Monday, November 5, 2012

Coco Zin Ice Cream

The Setting: A crisp, fall day.

The Soundtrack: Storage Wars.

Steaming up the Panini Press: Two hot Cubans. (Sandwiches, that is.)

The Scenario: Watch out, Haagen Dazs. There's a new chocolate ice cream in town.

If it weren't for the copious containers of Haagen Dazs chocolate ice cream I consumed in between sleeves of Saltines during my pregnancy with Oia, I never would have made it through the first trimester.

Even now, if I had to make a list of my top-five-favorite foods, ice cream and chocolate in various forms and combinations would sweep at least the top four spots.

When I'm in the mood for textural variety and over-the-top flavor combinations, Ben and Jerry's wins with Chubby Hubby, Coffee Caramel Buzz (formerly Bonnaroo Buzz), and Oatmeal Cookie Chunk.

But when pure, clean, simple chocolate ice cream is what I crave, nothing has ever hit the spot like creamy, chocolate Haagen Dazs...that is...until now.

Jeni's Coco Zin sneaks a hint of red wine into a deep, dark, chocolate ice cream to deliver a rich, flavorful complexity that plays up the natural fruitiness of the cacao and intensifies the chocolaty experience without sacrificing the lush, velvety mouthfeel of quality ice cream--no easy task.

To accomplish this, Jeni calls for a combination of unsweetened cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate.

Head's up: when it comes to chocolate, there's no legal distinction between the terms "semisweet" and "bittersweet." Their correlation to cacao percentage varies from brand to brand, and between two different brands, the terms are often synonymous. Basically, it's all dark chocolate.

 Just look for a product with 55% to 70% cacao and no dairy added.

A product's cacao percentage represents its combined amounts of cocoa butter (the fat from cacao bean) and cocoa solids (the rest of the bean). Products with identical cacao percentages may contain different ratios of cocoa solids to cocoa fat. So when it comes to dark chocolate, where milk is not a part of the equation, the main thing the percentage tells us is how much sugar is involved--the higher the percentage, the lower the sugar.

It's tempting to use chocolate chips instead of finely chopping bar or block chocolate. But this is not always the best option when "good chocolate" is called for, as chips tend to contain higher amounts of stabilizers, which can throw off the results in some recipes.

As far as the cocoa powder goes, Jeni does not stipulate between natural or Dutched. My default is always natural, and it gave me amazing results here.

A note on serving: I thought it would be a nice touch to make meringue shells to hold giant scoops of this perfect chocolate ice cream, but the Coco Zin was better on its own. Turns out the perfect pairing for this ice cream is the wine you use to make it.

The following recipe is excerpted with permission from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer. My notes are in blue.

Jeni's Coco Zin Ice Cream
"Mouth-filling, palate-gripping, intense chocolate with a fudge-like texture and a pleasantly dry finish." --Jeni Britton Bauer

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder I used Ghirardelli
1/2 cup Zinfandel or other dry red wine I used Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (55% to 70% cacao), finely chopped I used a Ghirardelli baking bar

2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

For the chocolate syrup:
Combine the cocoa, wine, and sugar in a small saucepan, bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and boil for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Stir the syrup until smooth. Set aside.

For the ice cream base:
Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese, warm chocolate syrup, and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

COOK Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

CHILL Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth.
Gradually is the key word--if you add it all at once, it will be very difficult to get out all the lumps. Speaking of lumps, I like to strain my mixture into a clean bowl at this point, just to make sure the ice cream will be silky-smooth. Use a spatula to help work the mixture through the strainer.

Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes. I generally make the mixture the day before I want to freeze the ice cream so it can chill thoroughly in the fridge overnight.

FREEZE Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy. For best results, always freeze the canister for AT LEAST 24 hours before using.

Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. The parchment is awesome at helping to prevent freezer burn. Every time you scoop out ice-cream, be sure to press the parchment back down over the remaining ice cream to help keep it tasty. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

Makes 1 generous quart.

 Excerpted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer (Artisan Books). Copyright 2011. 
 Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

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