Our older daughter, Carol, loves to cook. During our recent visit to help her unpack, we thought that we would order a lot of take-out, but she insisted on cooking in the midst of unpacking, dealing with repairmen and installers, working as a full-time attorney, and serving as scheduler and chauffeur for many adolescent activities. Never mind her role as a health care activist.
Carol is a great all-around cook, but her specialty is desserts for which she always gets her kids to “help”. Mostly because of that, we usually gain at least five pounds on any visit to Los Angeles.
This time, she made some delicious outdoor meals (It is summer near the beach in Southern California, after all.) along with two outstanding desserts: a cherry/peach tart made from fruit she bought at the farmers market, and this chocolate velvet ice cream.
The original recipe for the ice cream was published in the August, 1997 issue of Gourmet magazine. It is now on the web at the Epicurious web site where it gets a four fork user rating, and 88% of correspondents say they would make it again. . It has enough chocolate for even the most serious chocoholic and is amazingly creamy and smooth. Chocolate ice cream is my grandson’s favorite dessert, so he was in heaven and enthusiastically helped with the preparation.
You will need an ice cream maker, but the handy little Cuisinart countertop model will work just fine.
The original recipe called for Dutch-process cocoa, which I was unable to find in my local grocery stores. The so-called “natural” cocoa is more common in the USA, although you can probably find the Dutch version if you look hard. You can also order it on the internet. According to Harold McGee in his classic On Food and Cooking, Revised, Scribner, New York, 2004, p. 705 “dutching” is the process of alkalinizing cocoa with potassium carbonate. That gives it a smoother taste, but it also means that in baking you may need to use baking powder because the cocoa won’t react with baking soda to give a rise. Since there is no baking here, it’s fine to substitute natural cocoa in this recipe although it may give a sharper, more bitter taste to the final product. In my view, that is not enough to worry about.
Also, you will notice that the recipe for the custard is basically a chocolate crème anglaise finished off with a ganache. How can you possibly go wrong with that combination? After you have chilled the custard you will see that it is quite dense. For that reason, it is important to beat it until it is lighter and more fluffy before you spin it in the ice cream maker. In the end, the ice cream is like eating a frozen chocolate pot de crème because that is basically what it is. This recipe makes about 1 quart of ice cream.
Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream
- 6 ounces quality bittersweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate nibs
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3 large egg yolks
- Chop the chocolate or measure out the chocolate nibs and set aside.
- In a 4 quart heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, cocoa, cream and milk with a whisk. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to the boil, stirring occasionally.
- In the meantime, beat the egg yolks until smooth in a bowl large enough to contain the milk and cream mixture.
- Whisking the eggs continuously, pour the hot milk and cream mixture very slowly into the beaten yolks. You may scramble the eggs if you add the hot mixture too quickly. If that happens, you will have to start over.
- Return the mixture to the saucepan, set over medium low heat, whisking constantly. Use a thermometer so that the temperature does not rise too quickly, especially toward the end of cooking. Otherwise, you will again get scrambled eggs and have to start over.
- When the mixture reaches 170° F (79 °C) , remove from the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate. Continue whisking until the chocolate is completely melted.
- Strain the mixture into a clean bowl. Use a sieve, chinois, or tamis. Cover the custard with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight.
- When you are ready to spin the ice cream, beat the custard with an electric mixer until thick and fluffy. Then transfer to the freezing vessel of the ice cream mixer and spin until the ice cream has reached the desired consistency, probably about 45 minutes.
- Ripen the ice cream by transferring it to an air-tight container and storing in the freezer until hard – at least 2 hours.