There’s dessert for the sake of a sweet tooth, and then there’s DESSERT, as is the case with this ultra-chocolate-y, cherry-infused brownie bowl, packed with “Cherry Garcia” vanilla ice cream, studded with sweet cherries and dark chocolate chunks. Oh, and I almost forgot, the cherry syrup. Over the top? Obviously! But this was a birthday dessert a few weeks ago for my husband, Les, who is himself a little “over the top” crazy about any and all chocolate and cherry combinations. And for such an occasion, during a year that has given us too much to worry about and not enough to celebrate, I went all in.
Well, almost. I did take one easy shortcut and I’m not ashamed to share my little secret with you—I never make brownies from scratch. I have a favorite box brownie mix that meets all my picky ingredient requirements, so why put forth the effort to make it “as good as” theirs, when they already have a product that is a winner every time? Ghirardelli dark chocolate is my go-to, and though the brownies are terrific as directed on the box, I sometimes can’t help but elevate them with my own “extras” to highlight certain aspects of the brownies’ personality. It’s easier than you might expect.
For these birthday brownie bowls, I’ve substituted cherry juice for the water called for on the package instructions, and I’ve added a tablespoon of dark cocoa powder plus a handful each of chocolate chunks and cut up dried cherries. That’s it. The simplest flavor swaps, resulting in the most decadent dessert my hubby could have ever asked for on his birthday (or any other occasion). Luckily, for our ever-expanding pandemic waistlines, it will be another year before we indulge to this degree. But it was kinda worth it. 🙂
These brownies are super-sized and shaped like a bowl, exactly right to hold a generous scoop of ice cream (which I did make from scratch, but don’t feel pressured to do so). The special shape is courtesy of a fancy-schmancy pan I bought from King Arthur Baking Company. At $30, it was a bit of a splurge, but in this most ridiculous year, I’ve been willing to invest a bit more in kitchen gadgets and ingredients to make our home meal experiences more memorable. Mark my word, it’ll pay for itself by the time the holidays get here, because I’m already dreaming up other ideas.
If you’re not feeling the love for a special pan to make bowl-shaped brownies, don’t stress about it. Make the brownies in a regular pan according to the mix instructions. You can still swap in the special flavor ingredients and have a spectacular dessert with minimal effort. Remember, stressed spelled backward = desserts, and I’m all about flipping things around! 🙂
Ingredients & Instructions
1 box of your favorite brownie mix (make according to package instructions, but adjust as noted below)
Substitute equal amount of cherry juice for the suggested amount of water
Add 1 Tbsp. dark cocoa powder to the dry mix (Hershey’s special dark will do, and it’s easy to find)
Add 1/2 cup dried dark cherries, cut into smaller pieces (fold in after mixing)
Add 1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks or semi-sweet chocolate chips (fold in after mixing)
Bake as directed on the package, but if you use the King Arthur brownie bowl pan, you’ll want to cut the time in half. My brownies were perfect after 25 minutes.
Fill ‘em up!
Cherry Garcia ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s (or whatever other ice cream rocks your world)
Top ‘em off!
Hot fudge topping, whipped cream, or (if you’re feeling inspired) my quick homemade cherry sauce.
2 cup frozen dark sweet cherries
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla or almond extract (or 1 Tbsp. amaretto liqueur or chocolate liqueur)
1 Tbsp. dark chocolate balsamic vinegar* (optional)
2 Tbsp. corn starch, mixed with 2 Tbsp. ice cold water
Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add frozen cherries and sprinkle sugar over the top. Stir and cook until cherries are softened and mixture is reduced and bubbly (about 15 minutes). Add extract or liqueur and stir. Blend corn starch and water until smooth, and slowly drizzle into the cherry sauce, stirring constantly. Allow mixture to come back up to full simmer, and continue to stir as it thickens further. Remove from heat. Use the sauce warm over dessert or keep in refrigerator up to two weeks.
*This time around, I strained the cherries from the sauce because they went into the ice cream. Half of the sauce was drizzled through the ice cream like a ribbon, and the rest was reserved for spooning over the brownie bowls. It was a delicious labor of love!
