Dark Chocolate Sorbet

Here we are, knee-deep into July, and I’m taking a break from the overflow of zucchini coming from my garden to share another ice cream. No, it isn’t zucchini ice cream—pretty sure nobody would even try that—but it is unusual, and technically not ice “cream” at all. Nope, it is a sorbet, with plenty of real dark chocolate, and though it does not have a bit of dairy product (nor substitutes), there are two surprise ingredients that give it tremendously creamy texture.  

I’ve been seeking ways to update old favorites for better health, and that means eating lighter and limiting saturated fats. I was pretty excited last month to discover that I could use the fat-free version of sweetened condensed milk to create an ice cream that is equally creamy to its full-fat counterpart (check out my Reduced-Guilt Vanilla Ice Cream if you missed it). But this time, I wanted to go a different direction, using no cream or dairy whatsoever. I’ve made sorbets plenty of times, but they always had fruit juice or puree in them, and I knew this would not. I’ve made chocolate ice cream several times as well, but those recipes all involved melting solid chocolate with cream or milk, so that was a no-go. Last summer, I made a luscious chocolate syrup that became a ribbon through my S’mores Ice Cream, but I wasn’t sure how to make a larger batch of that while avoiding “icy” texture that is common to sorbet. Somehow, I needed to merge these ideas in a way that would still give me the creamy texture I crave in frozen dessert.

My deep-dive into this dark chocolate sorbet was largely inspired by a dessert I saw on another blog earlier this year. Back around Valentine’s Day, one of my blog buddies (Dorothy, from The New Vintage Kitchen) shared a recipe she had made for her husband, called “love your heart chocolate pudding.” I was enthralled by Dorothy’s adaptation of one of her husband’s favorite dessert treats (using avocado in place of saturated fats), and it had reminded me of a similar product I’d seen many years ago at Whole Foods—a dark chocolate gelato, made with avocado. Attempting my own version of this has been on my culinary bucket list for a long time, and this was exactly the inspiration I needed.

Armed with information on a number of different methods, I set out to mix and match my way to this recipe. When it came down to it, this sorbet was surprisingly easy to make, and I’ve got the scoop for you, right here in the middle of National Ice Cream Month!

One scoop is all I need to satisfy my sweet tooth!

One of my favorite resources for ice cream ideas is a little spiral-bound book I picked up years ago on the clearance shelf at TJMaxx. It includes an entry for “bittersweet cocoa sorbet,” which was a syrup-only base, described as intensely bitter on the chocolate front—more than I was aiming for, anyway—so I considered it a starting point and made several adjustments to the recipe to tone it down and make it my own.

Call me fainthearted. This was a good starting point for my sorbet.

For my simple syrup, I dialed back the cocoa by half, increased the sugar (mine was turbinado) and used one less cup of water. Sweeter is better, especially if I want my husband to enjoy it with me; I also knew that heavier concentration of sugar in the simple syrup would make it freeze softer. Thank you, Alton Brown, for your wisdom over the years.

To underscore the richness of the cocoa, I applied three specific ingredients: real vanilla paste for complexity and balance, espresso powder to deepen the chocolate flavor, and a pinch of salt to bring out the best of everything. I am a firm believer in using a touch of salt in every dessert.


The syrup itself was heavenly, with a deep flavor of dark chocolate. But the real magic happened in the blender, when I combined the chilled syrup with two healthful ingredients—frozen banana and avocado! I use frozen ripe bananas in all my smoothies, and it does an amazing job of adding body and texture to the mix. I wasn’t sure whether the flavor would overwhelm the chocolate flavor, and I’ll share my thoughts about that at the end. The avocado was soft and ripe, and I placed it in the refrigerator the night before, to help me stay on schedule for freezing my sorbet mixture right away.


After one minute on the “smoothie” setting of my blender, I had my results. Admittedly, I was not emotionally prepared for the thick, silky texture of this sorbet base! It literally had the viscosity of prepared pudding, and it was luxurious and delicious, even in this unfrozen state.

