We Cook: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home – The Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World
I purchased Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home because I only had one ice cream cookbook
(Lebovitz’ definitive book for the home cook, The Perfect Scoop)
and I thought it was time to try something new.
Splendid Ice Creams does not use eggs in any of its recipes
whereas most of Lebovitz’ ice creams are custard-based.
I prefer a custard base for ice cream
but the egg-free recipes are what interested me about this book from the start.
If you don’t try new recipes
how do you grow?
Bauer writes she doesn’t like to use eggs because they muddle the ice cream’s other tastes
(sounds like another chef I know).
Instead of using xanthan gum,
a typical emulsifier in ice cream recipes without eggs,
she uses cornstarch and cream cheese to thicken the ice cream.
When I was researching the book before I purchased it
her use of cream cheese made me pause for a moment.
I didn’t want the ice cream to taste like cream cheese or cheesecake.
I have a funny relationship with cream cheese.
I like cream cheese
but you’ve never seen me turn a cookbook page so fast
as when cream cheese is in the ingredient list.
I usually think of it as a cheater ingredient
something to “add something”
instead of thinking hard for a moment and figuring out what the dish really needs
(butter? cream? a roux base? salt? sour cream?).
I didn’t say it was a RATIONAL relationship with cream cheese.
The cream cheese only caused a small pause on my end.
Bauer’s not an amateur
and my worry that the ice creams would all taste like flavored cheesecake was fleeting.
Bauer uses cream cheese for its casein proteins
and explains why in a section of the book entitled The Craft of Ice Cream.
It’s an informative section
and also outlines why she uses sugar and corn syrup
(not high fructose corn syrup)
and how cornstarch takes care of the ice cream so it doesn’t become icy.
I’ve not had problems with my custard ice creams becoming icy
even after lounging in the freezer
but I know that some people end up with icy cream instead of ice cream.
I went through Splendid Ice Creams several times before settling on a first recipe.
You’d think that I would start with vanilla ice cream
but I went with chocolate.
I started with The Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World
(I don’t always start off with chocolate, but when I do, it’s darkest chocolate in the world)
because dark chocolate ice cream is my favorite flavor
ever since I first had it at Amy’s Ice Cream in Austin.
Can someone open up a place called THOR’S ICE CREAM, please?
There is danger in expecting a recipe from one place
to taste like the product from another place
so I reminded myself about that
and focused my expectations on a good dark chocolate ice cream
not Amy’s dark chocolate ice cream.
The recipe did not specify regular cocoa or Dutch process cocoa.
I used both
not to be on the safe side
but because I didn’t have enough regular cocoa to make the recipe.
I wanted to use regular cocoa since Dutch process cocoa walks on the mild side
and I think that, of all things,
the Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World should not be mild.
I found in another section of the book that she uses both types of cocoa when she makes ice cream
but it would have been nice to see it in the recipe that either option is OK.
but there aren’t a million recipes in the book that call for cocoa
so I don’t think it would use that much space to advise that either type is appropriate to use.
This is what cake baking does to you.
You start getting panicky about cocoa types.
Cocoa and bar chocolate go into this ice cream.
I used Lindt 70% for the chocolate bar.
The recipe also calls for coffee
Dark chocolate’s flavor is tied tightly to coffee
and many recipes call for both for a very chocolatey result.
Sometimes I wonder if dark chocolate’s flavor is affected
by the constant pairing with coffee
like pumpkin is with standard pumpkin pie spices.
How many people can describe flavor of pumpkin?
It is not cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg.
Deep thoughts while preparing ice cream,
Chopping the bar for future melting.
If you find your chocolate is a bit brittle
microwaving it for 5-10 seconds will soften it
so chunks don’t go flying everywhere.
Once my ingredients were prepared and coffee ready
I made a chocolate syrup as called for.
You can see the different colors of the cocoas.
Seeing the sugar sitting in the pot made it tempting to first make a caramel
then add the coffee and cocoa
but I was trying to stick to the recipe.
So I stuck
and brought everything to a boil for half a minute
then let the syrup cool down.
What I SHOULD have done then
was add the chocolate bar to the warm syrup
but that didn’t happen.
I’m going to blame the baby
and you’ll never know if he was the real reason I forgot.
When the syrup cooled from a boil
(and while I was forgetting about the chocolate)
I added the cream cheese and a bit of salt to the pot.
I whisked it smooth
aside from some bubbles.
I looked ahead in the recipe
and remembered that this book calls for using a lot of medium-sized bowls.
Instead of dragging out bowls for mixing
I put my ice cream mixture into a glass pan
(more on this later)
and then washed the one pot I had been using so I could mix the ice cream base in that.
For the base:
I made a slurry with the cornstarch and a little of the milk and then set it aside.
I brought the remaining ingredients to a boil
and boiled for exactly four minutes as the recipe stated.