Inspiration for nearly every original recipe I’ve made comes from my experience with the same combination of ingredients in a different type of dish. For example, I love the balance of flavors in pineapple salsa, especially served up alongside fresh grilled foods in the summertime. So why not take the two key elements of the salsa—pineapple and hot pepper—and cross them over into new territory as a dessert? That’s precisely what I’ve done with this unusual ice cream. Holy. Moly. The distinct jalapeno flavor is subtle throughout, thanks to an infused simple syrup, but it’s definitely the sweetness of the pureed pineapple taking the lead. The creamy ice cream is accentuated even further with pieces of sweet grilled pineapple and the tiny bits of candied jalapeno, left over from the syrup creation.
I love the smooth and creamy texture of a custard-based ice cream, so that’s where this recipe begins. Proper tempering of the egg yolks is key to the outcome, so be patient and watch it closely. If you’re not quite ready for the jalapeno flavor, I’m quite certain the ice cream would be good without it. But if you’re game for a tropical flavor adventure, I promise you won’t be disappointed!
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar, divided
3 egg yolks
Pinch kosher salt
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. Fiori di Sicilia* (optional, but yum)
2 oz. jalapeno simple syrup (recipe below)
1 cup pureed fresh pineapple*
1/2 cup grilled pineapple pieces*
2 Tbsp. candied jalapeno pieces (reserved from making simple syrup)
1 Tbsp. neutral alcohol, such as vodka or light rum* (optional, but improves ice cream texture)
Fiori di Sicilia is a unique Italian extract, featuring very concentrated citrus and vanilla flavors. It’s optional in this recipe, but adds a special flair. Look for it in specialty stores or online from King Arthur Flour.
It may be best to puree the pineapple just before freezing the ice cream, to preserve the beautiful fresh color.
Earlier in the week, I had grilled pineapple for our Jamaican Jerk pizzas, and I reserved enough pieces to use for this ice cream. If you like pineapple with bold spicy flavors, you’ll want to circle back and check out those pies!
Grilling the pineapple really elevates its sweetness in a lovely way, but don’t let this be a deal-breaker. If you’re pressed for time, skip the grilling and use fresh pineapple bits or even canned tidbits (but drain them first).
The addition of alcohol is optional, but it helps to improve the texture of the ice cream. I used 1800 coconut-flavored tequila, another nod to the tropical flavors.
Stir together milk, heavy cream and about half the sugar over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, and mixture comes to a very slight boil. Reduce heat to lowest setting or turn off burner.
While milk mixture is heating, whisk egg yolks, the remaining sugar and kosher salt until light, fluffy and lemon colored. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed, to ensure all sugar gets incorporated.
Prepare an ice bath to be used for cooling the custard. Place a heat-proof glass bowl over another bowl filled with ice cubes and water. It will be helpful to have this ready when the custard has finished cooking.
Ladle out 1 cup of hot milk mixture into a measuring cup with a pour spout. Temper eggs by slowly drizzling hot milk into the mixing bowl, whisking the entire time. Then, return the egg mixture back to the pot with the remaining hot milk and cream. Simmer on medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until custard retains shape on the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat and pour through a mesh strainer into a bowl over ice water to cool custard. I’ll confess here that I often skip this step when making a custard-based ice cream, but the flame seemed a little hot under my pan this time and I wanted to cool it down quickly before the eggs got any ideas about curdling. Stir in vanilla, Fiori di Sicilia and jalapeno simple syrup. Lay heavy plastic wrap directly onto surface of custard, then cover entire bowl with another layer of plastic or tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate overnight.
The next day, add pineapple puree to chilled custard just before freezing according to manufacturer’s instructions. After 20 minutes, add grilled pineapple pieces and candied jalapeno pieces for final few minutes of churning, adding vodka or rum in final minute.
Here’s a slideshow to help you visualize the process:
Transfer ice cream to insulated freezer container and freeze at least four hours to ripen. I know it’s tempting to dive right in for a scoop, but this ice cream will be at its best after an overnight freeze.
Jalapeno simple syrup
1 cup pure cane sugar
3/4 cup filtered water
2 smallish jalapenos, seeded and diced
Heat sugar and water over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and syrup begins to lightly boil at the edges. Add jalapeno pieces and stir, cooking about 2 minutes at low heat. Turn off heat, cool completely, strain jalapenos (reserve them) and keep syrup in a covered jar in the fridge up to 2 weeks.
