July 1, 2012

Homemade chocolate ice cream

I think I got a little hooked on ice cream making after tasting my first batch a few weeks ago.  Homemade ice cream is so good!  I don't have an ice cream machine; I'm trying hard to hold out because if I had one, I picture myself churning out quarts of it with far too much frequency.  So this chocolate ice cream was again made without a machine, using that chill, freeze & stir method.
I've mentioned before that I'm a big fan of David Lebovitz.  His baking book, Ready for Dessert, may well be the best I've ever bought.  All of his recipes that I've tried just work and taste as good as he says (and you hope), with instructions that are simple and straightforward.  Right now, I'm completely enamored with his ice cream book, The Perfect Scoop, which not only has tons of recipes for ice cream, sorbets and granitas, but also for a variety of accompaniments from pralined nuts to chocolate sauce and profiteroles.  I hear he's working on a new cookbook, which makes me super excited.
If you make this particular chocolate ice cream, get ready for a rich, true chocolate experience.  Like the terrific vanilla ice cream, this one is also French-style, or custard based, made with egg yolks (as opposed to Philadelphia-style, which is made without eggs - something I'd like to try but may need an ice cream machine for).  Also made with cream, milk, cocoa powder, and a few ounces of dark chocolate, the result is creamy, rich ice cream where the chocolate really shines.

It reminded me of the amazing Berthillon ice cream we eat in Paris, where a small scoop of ice cream or sorbet goes a long way given the intensity of the flavors.  It also made me think of a time last summer when I shared a small container of chocolate ice cream from La Maison du Chocolat with my little one while we were at the mall (we do live in NJ).  We'd never had their ice cream before and when he tasted it, he told me it tasted like brownies!  I agreed with him and maybe that gives you an idea of what this ice cream tastes like because although the chocolate flavor in my home version isn't as complex as the container we had that day, it's that deep chocolate flavor that is distinctive from what we may buy at the supermarket. 
Quite probably like many of you, my love affair with ice cream goes way back.  As a kid, my sister and I loved to eat a particular brand of rocky road ice cream that was heavy on the almonds and light on the marshmallow swirl.  So when I was making this, I couldn't help taking some of the chocolate ice cream and mixing in some toasted almonds.  The combination of smoky almonds in chocolate ice cream is divine.  I reserved this little container (very convenient ice cream storage, by the way) to share with my hubby and we enjoyed it thoroughly.  Ice cream is a happy thing.
And Independence Day is just a couple of days away!  It is hot here in Jersey and the perfect time to enjoy an ice cream cone or two.  In Paris, ice cream shops like Berthillon use these slim, slightly elongated, cones to serve a small scoop of their ice cream.  It's pretty perfect so you can save room for other treats.  I'd take one of those if I could get one but this will due quite well for me.
Have a great July 4th holiday and I hope you have a helping or two of ice cream!  I know it'll put a smile on your face. 

To make this custard-based chocolate ice cream, start by warming a cup of heavy cream with 3 tablespoons of unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder.  I use Pernogotti but Valhrona is certainly a great choice.  Whisk the mixture together while heating and bring it to a boil.  Reduce the heat so the mixture is at a very low boil and continue to cook and whisk it for 30 seconds.  Take it off the heat and add 5 ounces of chopped dark chocolate.
Stir the chocolate until melted and you have a thick, smooth mixture. 
Then stir in another cup of cream.  After trying this ice cream and knowing it's quite rich given the chocolate added in, I would consider using a cup of milk instead of a second cup of cream here, or substitute a portion of it, next time.  
Once combined, scrap the mixture thoroughly into a large bowl.
The second phase of this ice cream making process is to work with the egg yolks.  First warm a cup of milk, 3/4 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt into the saucepan you used for the chocolate mixture.  Separately, whisk 5 egg yolks together in a bowl.  Ladle some of the warm milk into the yolks while whisking constantly so as not to risk cooking the eggs. 
Scrap the warmed eggs into the saucepan and cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring with a rubber spatula constantly, until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon.  It should register about 170 degrees on a thermometer.  Pour the cooked custard through a strainer into the chocolate mixture and stir it together. 
Stir in half a teaspoon of vanilla extract and the ice cream base is done.  Cool it over an ice bath and then chill it in the refrigerator thoroughly before churning it in an ice cream maker.  That is, if you have one.
If making the ice cream without a machine, pour the chilled mixture into a deep baking dish.  I use a 9x13 inch baking pan and I think it works quite well.  This mixture is quite thick so you may need to whisk it to loosen it up before you can pour it.

