinos. Please don’t speak to either one of us prior to morning coffee. No—really.

Legit ice cream shops must have coffee ice cream. It’s just a fact. Our variation is an interpretation of Vietnamese coffee, and, surprise surprise, it’s not cloyingly sweet like most coffee ice creams and actually tastes like coffee.

There was never any doubt that we would use Blue Bottle for our coffee ice cream. For starters, we needed some street cred while we were getting off the ground, and at the point Blue Bottle was one of the only artisan coffee roasters in San Francisco.

But even more so, Blue Bottle mastermind James Freeman has been a true friend and a mentor for us. We've had a partnership with Blue Bottle since the beginning and use Giant Steps blend in our ice cream.

The secret ingredient is the chicory, which gives it a nice sharp edge and makes it all taste a little more like actual coffee. You can find chicory at natural foods stores.

Recipe adapted and reprinted with permission from the Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book by Jake Godby, Sean Vahey, and Paolo Lucchesi, copyright 2012. Published by Chronicle Books.

Prep Time: 15 minutes, plus 1 to 8 hours' chilling time
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes, plus 1 to 8 hours' chilling time
Yield: 1 quart

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp salt
3 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp strong ground coffee
1 tbsp ground chicory
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

Fill a large bowl or pan with ice and water. Place a large, clean bowl in the ice bath and fill the bowl with a fine-mesh strainer.

In a large, heavy-bottomed, nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, milk, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until hot but not boiling.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until well blended.

Remove the cream mixture from the heat. Slowly pour about half of the hot cream mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Transfer the yolk mixture back to the saucepan with the remaining cream mixture and return it to medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula and being sure to scrape the bottom of the saucepan so it doesn’t scorch, until the liquid begins to steam and you can feel the spatula scrape against the bottom of the pot, 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove the custard from the heat and immediately pour it through the strainer into the clean bowl you set up in the ice bath. Stir in the coffee, chicory, and condensed milk while it’s hot (you can’t cook condensed milk because it’ll burn). Let cool, stirring occasionally.

When the custard is totally cool, cover and let steep and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or preferably overnight. When you are ready to freeze the custard pour it through a fine-mesh strainer into an ice cream maker and spin according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Eat immediately, or transfer to an airtight container, cover, and freeze for up to 1 week.

Jake Godby and Sean Vahey will be signing the Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book on Saturday June 23, 3-4pm, at Omnivore Books, 3885a Cesar Chavez St, San Francisco. For more information, go to Omnivore Books or call (415)282-4712.