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Dark Chocolate Gelato

Monday, March 26th, 2007

I promised my son I would make more ice cream after we quickly devoured the chocolate cappuccino ice cream I made last week. Rather than repeat the exact same recipe, I decided I would make this recipe for dark chocolate gelato. My wife and I have a lot of cookbooks, and I have collected nearly ten books specifically about ice cream. Finding a recipe for a chocolate gelato should be easy, especially since several of the books have “gelato” in their title. To my surprise, only one of my books had a pure chocolate gelato recipe, the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library book, Ice Creams & Sorbet. If your bookshelf has limited space, this cookbook—loaded with great photos and recipes—is one that I highly recommend. A lot of other cookbooks have numerous recipes that I look at and have absolutely no interest or confidence in. I really believe Williams-Sonoma have done a great job with this book.

What is gelato, anyway?
Gelato is typically made with whole milk rather than cream or half & half like ice cream. Although there is less fat than your typical ice cream, gelato is denser and results in a dessert that seems more rich than ice cream. Gelato is also best served near melting—in stores this usually means a special, forced air freezer.

You never forget your first gelato
I first tasted gelato in high school at Gelato Classico in Palo Alto. Their dark chocolate gelato is amazingly rich, smooth and dark. I’m always torn between their limone sorbetto and chocolate gelato. You can get a cup with one or more flavors neatly partitioned, but I could never bring myself to combine sorbet and gelato in the same cup. Since then I have been fortunate enough to taste gelato in both France and Italy on hot summer nights, but making it at home is much easier on the pocket book.

Emerging from the ice cream maker with a pulled taffy satin sheen, this dark chocolate gelato recipe isn’t quite as dark as Gelato Classico’s version, but it definitely is just as rich. My wife described eating this as “almost like eating a candy bar.” The light waffle-cone cookie I served it with was a perfect contrast to the rich chocolate flavor of this gelato. So rich, you may hesitate for a second helping…who are we kidding? You’ll have another scoop—just this one time.

Ingredients for making Dark Chocolate Gelato.

Chop your favorite dark chocolate (72% Valrhona Araguani here).

Add sugar to whipped egg yolks and corn syrup.

With mixer on low, slowly add simmering milk to egg yolk and sugar mixture.

Stir constantly until mixture thickens and a finger leaves a track when dragged across the back of a spoon (about 180 °F).

Pour custard through chinois into bowl of chopped chocolate.

Stir custard to melt chopped chocolate.

Add cocoa and stir until smooth. Chill in ice bath until temperature reaches about 45 °F.

Freeze in ice cream maker, transfer to container and let ripen in freezer for at least one hour.

The recipe, with detailed instructions and complete photo gallery, can be found on the Dark Chocolate Gelato recipe page.

Chocolate Cappuccino Ice Cream

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

I first made this ice cream three years ago and was surpised that an ice cream with a few egg yolks and half & half could taste this rich. It has incredible chocolate flavor. If you have ever had dark chocolate gelato ice cream, the texture and flavor of this ice cream is very similar.

This recipe is heavily based on the “Cappuccino—Toffee Crunch Ice Cream” recipe from the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library book, Ice Creams & Sorbet. However, the only thing cappuccino about this ice cream is the cinnamon, otherwise it is all dark chocolate and coffee with just a touch of cinnamon; I didn’t feel the original recipe title gave the chocolate justice. I added a little more half & half—it’s almost too rich, otherwise—and espresso powder to suit my taste.

Taking a cue from the original recipe, I served this with some chopped Coffee English Toffee that I had tucked away. Although I originally stated that this toffee had a coffee flavor that came on fast and strong, after it aged a little over a month the coffee flavor was extremely subtle and smooth. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the cup of ice cream and toffee seen in the picture!

If you have made home-made ice cream before, you will be a little surprised at how thick the final cooked custard base is—I thought I was making cook & serve Jell-O pudding at one point! The egg yolks, cocoa powder and melted chocolate make for one dense ice cream. My only regret is that this only made one batch of ice cream, whereas most of the ice cream recipes yield two batches. I still have a little leftover chocolate and will probably make another batch this weekend since everyone who had some was sad to see it disappear so quickly.

Ingredients for making Chocolate Cappuccino Ice Cream.

Add espresso powder to half & half.

Add cocoa powder to half & half. Valrhona cocoa has an amazing color/taste.

Whisk egg yolks and add sugar until light yellow and fluffy.

