Having a great chocolate ice cream recipe in your back pocket means you can please just about anyone in your life. Kids love it filled with candies or crunchies, like peanut butter cups, M&Ms,or Oreos. Adults might prefer it anointed a bit more elegantly with dark chocolate flakes, a coffee caramel ripple, chopped English toffee, or candied pecans. Either way, everyone’s happy.
For me, a great homemade chocolate ice cream needs a bit deeper flavor than most commercial pints deliver. Those store-bought ice creams can get a little one-note: they often have more of a milk chocolate flavor, unvaried by any complexity. So, when I set out to make my perfect version of chocolate ice cream, I started with a combination of bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder, balanced with a pinch of instant espresso powder to underscore the natural bitterness of the chocolate; malted milk powder to bring out its nuttiness; and buttermilk to add brightness and freshness and prevent it from getting cloying.
I love this ice cream on its own, but it also goes well with a wide range of mix-ins. Some successful combinations I have used are crushed peppermint candies and mini York Peppermint Patties, mini peanut butter cups and roasted peanuts, and smoked almonds and bourbon-soaked dried cherries.
Makes 1 ½ quarts
2 cups (480 g) heavy cream
1 cup (170 g) dark or bittersweet (60% cacao) chocolate, chips or chopped
1 cup (225 g) buttermilk or whole milk
½ cup (100 g) sugar
⅓ cup (35 g) cocoa powder
¼ tsp. instant espresso powder
3 Tbsp. (18 g) malted milk powder (or plain milk powder)
¼ tsp. fine sea salt
3 Tbsp. (63 g) honey
3 Tbsp. (45 g) vodka (Note: this helps keep the ice cream from freezing too hard. If you prefer to not include any alcohol, you will want to let the frozen ice cream sit out an extra 5-10 minutes before scooping for optimal texture.)
1 tsp. vanilla extract or paste
1 ½ cup total mix-ins (optional)
Make a fast ganache by mixing the cream with the chocolate and heating in the microwave for about 2 minutes. Blend with immersion blender or in regular blender to perfect smoothness. Add the rest of the ice cream ingredients and blend again. The milk powder will want to clump on you, so keep a lookout for that. Mix with the blender until well combined and smooth.
Once the mixture is well blended, taste it to be sure you like the balance of flavors. If it doesn’t feel sweet enough to you, add up to a tablespoon more sugar. If any other flavor is not coming through well, add more of what you need. The mixture should be sweet because flavors mute on freezing. When it tastes right to you, pour into a sealed container and chill to cure the flavor, 6-24 hours. It should be very chilled before you start churning.
Churn according to machine directions, then fold in any mix-ins if using. Transfer to storage containers and freeze for a minimum of 8 hours or overnight for best texture.