Lately I have been fascinated by homemade ice cream. It is remarkably easy to put out a product superior to commercial products at a fraction of the price. Also I have found that I am turning into something of a chocolate freak, like menopausal woman bad. Thus I attempted a few chocolate ice creams.
David Lebovitz Egg Custard Chocolate Ice Cream – This was actually something of a lark as I had some heavy cream on hand. I used what some might call low quality chocolate (I think it was Hershey’s special dark and some sweetened dutch cocoa from Ghiradelli). My wife and I still thought it was the best pure chocolate ice cream we had tasted. It stayed remarkably smooth and scoopable right out of the freezer and had a pure, creamy chocolate flavor.
Cafe Fernando Chocolate Ice Cream/Semifreddo – This was inspired by Jeni’s, of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, recipe which uses cream cheese and corn starch. This recipe drops the cream cheese and replaces with evaporated milk. The recipe I link to has some modifications of the original to adapt to the strength of Anglo corn starch which is apparently stronger than the Turkish variety.
Well this is it, the end all and be all of frozen chocolate. Think of a thick mousse, just ultra smooth and decadently chocolatey and all without churning or an egg custard! For whatever reason this has better chocolate flavor than actually eating chocolate to my palate. I used Trader Joe’s 70% Pound Plus bar and their natural cocoa powder and this officially made me a fan of their chocolate.
David Lebovitz Chocolate Sorbet – There is a lot of skepticism regarding chocolate sorbet, aren’t you just watering down, literally!, the chocolate flavor? Well, another way to look at it is that nothing is interfering with the chocolate flavor? Which interpretation is correct? Well, I had to find out.
This was actually something of a challenge. First I amped the recipe up by first caramelizing the sugar in 1/2 c of water (final water tally was 2 1/2 c in contrast to linked recipe) before adding the rest of the water and dissolving the caramel giving me the most intriguing looking sunset red water. However, upon chilling the chocolate had seized, which is apparently a not uncommon problem but did not happen in the previous two recipes. I assume the lack of fat is the culprit. Now I had not blended the mixture beforehand as the recipe states because I just took the ingredient list and went at it. My bad. I remelted it and stuck an immersion blender in it before chilling it again. This time it came out ultra smooth, so lesson learned.
How did it taste? Nearly as good as Fernando’s chocolate ice cream and just as smooth. It’s not icy like you might suspect from adding all that water. Whether caramelizing the sugar was worth it is an interesting question. I felt like I tasted some caramel notes to the ice cream, but it is mostly overwhelmed by the intensely chocolate flavor (again I used TJ’s). I couldn’t make a firm conclusion without a side-by-side taste test.
Here are some tips and conclusions regarding this little experiment. The quality of chocolate is more important than expected. I have no doubt the first ice cream while already amazing would have been even better with the darker TJ chocolate. That said, egg custards are the hardest part of making ice cream and most annoyingly they leave you with a bunch of egg whites. I CAN ONLY EAT SO MANY ANGEL FOOD CAKES! Even Lebovitz, who mostly uses custard ice creams in his definitive ice cream text Perfect Scoop, in recent comments seems to be moving away from them. His reason is that it can dull the other flavors in the ice cream. Similarly, I sense a push toward less heavy cream as fat can have a similar effect. That is, palates are going toward more of a gelato flavor and texture profile.
As for making egg custard, some people suggest going slow, even using a double boiler setup. I like to go fast and just stir the entire time as its the temperature not the speed that matters here. Once it reaches 170 degrees I pull it off, continue to stir and let the residual heat bring it up to the magic 175 which is right below the point eggs start to curdle. Even if you do get a little bit of cooked egg, an immersion blender can easily smooth it out. After my sorbet experience I might just say to always blend it for better texture.
I have tried Jeni’s cream cheese base (using half and half for convenience) and I think it works very well and I don’t have to make a custard or do something with the extra egg whites. I am pretty sure it will be my standard just for ease of use.
Now which of these recipes would I recommend? Probably the sorbet just because it manages to be so delicious without all the fat and as many calories. Fernando’s condensed+half and half is something like 1700 calories compared to “just” 700 calories of sugar in the sorbet. Not to mention the sorbet’s ingredient list is much simpler requiring only chocolate/sugar/vanilla compared to various dairy products that I don’t have around for any purpose other than ice cream. Of course, maybe the rich fattiness of Fernando’s will cause you to eat less, but I doubt it because it’s just so damn good.