We’re halfway through National Ice Cream Month, and though I’ll be sad when it ends, I’m reminded that we can enjoy ice cream anytime we like. Don’t fret, fellow frozen treat lovers, because I have plenty more where all this came from—tried-and-true ice cream flavors as well as some new ones brewing in my culinary mind.
But this one, Sweet Corn Ice Cream with Blueberry-Whiskey Ribbon, is in my bowl today. I’ve confessed already that I seldom make the same recipe twice, but this will be the third time in two years I’ve made this one, so it’s clearly won a special place in my life. It’s creamy and sweet, unmistakably “corn-y,” inspired by the pure sweetness of summer and ever-so-slightly boozy, thanks to the brilliant blueberry-infused small batch whiskey produced by one of our local distilleries.
This recipe makes 1 1/2 quarts ice cream. There are two equally important components: the custard and the compote. The custard needs plenty of time to chill before freezing, so we’ll begin here.
Ingredients – the custard
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup organic cane sugar, divided
Pinch of sea salt
4 good-sized ears fresh sweet corn, husk and silk removed*
3 free range egg yolks
1 Tbsp. vodka* (optional, for improved texture)
Blueberry-whiskey compote (recipe and instructions follow)
Corn—choose the deepest yellow color corn you can find, for a richer appearance of ice cream. It also helps to have corn picked at its peak level of sweetness. If you have a local farmer’s market, that’s the first place I’d recommend!
Vodka—the alcohol is completely optional in this ice cream. It does not affect the flavor, but can be helpful for the final texture, making the ice cream easier to scoop straight from the freezer. For this batch, I used Tito’s handcrafted vodka, which is made from 100% corn. It seemed appropriate here.
Instructions for the custard
Trim the ends of the corn ears. This will make it easier to cut the kernels off each piece. Standing an ear on end, use your knife to carefully strip the kernels completely off the ear. They will not come off the ear perfectly – some will get smashed or split, and that’s OK. Repeat with all pieces of corn and keep the cobs. Cut the cobs in half crosswise, into chunks about 3 inches long.
Add milk, heavy cream and half of the sugar to a heavy bottomed pot and warm over medium-low heat, stirring constantly to dissolve sugar. Add all of the corn kernels and the cob chunks to the pot. Stir to submerge the cobs, reduce the heat and simmer on low until mixture is just barely bubbling at the edges. Remove cobs from the mixture and allow them to cool enough to handle, then squeeze each cob with your clean hands to extract the flavorful goodness. Discard the cobs, and remove the corn-cream mixture from the heat.
Use the immersion blender* to process the corn-cream mixture, but only for about 15 to 20 seconds. You don’t want to puree the whole batch; we’re just trying to extract another hit of flavor before we strain and discard the corn.
(*Alternatively, use a ladle to scoop about 2 cups of the corn-cream into a regular blender or smoothie blender, and let it cool just enough to blend for a few seconds, then pick up with the recipe from this point.)
Set a large double-mesh strainer over a large glass bowl, and pour the pureed mixture through it to separate the corn solids from the cream. Gently press down on the corn to extract as much liquid as you can; you might even want to do this in batches. Either discard the corn solids, or save it for another use.
Return the strained cream to the heavy-bottomed pot. Gently stir over low heat just until it begins to steam.
In a mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks with remaining sugar on a medium low speed (or by hand) until the mixture is smooth, light-colored and slightly thickened.
Ladle out 1 cup of the hot cream mixture into a measuring cup with a pour spout. While whisking the yolks, pour a slow and steady stream of the cream mixture into them. This is called “tempering.” Do not rush this step, which is essentially emulsifying the mixture so that the egg yolks are incorporated but not scrambled. Do it again with another 1/2 cup of the cream mixture.
Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the pot with the remaining cream, stirring constantly over low heat. Frequently check the back of your spoon – when you can make a visible line on it with your finger, the custard is done.
Remove from heat, pour into a large glass bowl resting in an ice bath, and stir gently until mixture cools. Lay a sheet of heavy plastic wrap directly on the surface, sealing out any air bubbles. Cover the entire bowl with a lid or another layer of plastic wrap and place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight.
Next up, make the blueberry-whiskey compote for your ribbon!
