When you’re in love, you do crazy things. Not that making your sweetheart’s favorite foods is crazy, mind you, but I do think it’s possible to push the envelope quite far, as I have done at times in my quest to tantalize my husband’s taste buds. This dessert might qualify, because not only did I make a homemade version of his favorite ice cream, I scooped that deliciousness right over a chocolate waffle and drizzled it with a homemade cherry syrup.
Les’s all-time favorite sweet flavor combination is chocolate with cherries, and I have mentioned this previously on Comfort du Jour, in these scrumptious posts:
All those desserts were delicious, but when it comes to cherry and chocolate, it is unquestionably ice cream that wins my man’s heart. One of his favorite grocery store ice creams is the Ben & Jerry’s classic flavor, Cherry Garcia, and though I made it back in October 2020 for the triple chocolate-cherry brownie bowls, I felt that it needed a little tweaking, so I didn’t share the recipe at the time. The color of my first batch was off, because I had used my go-to custard base that had a yellowish tint from the egg yolks. And the chocolate chunks were 70% cacao, which proved to be too bitter and a touch gritty in the mix of so much creaminess.
So, I did what I do best and gave the recipe a makeover. And I’m back to share it with you—a homemade version of “Cherry Garcia” ice cream—one that uses sweetened condensed milk in its base, for creamy sweetness without the yellow egg color, a ribbon of sweet-tart cherry syrup that is tinged with a surprise ingredient, and bits of semi-sweet chocolate that bring just the right balance to the sweet cream, vanilla and cherries.
And, in a bold move, I gave it a go with a recipe I’d been eyeing for years on King Arthur Baking’s website—sourdough chocolate malt waffles. This dessert was nothing short of spectacular.
Over the top? Obviously, but c’mon, we’re talking about Valentine’s Day!
Before I get into the making of this lovely dessert, let me acknowledge that a few of you may not be inclined to go this crazy, or maybe you don’t have an ice cream machine yet, or you don’t have sourdough starter to make the chocolate waffles. Please feel free to lift any single part of this dessert for your own celebration, even if it means just making the cherry syrup to drizzle over store-bought ice cream, or serving the ice cream with a store-bought chocolate cookie. I ended up making a second batch of the cherry syrup (with chunks of cherries), and it was fantastic over plain vanilla ice cream.
My ingredients and instructions are all included in a downloadable PDF at the end of the post. Enjoy!
Ice cream is one of my favorite desserts to make. It’s usually just me and my husband at the table, so I rarely make cakes, pies or other large-scale desserts because we don’t want all those leftovers in the house. But ice cream. Now that’s a treat that we can enjoy over a week or two, and for the holidays this year, I wanted to do a Christmas-y flavor. I had considered doing an ice cream with My Dad’s Irish Creme, which I made last week for sipping by the chiminea, though it has been unseasonably warm in North Carolina so we have only done that once. I’ll need to give that one some thought, because so much of the flavor comes from a hefty amount of Irish whiskey and that will hinder the freezing. I also considered eggnog ice cream, which can be made with less alcohol, but I could not find a commercial eggnog that wasn’t made with high fructose corn syrup (bleh). Maybe next year, with more careful planning.
This peppermint-and-chocolate combination won me over after my husband tasted one of these little peppermint bark candies. Mint is not a favorite of his, but combined with the chocolate, he declared it a winner. I wanted to include these candies in the finished ice cream, and I also wanted the ice cream base to have a minty flavor.
My inspiration for that part came from a post shared recently by one of my blog pals, Chef Mimi, who presented a gorgeous peppermint chocolate cocktail made with vodka that had been infused with candy canes. I thought, “well, why wouldn’t that kind of infusion also work in a base for ice cream?” And, as you can see, it does!
Unlike most of my ice creams, which begin with a cooked egg custard base, this one gets its rich texture from sweetened condensed milk. The base peppermint flavor and pretty pink color are the result of having dissolved a couple of candy canes into the milk portion of the ice cream, and I added chopped up chocolate peppermint bark squares at the end for a fun candy surprise.
An ice cream machine is recommended for this recipe, which will yield 1 1/2 quarts.
1 cup whole milk
2 regular size candy canes (if you have mini candy canes, I recommend using about 4 of them)
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk* (see notes)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract oil
1/2 tsp. real vanilla extract
9 Ghirardelli dark chocolate peppermint bark squares, chopped
1 oz. good vodka*
Your favorite hot fudge sauce (optional, but yum!) for serving
Sweetened condensed milk is great for ice creams that do not have a custard base, especially when you want to have a brighter “white” base color. I used the whole milk version of Eagle brand, but I expect you could also use a reduced-fat or even fat-free version of condensed milk; if you choose a lower fat option, expect a slightly “icier” texture in the finished ice cream.
A small glug of vodka, mixed in for the final minute of freezing, ensures that the ice cream will scoop easily straight from the freezer. If you prefer not to add alcohol (or, certainly, if you intend to share the ice cream with children or non-drinkers), you can skip this ingredient. Simply take the ice cream from the freezer about 10 minutes before scooping.
Heat whole milk and candy canes in a small saucepan, over medium-low heat. As the milk warms, the candy canes will melt into it, creating a pretty color and a delicately sweet minty base. As I think of it, I imagine that this milk could also be used to make a minty version of hot cocoa. Maybe next Christmas!
When candy canes are fully dissolved, remove milk from heat and cool then chill in the refrigerator.
In a large bowl or mixing pitcher, blend together the sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream. Whisk in the peppermint milk. Stir in the peppermint and vanilla extracts. Cover and chill for several hours (maybe even overnight) until the mixture is very cold.
Put the chopped chocolate-peppermint bark in the freezer while you freeze the ice cream mixture.
Prepare your ice cream machine, following manufacturer’s recommendations for freezing the ice cream mixture. When the ice cream reaches the fully churned stage, add in the chopped peppermint bark pieces and churn an additional two minutes to evenly incorporate the candy pieces.
Finally, add the vodka and churn until the liquid has disappeared. This trick will improve the texture of the ice cream for very easy scooping straight from the freezer. The vodka is indiscernible in the ice cream, but if you (or someone you are feeding) avoids alcohol, it can easily be omitted.
Transfer the finished ice cream to an insulated freezer container and place it in the freezer for several hours, or preferably overnight. Serve it with warmed hot fudge topping for an extra special holiday treat!