One summer when I was a kid, I made it my mission to find the best strawberry ice cream. I ate strawberry ice cream in New York and Connecticut and Massachusetts and New Jersey. I can’t remember which was my favorite, whether it was Haagen-Dazs or Baskin-Robbins or the scoop from the wooden shack on the edge of a cow pasture, but it doesn’t matter: it was the journey, as they say, not the destination.
A couple years ago, my sister gave me Jenni’s Splendid Ice Creams cookbook and the boys and I have been happily exploring its recipes. But it wasn’t until recently that Ben took a close look at the back of the book and discovered the accompaniments section, where we found the recipe for “Bombe Shell,” a fabulous and easy chocolate sauce that hardens on contact with ice cream.
With Valentine’s Day approaching, I offer this recipe in the spirit of the season, and hope someone coats something with chocolate for you.
I have this fantasy: Someday I will give them something so good they will be happy forever. Once and for all, they will love me without complaining. They will stop fighting. They will remember gratitude. They will be transported, their minds and mouths silenced by perfect joy. This joy will last, and last, and last.
Magical thinking, I know. But it’s the kind of magical thinking that turns a warm day daydream…nutella…vanilla ice cream…hazelnuts...into a batch of cold, sweet bliss. Some mothers might think the magical thing is a hug, or a kind word, or a pony. For me, on this day, it was ice cream.
It didn’t silence them. It did fill them with joy. It didn’t stop the complaining. It did conjure gratitude. It didn’t last. But I can make it again. And again. And again.
Nutella Swirl Ice Cream with Hazelnut Crunch
- 1 cup whole milk
- pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2-1 cup Nutella
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts, more or less to taste (optional)
- In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks until well blended and smooth. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, heat the milk, salt, and sugar until the sugar dissolves.
- Pour a small amount of the warmed milk into the egg yolks and stir gently to loosen the yolks, then pour the yolks back into the pan containing the warm milk and sugar.
- Continue to cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
- Strain the custard into the heavy cream. At this point, you are supposed to set the custard into an ice bath and cool it thoroughly. I almost never do this.
- Refrigerate the custard until it is thoroughly chilled, at least 8 hours, or overnight.
- Gently toast the hazlenuts until they are aromatic. Rub together to remove the skins and roughly chop.
- After the custard is chilled, set the Nutella in a double boiler and simmer until Nutella is pourable.
- Freeze the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturers directions.
- When ice cream is finished, add the hazlenuts and continue churning until incorporated.
- Once nuts are incorporated, pour the warm Nutella, very, very quickly, in one or two large spoonfuls into the churning ice cream. Churn for only a few seconds–just until the Nutella is incorporated.
- You can return the ice cream to the freezer to finish freezing. Or you can give in and eat it immediately.
It’s not summer without the ice cream machine in steady use.
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups half and half
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
Beat together the eggs and sugar until thickened and pale yellow.
Meanwhile, bring the half and half to a simmer over low heat in a large, heavyweight pan. Slowly beat the hot liquid into the eggs and sugar, then pour back into the saucepan and heat over very low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Don’t let the mixture boil or the eggs will scramble (yuck). Remove from the heat and strain into a clean bowl. Allow the custard to cool slightly, the add the cream and peppermint, then chill for several hours or overnight.
Once you’re reading to make ice cream, stir the custard and freeze in your ice cream machine. While that’s churning, melt the chocolate, and then when the ice cream is very nearly done, slowly pour the melted chocolate into the ice cream while the machine is running. Keep the machine running a minute or two longer to spread the chocolate threads throughout the ice cream. Eat immediately, or pack into a freezer container to harden.
I think it was the summer that Star Wars came out, 1970-something, when my oldest brother and sister had summer hotel jobs up in Ogunquit, Maine. Our parents drove my other brother and me up for a weekend visit and we ate a forgettable meal in the big, quiet hotel dining room followed by an unforgettable cheesecake. It was a fruit cheesecake, but instead of a shiny, syrupy layer of fruit on top of the cheesecake, the fruit was fresh, and it had been incorporated into the batter, leaving light, delicate streaks of berry throughout the cake.
This ice cream reminds me of that cheesecake, just a little bit.
1 cup granulated sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon zest
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
3 graham crackers, crumbled
Beat the sugar and the cream cheese together until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
Bring the milk to a boil in a medium-sized pan. Slowly beat the hot milk into the cream cheese mixture. Now pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until the custard thickens slightly. Don’t let the mixture boil or the egg will scramble!
Remove the custard from the heat and pour it through a strainer into a large bowl. Allow the custard to cool slightly, then stir in the lemon zest and cream. Cover and refrigerate until cold (or overnight).
Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in your ice cream machine
according to its directions. Add the crumbled graham crackers when the ice cream is semifrozen, and let the machine mix them in well. Eat right away, or decant into a container and freeze until hard.