Oh. My. Goodness.

My hunch is that I could have transferred this blended mixture directly into my insulated container and sent it straight to the freezer. The base definitely increased in volume in the blender and I think it would have frozen into a dense, almost-custardy sorbet. But my ice cream maker was already set up and ready, so I proceeded to freeze it as I would any ice cream. Near the end of churning, I poured in just a splash (OK, two) of Godiva chocolate liqueur, to help keep the sorbet from freezing solid. Disregard the grainy appearance in these photos; it honestly does not have a grainy mouthfeel at all—just creamy, smooth and very chocolate-y, like a frozen Dove chocolate melting on your tongue.


So, let’s talk about the banana. I had some hesitation about how much flavor it might impart to my dark chocolate sorbet, and the answer is—quite a lot. I don’t mind the flavor, and the chocolate does shine through prominently, but the next time I make this sorbet (and trust me, there most definitely will be a next time), I will ditch the banana in favor of a second ripe avocado. It was the avocado fruit that lent the smooth creamy texture, and that makes sense, when you consider than an average avocado has 29 grams of healthy fats. There is absolutely no flavor of avocado in this sorbet, so I figure the tradeoff would only improve the richness of it.

As for this banana-forward batch, my husband suggested we play that up by nestling a scoop of our dark chocolate sorbet into a banana split with some fresh strawberries, and now I think I know what we’ll enjoy for dessert this weekend. 😉


Dark Chocolate Sorbet

  • Servings: 8 scoops
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

This sorbet has all the richness I crave in an ice cream, but without a bit of dairy! Choose a good quality dark cocoa, and use a ripe avocado. If you prefer, swap the banana for a second avocado.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups water
  • 1-1/2 cups turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark unsweetened cocoa (I used a combination of Hershey’s dark and King Arthur’s double dark dutch cocoa)
  • 1 Tbsp. real vanilla paste (or 1 tsp. real vanilla extract)
  • 1-1/2 tsp. espresso powder (optional, but it intensifies the chocolate flavor)
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 ripe banana (peeled and frozen ahead; omit for a second avocado if you wish)
  • 1 ripe avocado (put in refrigerator the night before)
  • 1 Tbsp. chocolate liqueur or vodka, optional for improved texture when frozen

Directions

  1. Combine water and sugar in a deep saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Sift cocoa powder to eliminate clumps. Add to simple syrup and whisk until blended. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. The syrup should reduce slightly and have a thicker consistency when finished.
  3. Remove syrup from heat. Stir in vanilla paste, espresso powder and salt. Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until cold.
  4. Set up ice cream machine. Gently stir the chocolate syrup to reincorporate ingredients that may have settled.
  5. Add syrup to blender, along with frozen banana (broken into chunks) and avocado flesh. If your blender has a smoothie setting, use that to mix the sorbet base. Otherwise, pulse a few times to combine and then use the blend and/or puree settings until the mixture is completely smooth with no lumps.
  6. Pour mixture directly into ice cream machine and follow manufacturer’s instructions for freezing. Add liqueur (if using) in the final minute.
  7. Transfer sorbet to an insulated container for freezing. Place a piece of waxed or parchment paper directly on the surface of the sorbet to minimize ice crystals.



Reduced-Guilt Vanilla Ice Cream

I’ve been trying to “lean in” to some positive lifestyle changes, to better care for my body after the less-than-ideal results of my recent bloodwork. What I have realized is that I have no problem adjusting my cooking to suit the health and dietary concerns of others, so I have the knowledge and ability to do it for myself. But taking care of me is something I have never been as good at, so this has been an important exercise for many reasons. The biggest bummer about this recent “watch what you eat” recommendation is, well, the timing.

The doctor meant no harm, I know, but his admonition to “cut back on fat intake” is not exactly what I want to be thinking about on the first day of National Ice Cream Month! As much I’d like to put my fingers in my ears and sing, “la-la-la-la-la,” I realize that doing so will only come back to bite me. If I put off getting healthier until August, I would only find an excuse to put it off until September, and so on. I gained a little more than 15 pounds since the COVID pandemic began, and that is not OK. My cholesterol numbers are “mildly elevated” for the first time ever, and to get a handle on that quickly, I am taking a new approach wherever I can, starting right here with my favorite summer treat.