Freeze the pan for about 45 minutes before taking it out and stirring it up (I use a spatlula and a whisk).  After that, check on it every 30 minutes and do the same until it is just about frozen.
You may need to do this chill and stir process 6-7 times before it's ready.  Once it is, transfer the ice cream to a container to fully firm up and set in the freezer.  I think a flat, loaf type pan, is recommended for ice cream storage (wider surface to scoop) but I've been using typical plastic containers. 

As I mentioned, I thought toasted almonds since I love it so much in chocolate ice cream.  I took about a third of the chocolate ice cream (since my son does not like nuts in his) and stirred in about 1/3 cup of toasted almonds.

My husband and I loved the chocolate ice cream with toasted almonds.  The only thing is that mix-in's do compete strongly with the base ice cream for attention and given how much work and how yummy that basic ice cream is, you might want to keep it pure...although I really do love the addition of the almonds. 

For our little one, however, no almonds in his ice cream.  I have to say that surprisingly, he preferred the vanilla ice cream to this one even though he is a chocoholic like his mama.  That vanilla, made with a fresh vanilla bean, is really amazing and I plan to make it again before the summer's out.  The little one has been getting more into vanilla ice cream of late though - maybe it's because it goes so well with other chocolate desserts?
In case I haven't mentioned it, summer vacation is here and we have plenty of time to sit outside and enjoy leisurely meals that cap off with some ice cream or other delicious dessert.


Chocolate Ice Cream
From The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
Freeze and stir method as described by David Lebovitz

- Makes about 1 quart -

2 cups heavy cream*
3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

* Given how rich this ice cream is with the melted dark chocolate stirred in, I would experiment with substituting some of the cream with more milk (using up to 2 cups whole milk and 1 cup of cream) if I were to eat this on a regular basis. 

Make the custard:
Warm 1 cup of the cream with the cocoa powder in a saucepan, whisking continuously to remove lumps and blend the cocoa.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a very low boil and continue whisking it constantly for another 30 seconds.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped chocolate, stirring until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth (it will be quite thick).  Then stir in the remaining cup of cream (this is where you could subsitute all of some of the second cup of cream with milk instead).  Pour mixture into a large bowl, scraping the saucepan thoroughly.  Have a mesh strainer set on top of the bowl or nearby.

Using the same saucepan, warm the milk, sugar, and salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks together.  While whisking, slowly ladle some of the warm milk to the yolks to temper them.  Scrap the now warmed egg yolk mixture back to the saucepan.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula.  It should read about 170 degrees on a thermometer when it's done.  Strain the custard in to the chocolate mixture and stir together until smooth.  Stir in the vanilla extract.

Stir the mixture over an ice bath to cool it down, then chill it in the refrigerator completely before churning it in your ice cream maker.

To make the ice cream by hand like I did, see the next step.
Chill, freeze and stir:
To make the ice cream without a machine, pour the chilled custard into a deep baking dish (I used a 9x13 inch baking pan).  If you chilled the custard overnight and it is thick, whisk it together to thin it out so you can pour it. 

Freeze for 45 minutes.  As it begins to freeze around the edges, remove it from the freezer and stir it around vigorously (I used a sturdy spatula as well as a whisk).  Return it to the freezer and check on it every 30 minutes and continue to stir and/or whisk.

Continue until the ice cream is nearly frozen.  It will take at least 2-3 hours to be ready.  Transfer the ice cream to a covered container until ready to serve.  Ice cream made this way is best enjoyed sooner rather than later.

I mixed some toasted almonds into about a third of my batch of chocolate ice cream.  If you'd like to add nuts to the entire batch, use 1 cup of nuts.  Toast them on a baking sheets in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes until fragrant and golden brown inside.  Let cool and chop coarsely.  Set aside and stir it into the ice cream before you transfer it to a container. 

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