France: Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream a la Place des Vosges
Paris is one of the great dessert cities of the world (which is one of the reasons why it makes so much sense for the excellent David Lebovitz to have settled there)...
At certain times of day (starting around five minutes after you thought your breakfast had settled...) it begins to seem as if there's a patisserie on every streetcorner, if not several of them in any given block... all their windows filled with stunning pastries and sweets.
The last time EuroCuisineLady was passing through the City of Light, she was on her way to a business gig, and had an overnight stay in a hotel in the Place des Vosges, Paris's oldest square. The Place is a beautiful place to just lounge or relax, but EuroCuisineLady's work schedule meant she was going to have to spend all of her "break day" and evening hammering on the laptop and sorting out various issues with people who were working on the same project.
Fortunately there was an unusually congenial place to do this. Café Hugo, just down the square from Victor Hugo's old home, offers WiFi access at reasonable rates: so ECL wandered in there, found a comfy table near the door where she could at least watch Paris go by if not actually participate in the scene, had a snack, and got on with business.
The weariness of the end of the work day, though, was broken by something unexpected. On a whim -- or rather, subliminally stimulated by the memory of the glossy gleam of chocolate in all those patisseries she'd seen on her one swift walk around the block early in the afternoon -- ECL asked for some chocolate ice cream for dessert. What she got went way beyond any possible expectation. Her memory is now vague on whether or not the ice cream came from one of the high-end glaciers like Berthillon. But it was terrific: a luscious, rich, creamy ice cream with the most amazing truffle-y mouthfeel, perfectly augmented by a shake of plain dark cocoa over the top.
Normally ECL is not the type to go insane trying to reproduce foods she eats on the Continent. She prefers either to remember them fondly from a distance, or to go back as soon as possible and eat them again. But when EuroCuisineGuy looked up at the electric ice cream maker a week or so ago and muttered, "How long has it been since we used that thing?", the memory of that ice cream drifted to the surface. And there was cocoa in the house, and eggs, and cream, and plenty of chocolate...
The recipe that follows is -- by one of those miraculous flukes that sometimes happens in the kitchen when you're improvising -- very, very close to what ECL had in Café Hugo that evening. The mouthfeel, at least, is right on, due at least partly to the use of both cocoa and chocolate in the mix. It is rich: all cream, no milk, three eggs (well, two egg yolks and a third whole one)... so if you're dieting at the moment, save this for later.
Finally, please note that you really need a mechanical ice cream maker for this.
This recipe makes just under a quart / liter of ice cream. Small batches are probably better for this recipe, as, like other high-cream ice creams, it will not keep for more than a week or so in the freezer before it loses its texture and starts to go blah. You have been warned.
- 2 one-ounce squares Baker's plain baking chocolate (or 2 ounces / 65 grams of whatever good baking or patisserie chocolate you prefer)
- 6 tablespoons cocoa (ECL used Green & Black)
- 1/3 cup confectioners' / icing sugar
- One whole egg
- Two egg yolks
- 500 ml / 18 fluid ounces heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon Madagascar vanilla extract
- Cocoa to garnish
- Optional: 3 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts
(One note about the sugar: UK and US powdered sugars are not the same. In ECL's opinion, UK icing sugar works slightly better for this, as US confectioners' sugar has cornstarch in it. Now, the difference in the ice cream's texture is going to be small enough that it probably won't matter to most people. If you think it might, though, and you're not on the UK side of things, you can do what ECL does and make your own confectioners' / 10X sugar by whizzing it in a coffee grinder. ECL has found that by doing this you can produce a much finer-textured powdered sugar than what you buy in the box: you can grind it right down to the consistency of talcum powder. When you beat this sugar into an ice cream mixture, it not only completely vanishes into it, but also seems to subtly improve the mouthfeel and texture of the ice cream. Give this technique a try if you feel inclined.)
First, prepare your ice cream maker so that it's chilled down and ready to go when you're finished mixing the ingredients.
In a double boiler, melt the solid chocolate over simmering water. When completely melted, remove from heat and set the top half of the double boiler aside to cool slightly.
Using a whisk, beat the egg and egg yolks together until they go lemon-colored and start to thicken. Add the icing sugar / confectioners' sugar gradually, beating well after each addition.
Beat the cocoa gradually into this mixture until completely combined, and then beat some more. Finally, beat in the vanilla extract.
Pour a little of the cream into the bowl in which the chocolate was melted and whisk very well until combined. Add more cream and beat again: continue until approximately half the total amount of cream has been used.
Gradually beat the remaining cream into the egg, sugar and cocoa mixture. Do not try to produce a whipped cream texture here: this is simply about getting everything completely blended.
Finally, add the chocolate mixture to the egg/sugar/cocoa/cream mixture and beat all together until completely combined.
Freeze this mixture according to the instructions that apply to your ice cream maker. If you're adding the chopped hazelnuts (this is ECG's preferred version of the ice cream), add them about 5 minutes before the freezing process is about to finish.
Scoop the ice cream out of the machine into containers, and put them in the freezer to harden and ripen. You can serve the ice cream immediately out of the machine if you like, but ECL's experience suggests that the ice cream's texture improves after having frozen down hard at least once.
If you use small plastic containers like the one ECL used to produce the example in the picture, when ready to serve, run hot water over the outside of each container to loosen the ice cream inside. Turn out onto plates and dust with cocoa before serving. Or alternately, just allow to warm until scoopable, put the scooped ice cream into bowls, and dust the contents with cocoa.