Chocolate and Smoked Chili Ice Cream

For once, the food kick I’m on is actually timed well seasonally. In fairness, though, it might have something to do with the combination of my huge sweet tooth and my unfortunate lack of air conditioning.

Today (June 7th) is actually National Chocolate Ice Cream Day, conveniently. (Don’t worry, there’s also a less specific Ice Cream Day in July) So let’s take this opportunity to kick off the beginning of ice cream season.

This recipe uses cocktail bitters to add a subtle warm depth to traditional chocolate ice cream. Bitters doesn’t show up in food recipes too often for some reason, but it’s pretty useful for bringing a wide variety of new flavorings to things that extracts can’t. This particular flavor is the Smoked Chili Bitters from the brand Hella Bitters. I’m sure if you can more easily find a similar flavor from another brand it would work just as well.

As with all of my ice cream recipes, this does not require a machine or any churning. You’ll probably see me using the same base for several more ice cream recipes this summer. It’s becoming a popular one, and it is a good one to know, since you can adapt it so easily.


You will need:

Base

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 can (14 oz) fat-free sweetened condensed milk

Flavoring

  • 2/3 cup bittersweet (around 60%) chocolate
  • 3 tsp Smoked Chili Hella Bitters
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Make the base by using an electric or stand mixer to beat the heavy cream until it reaches stiff peaks. Then fold or beat the condensed milk in. You really do want the fat-free kind for this. I know, I know. Fat makes things delicious. But there is plenty of fat in the cream, and the extra from the regular condensed milk will just give this a weird mouth-feel.

Chop your chocolate if it isn’t already in chip form, then melt it in a double boiler or the microwave. I prefer to use the microwave, and I heat it for 30 seconds, then stir well, then heat in 15 second bursts with more stirring between.

You should introduce the melted chocolate and the ice cream base first, since they are different weights and temperatures. To do that just take a little of the ice cream and mix it into the chocolate.

Once your chocolate is lighter and cooler, fold it into the ice cream base. Then add your cinnamon and chili bitters. Bitters is usually measured in dashes, but for something like ice cream you do need  lot, since all flavors will be muted once frozen. This 3 teaspoon amount is enough to give it a subtle aftertaste and scent, but if you want a stronger flavor just add more. You’re the boss here.

Similarly, add the cayenne pepper, or don’t, or add double. I’ll let you decide how spicy you want it. Again as a reference point, the amount I gave is enough for some very slight warmth.

You can fold all these ingredients through the ice cream, but I tend to mix it with the electric again just for a few seconds to make sure that everything is nicely dispersed. You can pour this ice cream into a loaf pan for easy scooping if you plan to use it all in one sitting once it is ready. But if you plan to have this in your freezer for a week or two, I would suggest an airtight container just to avoid freezer burn.

Now comes the hard part, which is to wait. A minimum of 4 hours. That means you shouldn’t set your phone alarm for 4 hours and run to your freezer, bowl in hand, the moment it goes off.  It is pretty heartbreaking to discover that the ice cream you thought you were about to eat won’t be ready for a while. I mean, or so I would assume. Sometimes it just needs a little longer to set, which is why I find it is easier to just make this the night before. I promise, no one hates “overnight” recipes more than I do, but it does help pass the time faster. Besides, we both know you’re going to steal at least one sample spoonful of soft ice cream before bed anyway.

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