Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Have a Happy National Vanilla Ice Cream Day with Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate Crunch

July 23rd is for vanilla ice cream! Granted, at my house any day could be an ice-cream holiday. I'll get to that — I promise — but first you'll have to indulge me as I wax nostalgic. (Raise your hand if ice cream makes you nostalgic!)

I owe a lot to my grandmother and I don't mean just genetically, but in terms of real, physical things. If you choose an item at random from my kitchen, there's a good chance that it was a gift from my Grandma, given for either my birthday or Christmas. She picked out her gifts months in advance of the event. In fact, she set me down at her kitchen counter and made me paw through catalogs, dog-earing the pages to mark things I wanted. By the time my birthday/Christmas rolled around, I'd forgotten what I marked and was genuinely surprised at whatever amazing present I unwrapped. Clever girl.

In this way, I received kitchen canisters, a Le Creuset casserole dish, salad-dressing containers, a cherry pitter, cutting boards, my best heavy-duty pot, a jar sterilizer, spoonulas, hot pads. That's just top-of-head. I could go on. One of these gifts, though, stands out in my memory most:  the Cuisinart ice-cream and yogurt maker. She was looking at my dog-eared catalog, and she stopped.

"Really?" she asked, pointing to my choice of the ice-cream machine. "Do you think you'd use that very often?" I was only about 23 at the time (I think) and had an apartment kitchen.

I shrugged. "I'd try to. I think it would be fun," I told her.

Months later when I unwrapped the "surprise," I was so happy with it. I thought to myself, Grandma thought it was kind of silly, but she bought it. She bought it ANYWAY, because she wanted me to have fun.

How often do I use the machine today? All. the. time. At least most of the year. In the summer, we sometimes make a batch every weekend. So Grandma, you might ask (from the afterlife. I love and miss you!):  Does your granddaughter take the time and make a place for fun in her life? I try to. I try to take the vanilla of the everyday and savor it. And sometimes, drizzle it with chocolate crunch. You know, just for fun.

*End ramble.

WAY better than your grocery-shelf chocolate syrup, this chocolate-crunch method drizzles pure dark chocolate over the ice cream in layers. The melted chocolate hardens instantly, so when you scoop into the dessert, it cracks and crunches delightfully. 

Tip: For more delicate crunches, keep your drizzles thin and make thinner layers in between drizzles.

Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate Crunch
by Kate J.
adapted from Blissfully Delicious

1 cup milk (use whole milk for best results)
1/8 teaspoon of salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 egg yolks (room temperature)
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces dark chocolate

In a sauce pan, heat the milk, salt and sugar until steaming, but not quite boiling. Halve the vanilla bean, and scrape the seeds. Add both the bean and the seeds to the pan. Cover, and let steep for at least one hour and up to two hours. At this time, you can set out your eggs to let them come to room temperature.

Beat the egg yolks in a bowl. Check to make sure milk mixture is at room temperature, and whisk in the eggs. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring regularly. Cook until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

In a larger bowl, pour in cream and place a strainer over top. Strain the custard into the cream, add vanilla and stir.

Refrigerate your custard thoroughly, preferably overnight.

Prepare your ice cream machine and follow its instructions, adding the custard and allowing to mix about 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate gently in the microwave, in 30 second segments, stirring in between. It should be thin enough to be poured.

When ice cream is ready, press a thin layer into your freezing container. Drizzle chocolate over the ice cream, keeping it thin. Add another thin layer and repeat until all the ice cream has been used and a last layer of chocolate drizzled.

Place the ice cream in the freezer for at least two hours before serving.

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