Ingredients – the compote
1 cup frozen blueberries (I especially love to use “wild” blueberries)
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1/2 cup blueberry juice (optional; substitute ¼ cup water)
3 oz. Smashing Violet blueberry-infused whiskey*
Generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice
*This stuff is pretty incredible, but only available in North Carolina, either at the Broad Branch Distillery in Winston-Salem or select North Carolina ABC stores. Substitute a craft bourbon of your choice for similar results, but for sure look for the blueberry juice to make up the difference. While I’m on the subject of Broad Branch, here’s another reason I’m loving them right now.
Instructions for the compote
In a medium saucepan, combine the blueberries, cane sugar and blueberry juice (or water) over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring and smashing berries occasionally, until mixture is reduced and begins to bubble vigorously. This will take longer if you’re using the blueberry juice, somewhere between 15 and 25 minutes.
Stir in Smashing Violet whiskey (or your whiskey/bourbon substitute). It may seem like 3 oz. is a lot of booze—and, well, you’re damn right it is. No apologies here (but c’mon, it’s only 60 proof anyway). Simmer another 5 to 8 minutes, to burn off some of the sharpness of the alcohol while reducing the compote again.
Remove from heat, cool to room temperature, then place plastic wrap directly on top of the compote and chill in refrigerator at least an hour, but preferably overnight. This mixture will thicken up significantly as it cools.
I scream, you scream…
In the morning, set up the ice cream machine and freeze the sweet corn custard according to manufacturer’s instructions. The blueberry ribbon is added later, so only do the custard at this stage.
Add a layer of custard into insulated container, then alternate layers of blueberry whiskey compote and custard (ending with custard on top) and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours, but overnight is better.
Call a couple friends to come over and hang out in the backyard, and thank God for the sweet blessings of summer.
If you love the idea of homemade ice cream but don’t feel like messing around with a cooked custard base, this recipe will be right up your alley. The cream cheese (or, in this case, mascarpone) gives it a luxurious, silky texture, but it comes together quicker without the extra, fussy step of tempering eggs and straining a custard. Greek yogurt helps lighten it up a bit without compromising the creaminess. The layers of fruit syrup and crushed graham crackers bring home all the memories of a fresh summer cheesecake.
I’ve broken the recipe into tasks over a couple of days, but you could easily start this in the morning and finish it the same evening. Just be sure you give the berries enough time to macerate, and the cream mixture time to thoroughly chill before freezing.
Not wild about strawberries? Feel free to swap them out in favor of another favorite fruit, but consider that some fruit might need to be cooked first. Blueberries and raspberries, to name two, aren’t as juicy as strawberries so they would need a little help getting there. I think fresh summer peaches would be amazing in this recipe—and, of course, cherries.
8 oz. mascarpone* or cream cheese
3/4 cup caster (super-fine) sugar*
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup Greek yogurt* (plain or vanilla)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
2 1/2 cups fresh organic strawberries*
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. vodka* (optional for improved texture)
Mascarpone is an Italian-style creamy cheese, a bit denser and definitely silkier than regular cream cheese. It will lend an ultra-creamy texture to this ice cream which, unlike most of my others, does not begin with an egg custard. If mascarpone is not available in your market, use full-fat cream cheese (the brick kind) for similar result.
Caster sugar is sometimes called “super-fine” sugar. I’ve chosen it for this recipe because it is easier to dissolve in cold ingredients. In my custard-based ice creams, I use pure organic cane sugar, which I’m certain would not fare well in this recipe because we are not cooking the base.
Caster sugar is pure white and extremely processed (a quality that makes it practically against my religion), so it’s rare for me to use it at all. It’s also pretty expensive compared to most sugars. If you can’t find caster, put your regular sugar in a blender and grind it into as fine a powder as you can. Measure the amount after grinding. Otherwise, warm the milk called for in the recipe and dissolve your sugar into it, then cool completely before proceeding.
Because the mascarpone already has cream in it, I’m using less heavy cream than I normally would for ice cream. To make up the difference, I’ve opted for Greek yogurt, and the one I chose is vanilla with a touch of cinnamon, which I think is going to play really nicely against the strawberries. I’m always on the lookout for a twist, which typically leads me to develop favorite new recipes.
Unfortunately, strawberries top the 2020 “Dirty Dozen” list of potentially toxic produce items. Each year, the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization, issues a list of produce items most likely to be contaminated with pesticides and other questionable chemicals. You can learn more about it here, but in the meantime, choose organic strawberries whenever possible.
