She’d come pick me up at night after my shift. I was old enough to work but didn’t yet have a driver’s license. As she waited in the car listening to talk radio, I’d finish the last closing routines: wiping down the glass cases, carrying trash out behind the store, and turning off the hot chocolate warmer and flowing water inside the metal trays where we kept the scoopers. Then I’d lower the lights so no one could see what I was about to do and go outside for her instructions.
“What’s the flavor of the month again?” she’d ask, avoiding my gaze by staring out the car’s windshield.
“I think it’s Nutty Coconut.”
“All right. Good. Let’s get a pint of that.”
Back inside I’d pack up a pint, making sure to wipe down the metal spatula to hide any evidence. The whole thing felt cheap and tawdry. But what I could I do? She was my mother, and I needed the ride.
Once I’d left for college though, I told myself my days of stealing ice cream were over. Sure, I still loved the stuff (and could easily eat it every day if no one cared what I looked like) but in the intervening years, I’d convinced myself that I’d reformed.
And then it snowed here in New York. A lot. And suddenly, before you could say Pralines’n Cream, I got the itch again.
I first waited until the snow was at least four inches off the ground. Then, under cover of darkness, snuck out to the yard with a glass measuring cup. Working quickly before my neighbors could see, I filled a metal bowl with snow; the old skills returning as if riding a bicycle.
Once inside, I got to work on step two. A few years earlier, I’d briefly dated the hot chocolate king of New York and had picked up a trick or two. My vision? Combine the best of winter into a single treat: hot chocolate snow cream.
I prepared the hot chocolate, then let it chill for an hour until thickened almost to pudding. Finally, mixing the hot chocolate and snow together, I stirred gently until the concoction held.
I tasted it, as nervous as if my mother had ordered a gallon instead of a pint. It was perfect. Better even than Nutty Coconut. And, best of all, it was practically free, and no one got hurt.
Hot Chocolate Snow Cream
(adapted from Pierre Hermé, Jeffrey Steingarten, and David Leibovitz by way of Wittamer)
Total Time: 1 1/2 hours
5 to 6 cups fresh snow
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup whole milk
1/8 cup sugar
2 ounces dark chocolate, sliced thin with serrated bread knife
1/8 ounce unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1. Scoop up 5 to 7 cups of clean snow. Place in metal bowl or plastic container and store in freezer until ready to use.
2. Mix half and half, milk, and sugar in a heavy saucepan (like Le Crueset) and whisk to combine.
3. Place on stove over medium heat and allow to just boil, stirring occasionally.
4. Remove from heat and add chocolate, cocoa powder, and salt. Whisk to combine.
5. Return to low heat and allow to boil again, stirring continuously.
6. When mixture begins to boil and thicken, remove from heat and pour into metal bowl. Place bowl in refrigerator and allow to chill one hour.
7. Remove hot chocolate from refrigerator and snow from freezer. Add snow by 1/2 cup increments into hot chocolate, stirring after each to combine until mixture is the thickness of ice cream. Taste after 5 cups and add more snow if desired.