My goal with this ice cream was to whittle back the fat content without losing all the creamy, indulgent texture that makes ice cream so enjoyable. I remember back in the day, my grandmother occasionally had something called “ice milk” in her freezer, and it was boring at best. A treat is only a treat if it satisfies—what I wanted was the best of both worlds, and friends, I think I have cracked the code.

Serve this luscious ice cream by itself, or as a creamy pairing to cobbler, pie or cake!

I’m not going to claim that this ice cream is health food—it isn’t. But it does have lower overall fat than my usual sweetened condensed milk base and it was so easy to make, with only a few ingredients and an ice cream machine. This condensed milk style of ice cream was already on the fast track to becoming my go-to base recipe—it requires no eggs or cooking, after all—but now that I know that it can be lightened up and still be this delicious? Game over, and everyone wins!

A few easy swaps from my usual no-egg ice cream base, and it turned out terrific!

The first swap I made was the condensed milk itself—I opted for the fat-free version of this shortcut ingredient, figuring that the thick, syrupy texture would hold its own in the absence of the milkfat, and I was right. For extra body, I blended in a small container of Greek yogurt, which only added 3 grams of fat. Half and half was swapped in for the usual cup of heavy cream, which saved more than 50 grams of fat in the whole batch. And a half-cup of light whipping cream, which is decadent but still lighter than heavy cream, contributed a bit of silky richness. Here’s how easy it was to make:


In case you’re wondering—no, your eyes are not fooling you; the condensed milk was more beige than cream-colored. I did a little research into this, and it turns out that canned milk can change to a tan color if it has been stored in warmer temperatures, but it isn’t a problem unless the can is bulging, or the milk has visible signs of spoilage (I checked the Eagle brand website to be sure). Mine was fine, and I actually appreciated the color, which lent a visual richness to my reduced-guilt ice cream. It was almost the same color as if I had used a high-fat custard base recipe. Were the substitutions enough to make a measurable difference in the fat content? I wasn’t sure yet, and frankly didn’t want to know the impact of my choices until after I tasted it.  


A generous tablespoon of real vanilla paste gave my ice cream the deep homemade flavor I crave. When my base was all mixed together (which only took FOUR minutes!), I covered it and sent it to the fridge to be completely chilled. No matter what ingredients you put into an ice cream, you want it to be really cold before you add it to an ice cream machine, churning it up into a frosty treat.


The recipe finished as easily as it started. I poured it into my ice cream machine and churned for 25 minutes, then transferred it to an insulated container and held my breath, hoping that my substitutions would not sabotage my desire for a rich, creamy treat.

According to my calculations, and based on the actual product nutrition labels, this version of ice cream is almost exactly 50% lower in fat than the other, with less than 7 fat grams per serving!


Friends, it’s going to be a great summer! I’ll have more fun ice cream recipes to share during National Ice Cream Month.

Happy 4th! 🙂

Reduced Guilt Vanilla Ice Cream

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


A few simple ingredient swaps resulted in this creamy, indulgent ice cream that just happens to be half the fat of a regular condensed milk ice cream recipe.

Ingredients

  • 14 oz. can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  • 5 oz. container Greek yogurt (2% works great)
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup light whipping cream
  • 1 Tbsp. real vanilla paste (or 2 tsp. real vanilla extract)

Directions

  1. In a large pitcher bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and Greek yogurt until evenly combined.
  2. Stir in heavy cream and half and half, whisking to blend after each addition.
  3. Stir in vanilla paste. Cover and chill the mixture for at least two hours.
  4. Whisk mixture just before freezing, to reincorporate any ingredients that have settled. Freeze in ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  5. Transfer to insulated container and place in freezer to firm up.

Because this ice cream is lower in fat than most, it’s best to consume it within 4 to 5 days. Longer storage results in a slightly icy texture.



