When I was a kid I did not like chocolate ice cream. Strange as it seems now, I didn’t really have any interest in the stuff. If I was given a serving of Neapolitan ice cream I would devour the pink and white stripes as quickly as possible to avoid accidentally eating any meltings from the brown stripe. Don’t get me wrong, I always loved chocolate, especially dark chocolate. I didn’t even understand why I didn’t like chocolate ice cream.
And then several years ago I went to Italy. Italians don’t mess around with ice cream. True Italian gelato can be found in few places in the world, but in Italy there seems to be a law requiring at least one quality gelateria in every square mile. Naturally, I did my best to try them all. But after 4 or more triple-scoop cones per day for a couple weeks, I admitted defeat. It would take me several lifetimes to sample every flavour in every gelateria. But along the way, I came across something very exciting: delicious chocolate gelato!
I asked Aunt Nancy if she knew how to make chocolate ice cream, but she said Mike and Sam had tried to use chocolate milk in the Russell recipe and had unsatisfying results. This caused me to question my firm lifelong belief that the Russell Recipe never fails. (Note: Lately I have reconfirmed this undeniable truth by making a successful chocolate and coconut ice cream with the Russell Recipe…)
Anyway, I searched around the internet until I found a chocolate gelato recipe that seemed promising. We were very pleased with the results and tweaked the recipe until it fit the trusty half-gallon White Mountain Freezer.
Here’s what you’ll need (for a half-gallon freezer):
- 100g (3.5oz) bar of dark chocolate (min. 70% cocoa solids)
- 1 litre (approx. 1 quart) whole full-cream milk
- 120ml (1/2 cup) double cream
- 225g (1 cup) caster sugar
- 7 medium egg yolks
- cocoa powder to taste (usually between a half to one cup)
Chop the chocolate and melt it in a double boiler, adding the milk, cream, and half the sugar. Heat and stir until the chocolate is melted and the sugar is dissolved and you have a smooth consistency. Do not overheat!
In a separate bowl beat the egg yolks and the remaining half cup of sugar until they get thick and pale. You can use a whisk but be prepared to exert a fair amount of energy. Probably an electric beater would be easier. Now’s the time to add the cocoa powder and whisk it until the powder is moistened and there are no lumps.
Set aside a large bowl of ice and cold water (not too full).
Slowly add the chocolate milk mixture to the yolks and sugar while whisking carefully. It’s important you don’t pour the hot liquid in too fast and that you keep whisking vigorously. You don’t want to unevenly cook the yolks or it will ruin the custard texture. Then pour it all back into a large saucepan.
Heat the custard on a moderately low fire while stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Slowly bring the temperature to about 80ºC (175ºF). It’s very important to make sure it doesn’t boil. If you don’t have a thermometer you can do the wooden spoon test. Dip the spoon in the mix and then run your finger along the back of the spoon. If the mark left by your finger keeps its shape then the custard is ready. It should be thick with a velvety texture. If you accidentally overheat it, quickly drop the pan in the ice water to cool it back down and whisk vigorously to prevent any clumps from forming.
Chill the custard in the ice water. Once it’s cold, sieve it into your ice cream machine.
Freeze it as normal and if you can be patient try putting it in the freezer a couple more hours before serving. The texture is amazing and the flavour is rich and chocolatey. It’s a lot of effort, but this one is worth it.
The road to perfection
However, we are still trying to bring this recipe into the ultimate level of perfection. We have found that the cocoa does not dissolve completely and gives a subtle powdery feel to the otherwise super-smooth ice cream. Though this is easily ignored, everything can be improved upon. For the last batch, we replaced the cocoa powder with a 100g bar of 100% cocoa chocolate, hoping that it would melt more smoothly into the mix. Unfortunately the bar we chose was ever so slightly gritty and left some minor inconsistencies in the ice cream. On our next batch we’ll probably replace both bars of chocolate with two bars of 85% dark chocolate and see how that works…
Some recommended variations include:
Cioccolato Arancia (Orange Chocolate)
Add the zest of a few oranges to the milk as you heat it. You can also boil some fresh orange juice until it’s thick and add it to the custard near the end. I’ve found this doesn’t actually curdle the milk. Orange Chocolate is an amazing combination and works beautifully in an ice cream.
Chocolate and Chilli
This classic flavour combination is unbeatable. Add some crushed or ground chilli peppers to the milk as you heat it.
Black pepper can also add a really nice compliment.
Chocolate and Beetroot
We recently served Chocolate Gelato with our new Beetroot Ice Cream which went down a treat.