The vodka in this recipe is optional, and it does not affect the flavor, but it helps with the final texture of the ice cream, making it easier to scoop straight from the freezer.
Clean and hull the strawberries, and slice into pieces. I use an egg slicer for this task—it’s quick and simple, and I end up with uniform slices. Add the berries to a medium size bowl and stir in brown sugar. Give the berries time to fully macerate at room temperature, then put them in the refrigerator.
If you’re cool with having a pink-colored ice cream, feel free to skip this next step. I’ve decided this time around that I want to create a ribbon of strawberry syrup through the white ice cream, so I’m going over the top, even though it means I’ll add a day to my ice cream prep. Care to join me? Allow the strawberries to macerate overnight, then use a large mesh strainer to drain off the liquid and simmer it over medium-low heat until it is reduced by half and has the consistency of a thin syrup.
Allow the syrup to cool to room temperature, then return it to the fridge in a separate bowl from the drained berries.
In the bowl of your mixer, beat the mascarpone together with the caster sugar, milk and Greek yogurt until fully combined. Slowly beat in the heavy cream, taking care not to whip it too much. Add the vanilla and almond extracts. Transfer the cream mixture to a sealed bowl and refrigerate several hours until fully chilled.
Day two (or three, if you went down the rabbit hole with me on the strawberry syrup):
Stir the cream mixture to reincorporate all ingredients, as some separation will have occurred. You don’t need to whip it here—just mix or gently whisk until the mixture has a uniform, creamy appearance. If you didn’t make the strawberry syrup, drain the berries at this point and blend their liquid into the cream mixture.
Pour the cream mixture into the ice cream machine and mix according to manufacturer’s instructions. Mine takes 20 to 25 minutes to freeze. For the final few minutes of freezing, spoon in the strained strawberries (and vodka, if using), allowing them to blend in before adding another spoonful, and repeat until all strawberries are used.
Place the graham crackers into a paper or zip top bag, and gently crush them with a rolling pin or the bottom of a bowl or measuring cup. I didn’t want it to be fully crumbs—try to keep a few bits of the crackers for texture in the finished ice cream.
Layer the ice cream in an insulated container, beginning with ice cream, then staggered layers of reduced syrup ribbon (if using) and graham crumbles. Finish with the leftover fine crumbs. Cover the container and freeze at least 4 hours until firm.
Just for fun, and because we had already licked the bowl, the spoon and the ice cream maker paddle, I gathered up the dregs that freeze hard to the freezer bowl and made miniature ice cream sandwiches with a couple of graham crackers. They were not the prettiest things, but it was a delicious taste test!
I’d like to begin this post by declaring I don’t particularly care for chocolate things, unless they are really chocolate. Dark chocolate brownies are good because they are intensely chocolate, but chocolate milk, shakes, even most cakes—nope, not hitting my sweet spot. Milk chocolate? Forget it.
Then, a couple of years ago, at the Big Chill festival in Winston-Salem’s Bailey Park, a genius volunteer ice cream maker had the audacity to introduce a chocolate ice cream made with Guinness beer. “In ice cream?” I thought. Oh yes, in ice cream. It was dark, decadent and rich, without even a hint of beer flavor—only intense, chocolately lusciousness—and it stole my soul.
Then one afternoon when my husband, Les, and I had taken our dog, Nilla, to one of her favorite “dog bars” in our downtown, it hit me. Fiddlin’ Fish Brewing Company had collaborated with neighboring Black Mountain Chocolate to produce a stout beer that is smooth and roasty, with exactly enough underlying chocolate, and I knew in a moment that it needed to become part of this ice cream.
With a little fiddlin’, here it is—the richest, darkest, most luxurious chocolate ice cream I’ve ever tasted. The texture is beyond silky—almost like a cross between pudding and icing, and it’s so rich, you’ll want to add a little bit of alcohol in the final minute of mixing to keep it scoopable when it’s fully frozen. May I suggest Kahlua or Patron XO Café Dark?
My version of stout ice cream has a few special ingredients, but if you love chocolate and ice cream, it’s 100% worth the trouble. As I said, chocolate ice cream has never been my thing. But this one? It’s the be-all, end-all, winner of a chocolate ice cream that might just solve all the world’s problems. Or, at least, all of mine.
