Pancho Villa, one of the most renowned generals from the Mexican Revolution was wild about ice cream. It is even said he was most fond of vanilla ice cream covered in chocolate. This historic photo, published in the El Paso Times, shows him sitting at the famous El Paso confectionery The Elite, right after having an ice cream.
History has judged him both harshly and heroically. Yet, from the account of my husband’s great grandmother Regina, he was a true gentleman.
The true story goes that in the early years of the Revolution, around 1913, Regina and her husband Alfredo lived in Parral, Chihuahua. In the midst of the Revolution, a very brave and very pregnant Regina asked for una audienca, a meeting, with the general who was governor of Chihuahua. She walked into the meeting to ask for the general’s troops not to loot their family’s small store, one of the common ways the troops re-stocked.
General Villa agreed and allowed Regina to close the store so it would not be looted, securing their family’s means of survival. “A true gentleman,” the family, all of whom couldn’t believe Regina had not only asked for an audience but gone to the meeting and reached such outcome, recalls her saying.
A few years ago we visited Pancho Villa’s house in Chihuahua. There behind the boys, with an evidently saddened Sami after hearing the story of Villa’s assassination, is the car where he was shot.
The house has a central open courtyard. One of the main sides leads to the dining room…
…which opens directly to the kitchen…
As a visitor you can’t walk into the kitchen, so you can only see from the side door. Of course, I was dying to walk in, but I am sharing the best view that I got. That was it, because there was a rope one couldn’t cross.
I think it can be said that just like Pancho Villa – whose image, from a gorgeous al fresco hung inside his home, is here courtesy of my husband’s camera – most Mexicans are wild about ice cream.
Juju, with his big sweet tooth, is crazy about it too.
As Mexicans, we have our ways of making ice cream irresistible and exotic. We are fortunate to have some ingredients that just go nuts when turned into ice cream.
Some of my favorite: Mexican vanilla, Mexican chocolate and cajeta or dulce de leche. This summer, I decided to make a wild combo out of the three and was thrilled with the results. So much so, I think you should give it a go (my photo of the ice cream above has the ice cream desperately melting, waiting for me to get a good shot…).
It has the creamy vanilla base, the silky thick feel and charming taste of cajeta (which becomes delightfully chewy when frozen), and grainy chunks of cinnamon flavored Mexican chocolate.
I think Pancho Villa would approve, with ingredients that are Mexican to the core.
Vanilla Ice Cream with Dulce de Leche (aka Cajeta) Swirls and Mexican Chocolate Chunks
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- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 vanilla bean split open, seeds scraped out and reserved
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
- 10 large egg yolks
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 cup Cajeta or dulce de leche
- 2 Mexican chocolate rounds about 3.15 ounces or 90 grams each, coarsely chopped
- Pour the heavy cream and milk in a medium saucepan. Add the vanilla bean, seeds from the vanilla bean and salt; stir and place over medium heat. Stirring constantly, bring to a simmer, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat immediately after it reaches a simmer, cover and let rest of at least 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, using a whisk or fork, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until the mix turns from bright to pale yellow, it thickens and loses its graininess. It will take a couple minutes.
- Uncover the milk mixture, remove the vanilla bean, pressing any remaining seeds into the milk. Discard the bean. Slowly, using a ladle, pour half the milk mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking as you go to temper the egg yolks.
- Pour the tempered egg yolk mixture into the saucepan with the remaining milk mix. Set over medium heat again, and let it come to a gentle simmer, constantly stirring, until it coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let it cool slightly, stirring now and then.
- Using a fine strainer, mesh or cheesecloth, strain the mixture into a metal container. Cover and place in the refrigerator until it is completely chilled, at least a couple hours and preferably up to 12 hours.
- Process the ice cream in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. A couple minutes before it is ready, add the chocolate chunks. Lastly, drizzle in the dulce de leche or cajeta and immediately turn the machine off, so that you create a swirled effect and not a complete mix.