There are three full quarts of homemade ice cream in my freezer, and I can’t eat them. What cosmic forces have conspired to leave me in this terribly unfair situation, you ask? Those would be the forces that bring about family reunions, and that also lead me to interpret my mother’s request for assistance with dessert as the green light for me to plan an ice cream social. And because I thought it best to spare my mother the nervous breakdown (hers, and possibly also mine) that would come from preparing four different batches of ice cream in her kitchen by Saturday afternoon, I decided to make three of them beforehand. But what I didn’t think about is the fact that I would have to NOT EAT THEM. Very, very unfair. (I didn’t even get to eat the ice cream from the photoshoot — I put it back. I hope no one in my family reads this until after the reunion . . .)
This batch is, by far, the hardest to resist. This was my first time making chocolate ice cream, but I’ve worked enough with chocolate to know that when it’s the star flavor, high-quality ingredients are the way to go. I even decided to spring for the Valrhona cocoa powder, despite the fact that spending $14 on less than 9 oz. of chocolate powder seemed a bit crazy to me. And since only 3 tablespoons of cocoa were going into the ice cream (in addition to 5 oz. of bittersweet chocolate), I almost talked myself out of it. But I went for it, and I’m glad I did. When I opened the bag later that evening to see what all the fuss was about, I was instantly convinced it was worth every penny.
The custard base for this ice cream is unreal. Like we’re talking so amazing that I could not stop eating it. So amazing that it practically turned into pudding in the fridge. So amazing that I had to urge to pour it over my head, à la Nigella Lawson. I was worried that the chocolate would overpower the cherries, but they come through right at the end to brighten up the taste. And the salted almonds balance out the richness nicely, while bringing a nice crunch to the mix as well. I have no doubt that this ice cream would be stellar as a straight chocolate ice cream (which the original recipe intended), but it’s even better with these additions.
I also feel the need to address the fact that I’ve photographed cherries in a donut coffee mug and the end result in espresso cups, despite the fact that this ice cream does not contain coffee in any form . . . or donuts. Do you know what I discovered this weekend? I have no small bowls. But I love these little mugs, and I think they’re the perfect vessel for presenting this intensely delicious ice cream. And for the sake of consistency, I figured I might as well include another piece by the same artist. (If you’re curious about these pieces, they’re the work of a local pottery artist named Dan Siegel. He makes mugs/bowls/vases/etc. with a wide array of awesomely unusual designs — from robots to crocodiles to bacon! I’m lucky enough to be able to purchase these directly from him at the farmers’ market, but you can also order them online from his Etsy shop.)
(adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz)
yield: 1 quart of ice cream
- 2 cups of heavy cream
- 3 tbsp high-quality unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (Valrhona!)
- 5 oz. of bittersweet chocolate (I used 70%), chopped
- 1 cup of whole milk
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- 5 large egg yolks
- a pinch of salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups of cherries
- 1 tbsp kirsch
- 1 cup of salted almonds, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 450°. Wash cherries and spread them out on a baking sheet. (Leave them whole. If they’re pitted, they’ll lose a lot of their delicious juices during roasting.) Roast for approximately 15 minutes, stirring once halfway through. When they’ve begun to ooze and are slightly withered, remove from the oven and let cool. Once cool, pit the cherries, then blend with kirsch in a food processor until smooth. Run through a sieve to remove any remaining bits, then set aside.
Prepare an ice bath that will be large enough to hold the bowl containing your final mixture.
Combine 1 cup of heavy cream and cocoa in a medium saucepan. Warm over medium heat, whisking in cocoa until thoroughly combined. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate, stirring until smooth. Add in the remaining 1 cup of cream and the cherry purée, then transfer to a large bowl and set a sieve on top.
Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in the same saucepan. Whisk together the eggs in a separate bowl. Slowly temper eggs with the warm milk mixture (whisking in a little at a time to slowly warm the eggs, so they won’t turn to scrambled eggs when you add them in). Once warm, scrape the eggs into the saucepan with the remaining milk mixture.
Place the saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly (making sure to scrape the bottom), until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Pour the custard through the sieve on top of the large bowl containing the chocolate mixture, then stir in vanilla. Transfer the bowl to your ice bath, and stir until cool.
Refrigerate mixture overnight, then process in your ice cream maker. (If the mixture is almost pudding-like when you remove it from the fridge, give it a good stir to thin it out before adding it to your ice cream maker.) Mix in the almonds when the ice cream is nearly finished.