Bittersweet Chocolate Ice Cream

Different kinds of chocolate affect the taste and texture of ice-cream. Ice creams made with unsweetened chocolate cocoa powder melt more quickly, feel colder and more refreshing, and taste more distinctly of fresh cream than those made with bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. Because the latter two add extra cocoa butter to the recipe, the ice cream freezes harder. But, if you eat such ice cream soft from the ice cream maker, or later softening slightly in the microwave, you will find it exquisitely thick, rich, and voluptuous on the tongue. Each has its merits. All are divine. Makes about 3 1/2 cups.

3 1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 c. whole milk
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
4 large egg yolks
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Set a strainer over a medium bowl near the stove.

Put the chocolate in a medium bowl next to it. (Note: It helps to start melting the chocolate in a double boiler over barely simmering water.)

In a 1 1/2 qt. to 2 qt. saucepan, bring the cream, milk, sugar and salt to a simmer over medium heat.

Meanwhile, in a third medium bowl, whisk the yolks just to combine them. Whisking constantly, pour the hot cream mixture slowly over the yolks. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula or a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens slightly and registers between 175 and 180F. Strain the mixture into the waiting bowl to remove any bits of cooked egg. Stir in the vanilla. Pour just enough of the hot cream mixture over the chocolate to cover it. Stir (use a wire whisk), until the chocolate mixture is thick and smooth. Gradually add the rest of the cream mixture, stirring until perfectly blended and smooth. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

Freeze according to the instructions for your ice-cream maker.

Bittersweet Chocolate Mint Ice Cream: Start early in the day or a day ahead to allow the mint to infuse in the cream and milk. Increase the milk to 1 3/4 c. In a bowl, combine the cream and milk with 1 1/2 c. packed, coarsely chopped fresh mint; cover and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours or overnight.

Strain the cream mixture into a saucepan, pressing gently on the mint with a spoon to extract all of the liquid. Discard the mint. Add the sugar and salt and bring to a simmer. Proceed as directed.

Chocolate-Vanilla Bean Ice Cream: Normally a nuance in the background, here the vanilla steps up to become a fragrant partner with the chocolate. Try Bourbon vanilla from Madagascar or the more floral Tahitian bean.

Use a sharp paring knife to split 3 moist vanilla beans lengthwise. Use the knife point to scrape the seeds out of each half into the pan with the milk and cream. Add the scraped bean to the pan, and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, cover and let the vanilla infuse for 10 minutes. Fish out and discard the bean. Add the sugar and salt to the cream, bring to a simmer and proceed as directed.

Chocolate Notes: You can use any unsweetened baking chocolate or chocolate marked 99%. Branch out from the traditional individually wrapped baking squares if you can, and you will see that all chocolates do not taste the same!

To use cocoa instead of unsweetened: Substitute 3/4 c. unsweetened natural or Dutch-process cocoa powder for the chocolate. Put the cocoa in the saucepan and stir in just enough cream to make a smooth paste, then add the rest of the cream and milk.

To use standard bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (without a percentage on the label) or any marked 50% to 62% instead of unsweetened: Increase the chocolate to 8 ounces and reduce the sugar to 1/4 cup.

To use chocolate marked 64% to 66% instead of unsweetened: Increase the chocolate to 6 1/2 oz. and reduce the sugar to 1/4 c. plus 3 Tbs.

To use chocolate marked 70% to 72% instead of unsweetened: Increase the chocolate to 6 oz. and reduce the sugar to 1/2 cup.

Source of recipe: Alice Medrich