1 cup Fiddlin’ Fish Black Mountain Chocolate Stout beer*
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup fine cane sugar
3 Tbsp. honey or dark corn syrup
3 Tbsp. Double Dutch dark cocoa*
2 tsp. espresso powder*
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
Pinch of kosher or sea salt
5.5 oz. good quality chocolate, broken into small chunks*
1 oz. vodka or one of the other suggested spirits* (optional)
The Black Mountain Chocolate stout beer is available for drinking in the tasting room at Fiddlin’ Fish, but you can also purchase a “crowler” can of it to take home for later. This is how I got it home, and thankfully, since it was 32 oz., I had plenty left over to enjoy while I waited for this ice cream! For my out-of-area followers, consider using a similar dark beer from one of your own local brewing companies!
Double Dutch dark cocoa is a blend of Dutch-processed cocoa and black cocoa, available online from King Arthur Flour (nope, they’re still not paying me to talk up their products—I just happen to love them!) I add some of this to every batch of brownies I make (even store-bought), and Les has used it in his cookies. Never have I ever tasted such intense chocolate flavor. If you can’t get your hands on some, try Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa as a replacement.
Espresso powder is a very finely ground powder of the dark roast coffee. It doesn’t add a coffee flavor to the ice cream, but further intensifies the chocolate. I bought mine in the specialty baking section at Walmart (of all places), but I believe you could also substitute a pouch of Starbucks Via instant French roast. Be sure it dissolves completely in the hot milk mixture so there is no “gritty” texture left behind.
You might be tempted to use an inexpensive bar of baker’s chocolate from the supermarket, but I don’t recommend it. Get thee to the candy aisle of your market. As with any recipe, you will have better end results when you choose the best ingredients you can find, and if it costs a bit extra, I promise you won’t regret it. At the time I developed this recipe, Black Mountain Chocolate was closed for pandemic safety, but I love their products and look forward to making this ice cream again with one of their superb hand-crafted dark chocolates, now that they have re-opened. Something in the 60-70% cacao range is perfect. And with no nuts or other add-ins, just chocolate.
The alcohol suggested for this recipe is optional but recommend for the best texture. Because this ice cream is so rich, it can be a little tricky to scoop straight from the freezer. Vodka or one of the other alcohols suggested above will improve this, so you don’t have to be tortured waiting for a taste.
I know you can’t get enough of these ice cream pictures, so have a look at the visual step instructions first, if you’d like.
In a small saucepan, bring stout beer to a light boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer until it reduces to 1/2 cup, which should take about 10 minutes (measure to be sure).
Add the heavy cream, milk, sugar, honey or syrup, cocoa and espresso powder, and whisk until sugar fully dissolves.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and salt.
Ladle out about 1 cup of the hot mixture into a measuring cup with a pour spout.
Slowly stream the cream mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. This will “temper” the eggs, raising the temperature gradually to cook them without curdling.
Transfer the mixture back to the pot with remaining liquid and cook over medium-low heat until custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
Place the broken chocolate pieces in a large bowl with a mesh strainer over the top. Pour the hot custard mixture through the strainer over the chocolate pieces, and let it rest 2 minutes. Discard any solids that remain in the strainer.
Stir or whisk the custard until the chocolate is completely melted.
Place thick plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard, then cover the bowl with another piece of plastic wrap or a lid. Refrigerate overnight.
Next day, stir custard until smooth, then pour into ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions. In the last minute of churning, add vodka or kahlua.
Transfer the ice cream to an insulated freezer container and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
When the pandemic eases and we finally decide travel is safe again, Key West, Florida is one of the first trips I’d like to make. I’ve only been to this magical place twice in my life, but I cannot shake the memories of the uber laid-back lifestyle, the six-toed Hemingway cats, the ease of meeting strangers, the quirky street art and performers, the incredible freshness of seafood straight off the fishing boats, and, of course, the perfectly sweet-tart flavor of key lime pie.
This southernmost U.S. treat is adaptable to so many things I love—cookies, cocktails and this delightful frozen treat. For the most authentic flavor, purchase about 3 pounds of real key limes (good luck finding them) and start squeezing. You should be finished in a day or so. Or, better yet, just get your hands on a bottle of this:
It comes from Pompano Beach, just a few hours up U.S. Route 1 from its birthplace, Key West, and it’s been the standard for key lime pie pretty much since the pie was invented (allegedly by the Borden company, maker of sweetened condensed milk). I always have a bottle of this juice in the fridge, and I’ve used it in everything from pie to cocktails to ceviche. It’s fantastic.