Subtle cinnamon flavor comes from cinnamon stick.

After slowly adding heated half & half with egg mixture, heat until finger dragged across spoon leaves track.

Pour hot custard mixture through chinois to remove lumps.

Add chocolate, stir until melted, add Kahlúa and then chill in ice bath.

Pour chilled mixture into ice cream maker and freeze.

The recipe, with detailed instructions and complete photo gallery, can be found on the Chocolate Cappuccino Ice Cream recipe page.

Apricot Bars

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

If you like apricots, then you are going to love these apricot bars. I used to enjoy these treats at the local Daly City Barnes & Noble that we would seek refuge in during foggy Sunday mornings. I’ve always liked dried apricots—growing up in the Santa Clara Valley it was hard not to since many houses were built on or between apricot and other fruit orchards (update: now condos and town homes). My mom used to say they were like little dried ears (the kinds that are delicious to nibble on). Once we moved into the sunshine further down the peninsula in 2001, I never saw those apricot bars again.

For quite a few years now, my grandmother, Polly, of Yam Good Casserole fame, has been giving us apricots. She had several apricot trees in her yard and would have them dried locally before distributing them to friends and family. They have since moved away from their fruit garden and now live right next to a very popular fruit stand in Los Altos. Instead of her own home-grown apricots, we now receive a delicious two pound box of slab, Blenheim apricots. As much as I like dried apricots, two pounds is a lot to nibble on, so I have been on the lookout for a way to bake with them. A few years ago we discovered James McNair’s and Andrew Moore’s book of coffee house favorites, Afternoon Delights. We made it a couple times and decided there just wasn’t enough of the the crust and topping, so we increased this by about 25% in our adaptation of this recipe for apricot bars.

You can use any variety of dried apricots to make these—or even other fruits—but if you can find the Blenheim apricot, look no further. Grown primarily right here in California’s Santa Clara Valley, these are among the most flavorful apricots you will taste. I would recommend going for the slab variety as they are the most juicy and delicious. More information about Blenheim apricots can be found at the Apricot King. They also offer online ordering, though I have never ordered from them—or anyone— since I work in Santa Clara and Polly continues to deliver apricots annually. In general, dried apricots are usually a little pricey, so save this dessert for dear friends, when, of course, money is no object.

Ingredients for making Apricot Bars.

Hydrate apricots with sugar and water over medium heat until liquid is reduced to a thick syrup.

Process hydrated apricots until only thick chunks remain.

Melt butter for crust/topping over stove or in microwave.

Pour melted butter into flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and oat mixture.

Stir mixture until well blended and reserve half for topping.

After pressing half of oat mixture onto bottom of pan, evenly spread apricot filling with spatula.

Use bottom of measuring cup to press remaining half of oat mixture over filling.

Bake in 350 °F oven for 30 minutes or until topping begins to brown.

The recipe, with detailed instructions and complete photo gallery, can be found on the Apricot Bars recipe page.

Lemon Ice Cream

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

I’ve been making this lemon ice cream recipe for ten years now, but only recently with Meyer lemons. Originally from Desserts to Die For, I’ve altered this recipe to reduce the amount of butter called for. Yes, that’s right—butter. This is a recipe to die for, after all. With the full four tablespoons of butter, our spoons were left a little greasy, but two tablespoons seems to do the trick.

The resulting ice cream, with enough egg yolks to make French vanilla ice cream jealous, is anything but a sorbet. Smooth and creamy with no harsh acidic overtones, this lemon ice cream is very well balanced. The lemon flavor is derived from a combination of boiled zest syrup and chilled lemon juice. These are added to the custard base immediately prior to freezing.

Ingredients for making Lemon Ice Cream (plenty of egg yolks).

After whipping egg yolks and sugar, slowly add the hot cream while mixing at medium speed.

Heat custard to 185° F or until finger drawn across spoon leaves track.

Pour hot custard through chinois to remove any egg lumps and chill in ice bath.

Use a microplane grater to remove the zest from about four Meyer lemons. Juice all lemons and set juice aside.

Boil zest with sugar and water for five minutes until reduced to syrup.

Blend lemon juice and lemon syrup into chilled custard base and then pour into ice cream machine.

Freeze according to your ice cream maker instructions.

Once firm, transfer to dedicated container and let ripen in freezer for several hours.

The recipe, with detailed instructions and complete photo gallery, can be found on the Lemon Ice Cream recipe page.