Earlier this month, it snowed. Boy did it ever snow. During the snow day, I went through the ordeal of making snow cream. My friend Braxton Maclean and I had to trek on foot to multiple stores in search of ingredients, only to find that the only one that was open didn't have the sweetened condensed milk I was looking for.
I was weary and frustrated, so I bought some fresh milk and instant coffee. I didn't quite have a plan, but I knew I could come up with something using milk, instant coffee, the snow I was collecting in an assortment of dishes and the sugar that my friend Olivia Trammel had on hand in her room. We trekked back to the school through a pretty heavy snowfall and watched a truck fishtail on College Street. It was a little terrifying.
By some miracle we made it back to campus and the warmth of Olivia's room. I set to work boiling sugar and milk together from instructions I found online. It was a disaster. For reasons of brevity and pride I'm not going to go into detail about that first attempt, but the resulting goo was poured down the sink.
I regrouped, cleaned up and decided my next step.
I settled on making a coffee syrup, and pouring it, along with milk, over the snow. I then mixed the sugar and water in a saucepan and added a few spoonfuls of the instant coffee as the syrup heated up. Aside from nearly having it boil over, which could have set off the smoke alarms and made me the most unpopular person in the vicinity, it went really well.
I tasted the mixture and it tasted exactly like I expected it too, aggressively sweet with an intense coffee note. I cooked it down a little more, poured it into a shallow plastic container and put it in the freezer to cool.
While I waited, I joined Braxton and Olivia on the couch and looked at my friends' Facebook posts about the weather. From these, it was easy to determine that college students are still children in many ways, especially on a snow day. Pictures of snowmen and frolicking abounded.
Finally, after about 30 minutes in the freezer, my syrup was ready. It was time to put everything together. I went outside and consolidated all my collected snow into two bowls. Working very quickly, I loosened it up with a spaghetti spoon and poured the syrup over the snow. Thankfully, the snow didn't melt.
I worked the syrup into the snow and added some milk as well. When everything was mixed, I ladled out three servings into coffee mugs. The three of us tasted it, not quite knowing what to expect.
It tasted delicious, like a frappe, but there was something different that came from using natural snow. It was finer in texture and dissolved much more dreamily than any mechanically shaved ice. What a delicacy!
The rest of the snow cream was divided among a group of people watching movies in the dorm lobby. It was a big hit. Everybody was happy.
Making the snow cream was worth the ordeal. I just think I'll have sweetened condensed milk on hand before the snow comes next time. Still though, it was fun to put together. I'd do it again for sure.
I totally improvised this, measuring very little. However, this is pretty much what I did.
Coffee Snow Cream
About 2 lbs. fresh snow, as loose and clean as possible
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
About 3 tablespoons instant coffee
About 21/2 cups milk or cream
A few hours ahead, set a large bowl or other receptacle outdoors in a place where snow will collect in it.
Combine the water, sugar and instant coffee in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Simmer the mixture until it is slightly thicker than it was originally. Take off heat and cool to just below room temperature.
Loosen snow with a whisk or fork until it is as fine and uniform as possible. Pour coffee syrup over snow and mix in evenly. Repeat with the milk or cream. Serve immediately.
Serves about 8