This ice cream makes me happy on so many levels, I don’t know where to begin. The custard base makes it super creamy, the authentic key lime gives it a perfect balance of tart with sweet, and the layers of ginger cookies punctuate the whole thing with exactly the right amount of texture and spice. Oh my goodness.
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup cane sugar, divided
4 egg yolks, room temperature (preferably free-range)
1/2 cup key lime juice* (see notes)
1/4 tsp. Fiori di Sicilia* (optional, but adds a “special something”)
Zest of 1/2 lime (optional, add at the very end)
2/3 cup crushed ginger snap cookies*
I’ve never bothered with squeezing the fresh key limes, partly because they are so expensive, and partly because I have imagined it would take the better part of an hour to squeeze so many. Key limes are about 1/3 the size of the typical Persian limes you see in the market. The great news is you don’t have to have fresh limes to make a delicious pie—as long as you have the real deal key lime juice. Look for Nellie and Joe’s brand in the juice section of your supermarket. Or maybe even in the cocktail mixers section.
Fiori di Sicilia is the same ingredient I mentioned for the Southern Belle Lemon Bars, part of the Kentucky Derby Preview Party collection of recipes a couple of months ago. It’s a unique Italian extract, imparting flavors of bright citrus and a hint of vanilla. A little goes a long way, so use it sparingly. Find Fiori di Sicilia in specialty stores such as Sur la Table, or online from King Arthur Flour.
You guys already know that I can’t leave well enough alone when it comes to food, and this ice cream is no exception. A classic key lime pie sits on a graham cracker crust base, but Comfort du Jour is all about twisting and turning to elevate your happy, so my pie (and this ice cream) has ginger snap cookies rather than graham crackers. The zippy flavor of ginger plays so nicely with anything citrus, I just have to. We are big fans of the Trader Joe’s “triple ginger” cookie, and I used about 12 of them in this ice cream recipe.
Heat milk and heavy cream over medium heat in a heavy bottomed saucepan until steaming but do not allow it to boil. Reduce heat to low, add about half the sugar (this doesn’t have to be exact—just eyeball it) and whisk until completely dissolved. Turn off the heat.
In a mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks together with remainder of sugar until light, fluffy and pale yellow.
Ladle out about 1 1/2 cups of the hot milk mixture into a measuring cup with a pour spout. Very slowly, stream milk mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. This step is “tempering” the eggs, so that they can be incorporated into the milk mixture without turning to scrambled eggs. Take your time here.
Turn the heat back on low under the milk/cream mixture still on the stove, then pour the tempered egg mixture back into the pot. Combine with the remaining cream mixture and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to keep its shape on the back of the spoon. This should take about 7 minutes, but the simplest marker for doneness is the spoon test.
Remove from heat. Pour custard into a large bowl. Add key lime juice and Fiori di Sicilia and whisk gently to combine. Place heavy plastic wrap directly on top of custard mixture. Cover entire bowl with another layer of plastic wrap or a fitted lid and refrigerate overnight.
Set your ginger snap cookies out overnight to get “stale.” They’ll soften a bit, which will make them easier to crush tomorrow.
Stir or gently whisk chilled mixture thoroughly to reincorporate ingredients, then freeze according to ice cream machine instructions (mine usually takes about 20 to 25 minutes).
While that’s going, prepare your lime zest (be sure to wash it first!), and gently crush the ginger snap cookies with a rolling pin. I wrapped them loosely in a piece of parchment and only pressed down on them with my rolling pin, first in one direction, then across the other. I want a few little shards of cookie mixed in with the crumbs.
In the last minute, add the lime zest and 1 Tbsp. neutral alcohol (such as vodka). The alcohol will not affect flavor but will improve the texture of the finished ice cream and make it easier to scoop for serving. Layer into an insulated ice cream container, alternating key lime custard mixture with the crushed ginger snap cookies. Try to stagger the position of the crumbs as you layer, so each scoop is perfectly marbled with the cookie flavor. Top with fine crumbs at the end. Cover and transfer container to freezer for several hours to ripen (firm).
I’ve found the texture of the ice cream best when it’s been in the freezer at least 24 hours. I like this ice cream au naturel, but feel free to top with whipped cream, as my husband does!