Affogato: an Italian sundae. Photo courtesy Talenti Gelato.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When it gives you gelato, make affogato (ah-foe-GOT-toe).
We’re perplexed as to why this quickie Italian sundae—a scoop of gelato topped with a shot of espresso—is rarely found on Italian restaurant menus in the U.S.
Most of them serve both gelato and espresso. Did someone lose the affogato recipe?
The next time you’re at an Italian restaurant, order an affogato for dessert. If they won’t make it for you, unleash your inner Robert Eroica Dupea—the character played by Jack Nicholson in “Five Easy Pieces”:
Order an espresso and a dish of gelato and combine them yourself.
Affogato means “drowned” in Italian. You can further drown the gelato with a flavored syrup or a shot of liqueur.
Consider amaretto, chocolate, coffee, hazelnut or vanilla syrups or liqueurs—or go fusion with some Irish cream liqueur.
MAKE AFFOGATO AT HOME
It’s easy to make affogato at home—as a treat for yourself or a surprise for family and friends. While vanilla is the traditional gelato flavor, chocolate, coffee and hazelnut gelato are even more delicious. (While it goes without saying, we’ll say it: You can substitute ice cream for gelato.)
In this cooking video, Giada Di Laurentiis tops vanilla gelato with syrup and and then adds a shot of hazelnut liqueur before topping the “sundae” with with hot espresso.
You can re-concept affogato from a sundae to a beverage by adding a scoop of gelato to a glass of iced espresso.
The origin of affogato al caffè, the Italian term for gelato drowned in a cup of coffee, is unknown. (Affogare means “to drown.”)
What is known is that the fashion of drinking wine with snow or ice emerged in Italy in the 16th century [source].
We don’t know the precise date of that banquet, but given that Cosimo reigned as Grand Duke from 1569 to 1574, we can guess that it was during this five-year period.
While gelato could have been spooned into a regular cup of coffee, the affogato uses espresso. Modern espresso emerged in the latter half of the 19th century. The first espresso machine was presented at the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1855.
It’s not difficult to envision some early-20th-century cook or foodie dropping a scoop of vanilla ice cream into a cup of coffee. Heck: If it hadn’t already been invented, we would have done it!
But we’ll have to wait until someone discovers an old menu in a dusty archive, that lists “affogato”; or an old newspaper or magazine article that reports on the delicious new recipe.
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