Affogato al Caffè is the perfect dinner party dessert. It takes about 5-7 minutes, half of it can be made ahead and best of all, you’ll be serving your guests dessert and coffee at the same time!
The Italian word affogato means drowned and in this instance, it refers to the gelato (ice cream) drowning in a shot of freshly made espresso. Affogato always reminds me of Florence, home of some of the greatest art the world has ever known. I’ve spent countless days in the city of Florence just aimlessly walking through the streets and literally stumbling onto treasure after treasure, both famous and obscure. Florence is a city that speaks to my heart, there is beauty everywhere you look, in all forms: the churches, the museums, the palazzi and of course, the food.
It was on one particularly warm spring day sometime in the 90s that I first chanced upon the genius that is Affogato. I was hot, I was tired, I was hungry, and I was desperately in need of both cooling down and a pick me up when I spotted a small bar (what we’d call a café). The idea of a panino followed by some espresso and ice cream was just too good to resist.
Before I could even get halfway in, I was approached by the exuberant owner who started rattling off in Italian. He lost me after the first 2 words! I get that a lot in Italy; many Italians think I’m Italian – it must be the nose! Until they see the look of utter bewilderment on my face and of course my very fluent “Mi dispiace, non parlo Italiano”! Then I get English. Of sorts. Which usually begins full of questions about who in my family has Italian blood. No one? No, no, impossibile! Sometimes I manage to refrain from joking about my mother and her Italian tennis coach. Sometimes.
Anyway, this chap called his (gorgeous) son out of the kitchen because the son spoke fluent English. Before long, the panino was forgotten and I got my wish for coffee and ice cream in the form of the magnificent creation, affogato! Just what the doctor ordered. Bonus? I went out with said delicious son that night. And the next night.
But that’s a post for another day! Lol, I think not!
How would I describe that first taste? Of affagato! Sheer heaven is a bit of an understatement. It was glorious – creamy yet sharp, sweet yet bitter, hot and cold at the same time, and so, so gratifying. Intensely so. Yin Yang in a glass. I had to have a second round. Naturally.
So, let’s talk about the recipe itself, shall we? Although, it really is more a method than a recipe.
How to Make Perfect Affogato at Home
This is an Italian ice cream dessert, so ideally, it should be made with Italian ice cream, gelato, which basically means frozen. Gelato is marginally lighter than the ice creams we are used to as it uses milk or a combination of milk and cream compared to a lot of cream in our regular ice creams. The basic gelato typically consists of milk (or milk and cream), sugar, egg yolks and vanilla (or lemon) as flavouring. All other gelati flavours tend to start off with this base before they get adventurous with the final design.
These days, gelato is pretty easy to come by in many cities, with Italian owned gelaterie not an uncommon sight in bigger towns. So if you can find gelato, get it, for the true experience. If you can’t, and since this is a less-than-10-minute recipe, a good quality vanilla ice cream will do perfectly well. Perhaps one day, I might share my recipe for homemade gelato. Well, the recipe I learnt from the owner of the bar we mentioned above.
It’s got to be freshly brewed espresso. No exceptions. Puh-leez don’t use instant coffee – you’ll ruin the dessert. You don’t need any fancy coffee makers, just good quality coffee beans and a caffetiére (French press) or a Moka pot – and you’re good to go.
Everything wants to chill – you, the dessert glasses and of course the ice cream! Erm, not the coffee though. You can either:
- Chill the glasses only, then top with the ice cream and coffee just before serving
- Fill your dessert glasses with the ice cream, then freeze the whole lot (my preferred method)
Different Flavoured Gelato
You can be as imaginative as you like here. Chocolate, mint, pecan (yum!) or my personal favourite – salted caramel.
It’s gotta be done, right? Add the alcohol to the coffee, then pour over the gelato. What alcohol can you use for affogato? Baileys, Kahlua, Frangelico, Amaretto, are the first that come to mind. Let me know if you think of others that will go with coffee.
I love a light sprinkle of demerara sugar on my affagato, that’s how my very first affagato was presented and that’s how I’ve always loved it. That little bit of crunchy sweet makes an exquisite difference. Demerara sugar is just that toffee flavoured coarse brown cane sugar you get in sachets for coffee.
Chocolate shavings, whether milk, dark or white.
Crumbled biscotti or amaretti.
- 4-8 scoops vanilla gelato or ice cream
- 4-8 shots hot espresso
- some demerara sugar
- Place the ice cream in your chosen dessert glasses.
- Place the glasses in the freezer.
- Make your espresso.
- Pour a shot or two in each glass. TIP: Make sure to pour your coffee on the ice cream if your glasses are chilled. You don't want your glasses cracking!
- Sprinkle a little demerara sugar over and serve immediately with some amaretti or other Italian biscuits, if wished.