There's nothing better than a scoop of ice cream on a hot Summer day. While I love the convenience of a store-bought pint, homemade ice cream, with its creamier consistency, is simply wonderful. Perhaps part of it is the anticipation of waiting for it to freeze.
When it comes to making ice cream, there are two methods: you can churn the milk, cream, sugar, and flavoring (American style), or you can start out using a custard base (French style). A custard-based ice cream is a little more work — use caution to ensure you don't curdle your eggs — and the end result has less ice crystallization and a silkier texture.
I'd made plenty of ice creams over the years, but never the classic chocolate ice cream. Coming into it, I had to choose between Dutch process or natural cocoa powder (Dutch tends to taste more like dark chocolate and natural more like the milk variety). For this go-round, I used quality Dutch process cocoa for a rich truffle-like flavor that you could even smell it once frozen.
Blend in any topping you enjoy — nuts, more chocolate, you name it — to be your own Ben (or Jerry). Read more to enjoy a scoop of classic chocolate ice cream.
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa or natural cocoa*
1 cup two-percent milk
1 3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks just to break them up, then whisk in half of the sugar (six tablespoons). Set aside.
In a heavy nonreactive saucepan, combine the cocoa powder with the remaining sugar (six tablespoons). Whisk in about 1/4 cup of the milk to make a paste, adding a little more of the milk as needed to make it smooth and uniform. (If you add the milk all at once, the cocoa will be lumpy.) Whisk in the remaining milk, the cream, and salt, and put the pan over medium-high heat. When mixture approaches a bare simmer, reduce the heat to medium.
Carefully scoop out about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture, and whisking the eggs constantly, add the cream to bowl with the eggs yolks. Repeat, adding another 1/2 cup of the hot cream to the bowl with the yolks. Using a heatproof rubber spatula, stir the cream in the saucepan as you slowly pour the egg-and-cream mixture from the bowl into the pan.
Cook the mixture carefully over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is thickened, coats the back of a spatula, and holds a clear path when you run your finger across the spatula, one to two minutes longer.
Strain the base through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container. Set the container into an ice-water bath, wash your spatula, and use it to stir the base occasionally until it cooled. Remove the container from the ice-water bath, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the base for at least two hours.
Add the vanilla to the base and stir until blended.
Freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. While the ice cream is churning, put the container you'll use to store the ice cream into the freezer. Enjoy right away or, for a firmer ice cream, transfer to the chilled container and freeze for at least four hours.
Makes about one quart.
*If using natural cocoa, you will need to mix in a heaping 1/8 teaspoon baking soda to ensure its pH is more similar to Dutch process cocoa.