Or maybe it was three minutes and 45 seconds?
Bauer says multiple times in the book that boiling for EXACTLY FOUR MINUTES
(I can only think of it in capital letters)
From working with candy and frostings with corn syrup
I assume that the four minutes allow the base to reach a certain temperature
so the corn syrup can work its magic.
I don’t know what that temperature IS
because it’s not in the book.
I don’t know how cookbook publishing works.
Maybe mixture temperatures scare people off since they don’t have a candy thermometer
and that means fewer sales.
However, a temperature so critical for the base recipe should be included IN THE RECIPE.
I couldn’t find it anywhere in the book.
Did I miss it?
Someone tell me I missed it.
I know most people don’t have a candy thermometer
(I’ve a quite beat-up one)
but scary or not
a temperature note alongside the boiling time seems appropriate.
After four minutes
I took the pot off of the heat
and stirred in the cornstarch.
Can you see what is wrong with this photo?
I wasn’t whisking as I added the cornstarch.
Back on the heat I stirred
for about a minute as the base thickened.
It did not get very thick
and I was suspicious that it was because my cornstarch had clumped together instead of dispersing nicely.
At this point I realized I had forgotten the chopped chocolate
so I sat down on the floor and cried about the chocolate forgetting and my cornstarch sloppiness.
I don’t get that upset over ice cream.
I put the chocolate in the microwave for a few seconds
then added it to the chocolate mixture.
It was fine.
I got ready to combine the two mixtures
when the little voice I often squelch said that I should probably strain everything before freezing.
The recipe did not say to strain the ice cream before freezing
but the surface of the base worried me.
I mixed everything together in a glass pan
and then poured it through a fine mesh strainer.
Oh, that would have been lovely frozen.
That is a lot of cornstarch due to not whisking as I added the slurry.
Worry was the main theme in my kitchen
as I now wondered if things would be too thin and end up icy.
It looked ok.
Splendid Ice Creams calls for putting the warm ice cream mixture in a gallon-sized plastic bag
and then in a water bath to get very cold.
I had just confidently told my husband not to buy any plastic baggies because we didn’t need them
because I’m a moron.
Even though I can’t do it this time around
I think how Bauer uses the bag is wonderful.
She snips off a corner to pipe the ice cream into the canister
making simple work of what is usually a messy job.
Keeping with my Fewer Big Bowls Forever mindset
I never do ice baths for ice cream
and opt to put them in shallow pans in the freezer for a while
stirring often to get only cold
I left the pan in the freezer for about an hour
and after a few stirs brought it out to freeze in the machine.
I made a mess pouring the ice cream into the canister
(you’d think I would’ve gotten a funnel for my kitchen by now)
and turned it on.
Turning it on was followed by an immediate request from my husband to turn it OFF
since the ice cream maker is loud.
Marriage is about compromise.
your spouse ice cream makers with towels.
I never know.
The book says that it should just pull away from the sides
and it should not have a dense layer of ice cream lining the canister.
My ice cream seemed to qualify.
I packed it into containers
and then froze it for several hours.
When I first started cooking
I only bought cookbooks with photos.
A few years later, I don’t need a book loaded with photography
but I am drawn to them.
What gets my goat is when photos aren’t helpful
(why are you showing me ANOTHER photo of a field? Will I be foraging?)
or when different ingredients are used in the photos and not noted
(I can TELL that’s a different type of pepper and this recipe didn’t even CALL for garlic!).
Like other types of books
cookbooks tell a story
and photos (food or non-food) help it along
but fields in moderation, please
and note your recipe modifications when you make them.
The photos in Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home are always on point
with a photo for almost every recipe
and portraits of the farmers and vendors who are so important in what she does.
the photo in the book for The Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World
matched almost exactly my batch of ice cream
an accomplishment that deserves applause
though I’m not sure for which party.
The actual ice cream
the end goal of this whole thing
was exactly how Bauer described it:
“[m]outh-filling, palate-gripping, intense chocolate with a fudgelike texture and a pleasingly dry finish.”
and it was a small one
was that on the first day I made the ice cream
I could taste the coffee.
I’m not a coffee drinker
so it was disappointing to taste the coffee in the ice cream
but by the next day
the coffee undertone was gone.
Maybe my tastebuds forgot
maybe the flavors got together and shoved the coffee out of the canister.
(when, not if)
I make this again
I’ll wait a day before taking my spoon to it.
Missing temperature aside,
(I keep asking myself if I am repeatedly missing the note about it somewhere in the book)
the success of the dark chocolate ice cream recipe means the next recipes I make
will be joyful undertakings
not time in which to plot which neighbor gets the tupperware of ice cream.
Confidence boosted by a great outcome of a somewhat pedestrian flavor from the book
I think it’s time to get a little weird.
I have a handful of recipes flagged in Splendid Ice Creams
and my only problem is narrowing it down further.
A good problem to have.