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.



Fuzzy Navel Sorbet

It was July, 1986. My wardrobe included stirrup pants, big blouses and my favorite pin-striped, high-waisted skinny jeans. The ones with the pleats. My hair was permed and teased out to here, and all the girls were lusting after Tom Cruise in Top Gun. I was restless in my not-so-exciting hometown, and I spent entirely too many weekend nights on the dance floor at a bar called the Rusty Nail, drinking the most sticky-sweet drink that was all the rage that year.

When we were not enjoying our Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers, the “fuzzy navel,” made with orange juice and DeKuyper Peachtree schnapps, was the “cocktail” of choice for me and so many of my friends, whether we were out on the town (which meant we were in the next town over), hanging at home (because our town didn’t have much going on) or gathering for a bridal shower (because getting hitched is what several of my friends were doing that year). Man, we were so cool.

Why did we ever think it was cool to smoke??
But I wish I still had that striped top!

It was an odd time for me, as I turned 21 and I would finally be cleared to order a drink in public. Again. There was a great deal of confusion for my friends and me, as the state of New York had raised the legal drinking age not once, but twice, in a short period of time. First, they raised it from 18 to 19, after I had been legally imbibing for about eight months. Then, when I was 20 and enjoying my fuzzy navels, they upped it to the national standard age of 21. In the next town over, this did not present as much of a problem, because I had a fake ID. Yes, it was bad, but shame on the state for having a no-photo ID that was made of plain old paper. I had used a safety pin to scratch off the bottom part of the 7 and a #2 pencil to reshape it into a 2, giving myself a Feb. 25 birthday! Seriously, it was ridiculous that the powers in Albany did not find a way to “grandfather” in the people who were already considered “of age.”

In my hometown though, everyone knew I was a July baby, so I had to rely on the bottles of DeKuyper Peachtree schnapps I had already purchased (when I was younger, yet “old enough”), and that was what carried me through the final stretch of waiting. Let’s just say that I bought a lot of orange juice during those weird alcohol retrograde months.

A few weeks ago, for nostalgia’s sake, I brought home a bottle of Peachtree schnapps when I spotted it in our local ABC store (that’s what we call our state-run liquor stores in North Carolina), and Lord have mercy, I wish I could have seen my own face when I took a sip! It has a fake fruit flavor and a slight medicinal edge, definitely not what I remembered as being “totally awesome.”

Yes, my taste has changed a great deal (thankfully), but I could not resist finding a fun way to pay homage to the drink of my youth, and this easy sorbet is the result of my effort. I am presenting it during National Ice Cream Month, as an alternative frozen treat for anyone who can’t eat ice cream, and as a nod to my younger self on her 21st birthday. The sorbet is surprisingly refreshing on its own, and I found that it also makes a fun brunch cocktail when topped with prosecco!

Please help me think of a good name for this fuzzy navel brunch cocktail. Mimosa and Bellini are already taken. 🙂

There is a hefty amount of peach schnapps in this sorbet, but fear not—the stuff is only 40-proof, so it isn’t going to wreck you. I pureed a handful of fresh summer peaches to add some freshness and actual peach flavor. The orange juice was a frozen concentrate (which is not as commonly available as in 1986), and I finished the mixture with a light simple syrup of sugar and water.


Ingredients

4 medium peaches, peeled and pitted

Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon

2 cups water, divided

1/2 cup cane sugar

2 Tbsp. light corn syrup* (see notes)

1/3 cup frozen orange juice concentrate

1/3 cup DeKuyper Peachtree schnapps

2 Tbsp. vodka, optional for extra kick


*Notes

Corn syrup is not crucial, but I used it to help keep the sugar from forming unpleasant crystals in the frozen sorbet.


Instructions

  1. Cut up the peaches into chunks and transfer them to a regular or bullet blender. Squeeze in the lemon juice and toss lightly to prevent discoloration of the peaches.
  2. Combine 1 cup of the water and all of the sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a low boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in corn syrup. Remove from heat and allow the syrup to cool.
  3. Add the orange juice concentrate to the bullet blender, along with the peaches and about 1/2 cup of the simple syrup. Pulse a few times, then blend continuously until the mixture is smooth and uniform.
  4. Strain the puree through a mesh strainer to remove any solids, including the stringy fibers that surround the peach pits.
  5. Combine the pureed mixture, the remaining simple syrup, remaining water and the Peachtree schnapps in a large bowl or pitcher. Stir to blend. Cover with plastic wrap and chill several hours or overnight.
  6. Freeze the fuzzy navel mixture in an ice cream machine for about 25 minutes, until it’s frozen and slushy. Transfer to an insulated container and freeze overnight.

This sorbet can be served as is, or spoon a couple of tablespoons into a flute glass and top with prosecco. It’s a fun little brunch drink, almost as if a mimosa and a Bellini had a baby.


And as for you, young lady—well, you have a lot to learn. But you are awesome just as you are, even with your eyes closed. Don’t ever let anyone tell you different. ❤