Easy, Creamy Potato Soup

As far as I am concerned, the best thing about winter is the soup. When the weather is cold, damp or just generally crummy, a piping hot mug of soup is like a reset button for my winter-weary soul. And you know what makes soup even better? An easy recipe that doesn’t take all day, uses the simplest of ingredients (so I don’t have to run to the store to make it), and can be customized with almost any extra flavors one could imagine. This creamy potato soup is ticking all those boxes for me.

Soup is one of my favorite comfort foods ever, and that probably dates back to days that I stayed home sick from school. On those rare occasions, I would get dropped off at my grandmother’s house, where I’d spend the day napping to the soothing sound of her cuckoo clock, sipping some variety of last-minute, homemade soup and watching TV under a soft afghan from the big, upholstered wing-back chair in her den. My Gram could whip up a soup from thin air, it seemed, and to this day, a “what’s-in-the-fridge” soup is my favorite kind. Is it possible that I may have feigned illness on occasion, just to enjoy that kind of day? Why, yes, that is certainly possible. Sometimes a kid just needs a little extra comfort—the kind only a grandma and a warm cup of soup can deliver.

I have outgrown the days of pretending to be sick, but I still yearn for the cozy comfort of a warm mug of soup, especially when gloomy weather has me down. I’ll take any kind of soup; chowders, stews, bisques, broth with noodles, minestrone—they are all on equal footing for me. My husband loves soup, too, but his preference is specifically for cream-style soups, so this one was a double win at our house.

Sour cream, shredded cheddar, bacon and chives makes this easy soup a satisfying meal!

We had fun dressing up our creamy potato soup like a loaded baked potato—with sour cream, chives, cheddar cheese and crispy bacon pieces on top. But it would be very easy to keep the base of the soup and swap in different enhancers, such as roasted broccoli florets, sautéed mushrooms, frozen corn, cubes of ham or whatever else takes you to your happy place.

This potato soup is very easy to make, and despite the ultra-creamy, silky appearance, it has no heavy cream whatsoever. Buttery Yukon gold potatoes were the key element for my recipe, but you could use any combination of gold, red or russet potatoes, as long as some of them will hold their shape after simmering. Peel or don’t—whatever works for you. I thickened the soup with a slight amount of roux, made from the drippings I had from crisping up the bacon (but you could swap in butter or olive oil), and a combination of low-sodium vegetable broth and milk, then I used my trusty immersion blender to puree it halfway. It was every bit as luxurious and comforting as a cream-based soup, but with far less guilt!

We still have almost four weeks ’til the official arrival of Spring. As luck would have it, there is at least a pound of potatoes remaining in the kitchen, so I’m pretty sure this one will be on the menu again by the weekend, just in time for another round of colder temperatures.


This recipe makes 4 entrée servings or 6 appetizer servings

Ingredients

3 Tbsp. bacon drippings, butter or olive oil

1/2 large onion (about 1 cup), chopped

3 ribs celery hearts, trimmed and chopped

Salt and pepper

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour (gluten-free 1:1 flour works for this also)

2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth* (see notes)

2 cups milk*

About 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

About 1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and cubed (peel if you wish)

Toppings and stir-ins of your choice


*Notes

Vegetable broths vary widely in ingredients; for best results, choose a broth that does not contain tomatoes. The brand I like for this is Imagine vegetarian “no-chicken” broth. It has a rich golden color and seasonings that are very reminiscent of chicken broth.


I used a combination of whole milk and canned evaporated milk in my recipe, primarily because I only had 1 1/2 cups of fresh milk. Feel free to substitute 2% or skim milk if you’d like; the flavor will be less rich overall, but the roux will still give the soup a thick and creamy consistency, and you can also achieve creaminess with the immersion blender technique.


Instructions

Step up to the stove with me and I’ll walk you through this easy recipe. Keep scrolling for a downloadable recipe that you can save or print for a rainy, gloomy day. 🙂

Old Man Winter, you are no match for this soup.