I’m of the opinion, “Why buy something when you can make it?” There are so many items we eat on a semi-daily basis that can be made in our own kitchens – why are we throwing money away on stabilizers, preservatives, and any number of other icky chemicals that comprise our “food”? Think of that loaf of bread sitting on your counter; with a little time and practice, you could have a fresh loaf (or two) waiting to be toasted or used for your turkey sandwich! Your morning bowl of granola from the box? Yes, that too, can be quickly made, and you’ll recognize each and every ingredient in it! Jams, jellies, and preserves can be made and jarred, and you can even make your own peanut butter to go with them! Heck, I even made my own worcestershire sauce once! I’m not saying you need to go that far, but you could if you wanted.
One of the easiest and most satisfying recipes to make at home is ice cream. Most custard recipes are basic and straightforward – a little milk, a little cream, a few egg yolks, a little sugar, and voilà! you have the base for any number of flavors! In the summer I go nuts with fresh herbs in my ice cream – I’ve made lemon thyme ice cream, basil ice cream, mint chip – but in the winter, I find that I gravitate toward “cozier” flavors like buttermilk, chocolate, and coffee.
This chocolate ice cream can play host to whatever add-ins you want to use. Have a pan of brownies lying around? Cut up a couple and stir them in after the ice cream has been churned. I could imagine chopped dried cherries might be nice in this, or even some chopped almonds or cashews. The possibilities are endless! I’ve even made a chocolate and cracked black pepper ice cream – I know, it might sound strange, but the deep chocolate flavor paired really nicely with the hot bite of black pepper.
For this batch, I chose to go simple, but added a little Maldon sea salt to the churned ice cream. Sea salt is a natural partner to chocolate, but, if it’s not your thing, leave it out and it’ll be just as good.
Chocolate Sea Salt Ice Cream
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk (trust me, if you’re going to make ice cream, don’t skimp on the whole milk or cream – go for it!)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (bar or chips), finely chopped
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Maldon sea salt (if you’re wary, 2 teaspoons will do just fine)
To make an ice bath, fill a large bowl halfway with ice and water; place a medium bowl inside the bath and set a fine-mesh strainer over the bowl; set aside.
In a large saucepan, combine the cream and milk and bring to a simmer over medium heat. When tiny bubbles form on the surface of the mixture, remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder until fully incorporated. Add chopped chocolate and whisk until totally melted and smooth; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks until smooth. Slowly add sugar and whisk until pale yellow and thickened. It’ll feel like you’re whisking wet sand, but trust me, whisk for at least 2-3 minutes. Slowly and carefully, pour about 1/3 of the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs don’t scramble. This is called tempering.
Pour chocolate-egg mixture back into saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens a little and coats the back of the spoon. You’ll know it’s ready when you can draw your finger across the spoon and it makes a mark through the mixture and doesn’t run back on itself.
Remove pan from heat and strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer. Stir vanilla extract into the base and allow the mixture to cool in the ice bath, stirring occasionally, until it comes to room temperature, at least 20 minutes. Cover and chill in fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
(If you don’t have the means to make an ice bath, or simply don’t want to, that’s okay. Just cover the bowl, place it in the fridge, and allow it to chill for at least 4 hours, or overnight. You want the mixture to be really cold before you pour it into your ice cream maker.)
Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions (I use the freezer bowl attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer). After it’s done churning, fold in the sea salt and freeze in air-tight containers until ready to eat.