I’m very big on doing seasonal activities because I think those are the times that I stop and really appreciate the present moment. Making and eating ice cream both seem like perfect ways to relax and spend a little time really enjoying summer before the insanity of fall/holidays/back to school, etc. come rushing towards us. Not to mention it’s the perfect way to impress guests at summer parties. I can’t think of anything more wonderfully extra than scooping up some homemade ice cream at a barbecue or pool party.
Ice cream is one of those things that seems difficult to make, but I think that’s just because it requires several hours and special equipment to do it right. Most people (myself included, until just recently) are perfectly happy buying their ice cream in tubs from the store – making your own in this day and age can feel something akin to churning your own butter! But what are you to do when you think of an amazing ice cream concept that you can’t buy? Well, first you get an ice cream maker. I got this one and it works absolutely beautifully. It’s a little on the pricey side, but it’s easy to use, easy to clean, and does a great job. It’s an especially good investment if you want to make unique flavors or you’re looking to create healthier treats by controlling the sugar you’re putting in.
A while ago, I bought some cherry balsamic vinegar from Secolari, a specialty shop in Columbia, Md. And when I got home, I put some of it on chocolate ice cream because the man at the store told me to. I don’t always do what people at stores recommend, but this guy seemed to know his stuff. Suffice it to say, my life was changed forever. I go through phases where the only dessert I want to eat is ice cream, but the usual flavors can get pretty boring. Cherry balsamic vinegar on ice cream re-energizes it in a whole new way. It adds a warmth and slight savoriness to the flavor that is anything but dull. I decided it was time to take those flavors and create a brand new, swirled Balsamic Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream, and I am so glad I did.
For the base of my ice cream I started with Alton Brown’s Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe, from Good Eats. By itself it’s near perfect, although I did add the tiniest pinch of salt to help the chocolate-y flavor really stand out. Then, I cooked fresh cherries with a little sugar and a good helping of the cherry balsamic vinegar to create the sauce I wanted to swirl into the ice cream. I’m not going to lie to you – this ice cream is basically irresistible. It’s like a perfect chocolate covered cherry translated into something even more decadent. It’s not so heavy on the balsamic that kids won’t like it – although the second time you make it you could definitely add more to amplify the flavor contrast.
The balance of ice cream to cherry balsamic swirl is just right, so you’re not overwhelmed by the cherry parts, but you’re not digging through your container searching for them either. The small cherry pieces in the sauce get kind of chewy when frozen, giving every bite a really wonderful texture. Of course I couldn’t just leave well enough alone and enjoy this ice cream, so I added hot fudge on top. But not just any hot fudge – salted chocolate hot fudge. If you like salty-sweet things, then this is essentially compulsory – the sweet ice cream with the tangy cherries and salty-sweet sauce is nothing short of magic. I made my sauce from scratch, adapting this New York Times recipe. It’s very quick and easy to make, and tastes so much better than the stuff you get out of a jar. I actually hadn’t made my own hot fudge before this, but I don’t plan on going back.
Creating this recipe has cause me to fall down an ice cream rabbit hole. Realizing that I can, in just a few hours, make exist any flavor of ice cream that I can dream up, is weirdly surreal. I guess I always knew that was possible, but making a big batch of any ice cream you want at home seems too good to be true. What a wonderful thing to discover mid-July. Thank goodness that DC summer is incredibly humid and very hot, so it’s important to eat ice cream almost every day in the name of keeping your sanity. That’s the real reason I’m sharing this recipe and encouraging you to go buy that ice cream maker. I want to help save your sanity. I’m just trying to make the world a better place.
I suddenly have new-found respect for ice cream parlors.
Balsamic Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream
Chocolate ice cream recipe very slightly adapted from Alton Brown's Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe.
Salted hot fudge recipe slightly adapted from Doris's Salty Hot Fudge Recipe, by Kim Severson in the New York Times.
Chocolate Ice Cream
- 3 cups half-and-half
- 1/2 cup cocoa
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 8 large egg yolks
- 1 1/4 cup sugar 250g
- 2 tsps vanilla exract
- 1 tiny pinch salt
Balsamic Cherry Swirl
- 8oz fresh cherries
- 2 Tbsps sugar
- 2 Tbsps water
- 3 Tbsps cherry balsamic vinegar
Salted Chocolate Hot Fudge
- 1/4 cup salted butter
- 1/4 cup cocoa
- 1 oz unsweetened chocolate
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp salt
Balsamic Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream
Note: This recipe does require an ice cream maker - Makes 1 1/2 Quarts
Whisk together cocoa and 1 cup of half-and-half in a sauce pan over medium heat, until combined. Stir in the rest of the hal- and-half and the heavy cream. Bring to a simmer.
2. Whisk egg yolks until they're slightly lighter in color, and then gradually stir in the sugar. When the cream mixture begins to simmer, remove from heat and temper the eggs and sugar by adding it to them a little at a time until 1/3 has been added. Pour everything in the bowl back into the sauce pan, and stir until well combined. Return the pan to the stove over low heat. Stir frequently until the mixture thickens and reaches 175 degrees F. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
3. Pour the mixture into a large, shallow dish, and allow to sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract, and transfer the dish to the refrigerator or freezer, covered loosely with paper towel until it reaches 50 degrees F or below - this usually take around 2 hours. You can leave it overnight, but once it cools to 50 degrees, cover the dish tightly.
4. While the ice cream mix is chilling, make the balsamic cherry sauce. Pit and quarter the cherries, and add to a sauce pan with the sugar. Let cook for 8-10 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally until the cherries soften and release a lot of juice. Add the water and balsamic vinegar and cook for an additional five minutes. The mixture will thicken some as it cooks, but should remain fairly thin. Pour into a bowl and chill in the fridge until you are ready to use it. This sauce can be stored in an airtight container for about a week, so you can prepare it ahead of time.
5. Churn the ice cream. Pour the 50-degree mixture into an ice cream maker, and process according to the directions for your machine. Add your tiny pinch of salt just before turning on the ice cream maker. While churning, place a 9-inch loaf pan in the freezer.
6. After about 25-30 minutes, the ice cream should look like soft serve. At this point, turn off the machine and remove the loaf plan from the freezer. Scoop about 1/5 of the ice cream into the pan, and spread it into an even layer. Top with 1/5 of the balsamic cherry sauce, and continue working in layers like this until you're out of ice cream and sauce. Cover the pan with foil and freeze for at least 2-3 hours to let it solidify.
Salted Chocolate Hot Fudge
Melt together the butter, and unsweetened chocolate in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add cocoa, sugar, and heavy cream, and stir until the sauce is completely smooth. Remove from heat, and stir in salt and vanilla. Pour over your favorite ice cream.
This sauce will keep for at least a week in an airtight container in the refrigerator.