Happy Labor Day! I wanted to make the most of the societal and hopefully climatic, if not calendar, last day of summer with some homemade ice cream.
Ice cream and I have always had a good relationship, even at the height of pregnancy nausea. (Turns out, mint chip is very soothing.) Over the years, I have tried many variations of homemade ice cream, some Philadelphia style (with just cream, sugar, and flavoring) and some custard-based with a rich egg-yolk-y mixture that gets cooked on the stove. Philadelphia style is lighter than the custard kind and easier to make: you don't have to separate eggs, try to find a use for the whites so you don't feel like a wasteful human being, or worry about overcooking your ice cream into sweet scrambled eggs. The disadvantage is that there is a lot of free water left roaming around in your ice cream mixture that will turn into big ice crystals in the freezer. Bleh. Custard-based ice cream, on the other hand, is richer, creamier, and less prone to crystallization since the egg yolks bind some of that water.
This year, I tried another kind of ice cream base from Jeni Britton Bauer, who makes neither Philadelphia style nor custard-based ice cream. She uses a combination of ingredients that purportedly bind water better than egg yolks, leading to a superbly creamy, gelato-like ice cream that runs no risk of scrambling on your stove. It is the best of both worlds, and this chocolate version is some of the best ice cream I've ever had anywhere.
Chocolate Ice Cream
2 cups milk, divided
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
3 Tablespoons (about 1 1/2 ounces) cream cheese, well softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Dutch process because it's what I have on hand, but I don't think it's necessary)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into large pieces (I love Lindt 70%)
Stir together 1/4 cup of milk with the cornstarch, and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, stir together the remaining milk, cream, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. The sugar doesn't have to be dissolved, but get it reasonably dispersed. Heat over medium high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 4 minutes. (Give the cornstarch slurry another quick stir since the starch likes to settle while it sits.) Stir the cornstarch slurry into the cream mixture, and continue heating and stirring until the mixtures comes back to a boil and thickens, about 2 minutes.
Whisk together the softened cream cheese and vanilla in a large bowl. Add the heated cream mixture, pouring in a little at a time and whisking until smooth after each addition. Set aside
To make the chocolate sauce, stir together the cocoa powder, sugar and water in a saucepan. (If you have a good rubber spatula or do a quick rinse, you can reuse the same saucepan.) Heat until boiling, and boil 30 seconds. Remove from heat, and stir in the chocolate to melt.
Stir the chocolate sauce into the ice cream base, and then chill thoroughly* before freezing in your ice cream maker.**
*You can expedite the chilling by using an ice bath, but I'm too lazy, so I just make the base the day before and let it chill in the fridge, covered, overnight.
**According to Bauer, your ice cream is done churning when it starts to pull away from the sides of the machine, meaning it isn't being frozen anymore. Maybe my ice cream maker is always too stuffed or I'm just too impatient, but I haven't observed this happening. I've always been happy with my results, though. Homemade ice cream typically comes out of the machine kind of soft, but it hardens up after some hours in the freezer.