Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Super-Rich, Dark Chocolate Ice Cream—Sólo para ti!

Today is July 7TH, TANABATA festival in Japan. It is a kind of St. Valentines’ Day there, during the warm summer nights.  Everyone writes a wish on a pretty card, not only for a lover, but to parents, teachers, etc. Often these writings are poems wishing for love, peace, health, etc. for the recipient.

Giving the cards is a very old tradition, popular since ancient times, along with hanging them on a bamboo tree. It celebrates the summer nights, and the once-a-year meeting in the Milky Way of two bright stars (represented by the stars Vega and Altair, as princess and prince, respectively). By midnight the next day we discard the decorated bamboo on the river or ocean.

Tanabata means literally, “Evening of the Seventh,” and comes with many myths and legends. One of my favorites is a true love story from ancient China’s Tong dynasty about 1200 years ago. A powerful, respected emperor fell in love with his son’s  beautiful wife. He made his son divorce the princess, and then made her his consort. He loved her very much, but unlike in the Disney movies, their happiness did not last long.

Tragedy unfolds, with the emperor facing a strong rebellion and his top associates blaming his consort’s family for mismanagement (which was not her fault) and asking the emperor to put her to death. He, of course, does not want to, but you know politics. After  facing serious defeat he had to run from his capital, and his consort meets a tragic end. However he asked God to be able to meet his love again on the evening of the seventh day of July every year on the Milky Way, or something like that. By the way, her name is Yang Guifei, the most beautiful Chinese woman in their history, and the Japanese have loved this story for over a thousand years.

Anyway, I made this seriously chocolaty ice cream, which has nothing to do with Yang Guifei, but while eating the ice cream I suddenly remembered the story. Make it for someone you love! 

Dark Chocolate Ice Cream – Super Rich

Recipe adapted from Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Shere

Makes about 4 cups (one quart)

1 cup (250 ml) half-and-half
¾ cup sugar
4 egg yolks
6 ounces (180 grams) dark chocolate, chopped
1 ounce (30 grams) unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
2 teaspoons cognac or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup (80g) cacao nibs (optional)

  1. In a saucepan, warm the half-and-half with the sugar until sugar dissolves. Whisk the egg yolks just enough to break them up and stir in some warm half-and-half.
  2. Return to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the spoon. Strain into a bowl and set aside.
  3. Melt the chocolate with butter in a medium-size bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate it is smooth and glossy. Remove from the hot water, and begin to whisk in a little of the warmed custard, a tablespoon or two at a time until the mixture begins to thin. Adding the custard gradually to the chocolate will prevent the ice cream from getting little grains of chocolate in it. When all the custard has been incorporated, gradually whisk in the cream. Add the cognac or vanilla to taste, and chill thoroughly at least 2 hours in refrigerator.
  4. Turn on the ice cream maker and pour the mixture into the freezer bowl and let mix until thickened according to the manufacturer’s instructions... normally about 15-20 minutes. Stir in the cacao nibs last, before ending churning. 
Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer about 2 hours. 

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