Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cacao Nib Ice Cream with Cherries

Every year we get a few days where temperatures reach triple digits or at least well into the 90's. I am not a fan of hot weather. But the heat propelled me to make an ice cream that I was interested in tasting but skeptical of making. I really like my ice cream to be dense and ultra creamy. The term "icy" when referring to ice cream is something I've always tried to avoid.

However, the thought of making an ice cream with a custard base did not sound remotely appetizing. The extra work of tempering and heating the egg/cream mixture along with the richness that the eggs impart to the ice cream just seemed too heavy for such a hot day. So I set out to make this ice cream from Alice Medrich. Oh Alice, I never should have doubted you! She was correct in describing this ice cream as somewhat "icy". But not in a bad way, in a completely satisfying way. It is icy and creamy at the same time.

The cream mixture is simmered and left to infuse with cacao nibs. Cacao nibs are the roasted, shelled cacao beans broken into bite-sized pieces. They are the raw material from which all chocolate is made. Nibs have a nutty flavor and are very crunchy. They are the essence of pure chocolate. I use them often in baking, so the notion of infusing their flavor into cream intrigued me.

The flavor is beguiling. I'm not sure that you would be able to say what it was if you didn't know. It definitely tastes like chocolate, but a whisper of chocolate. It is delicate and totally delicious.

Cocoa Nib Ice Cream
adapted from Pure Dessert

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup cocoa nibs
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

Bring the cream, milk, nibs, sugar and salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat, cover, and let steep for 20 minutes.

Pour the cram mixture through a fine strainer, pressing on the nibs to extract their liquid, discard the nibs. Refrigerate at least 4 but preferably 12 hours. Freeze the mixture according to the instructions on your ice cream maker.

makes 3 1/2 cups.

I bought some cherries at the farmer's market, and they were the perfect complement to the cacao nib ice cream. I just pitted them, tossed them with some sugar and brandy, and let them macerate for a couple of hours. The cherries became slightly softened and juicy, but retained their fresh character.

Fresh Cherry Compote

1 pound of cherries
2-4 tablespoons sugar (depending on sweetness of cherries)
1/2 tablespoon kirsch or brandy

Remove the pits from the cherries. Toss the cherries in a bowl with the sugar and brandy. Let the cherries macerate for at least an hour. They will release their juices and soften a bit.


  1. Sounds and looks tasty! What would propel you to bring some over? :)

  2. Hi Winnie,
    Hmmm, a nice bottle of wine will do;)

  3. You are coming to The Birthday Party on May 31 for your babys namesake? The theme is ice cream and cake but ice cream and cherries would be smashing...don't ya think? Love you angel...Aunt Joan

  4. it is icecream season afterall
    lovely lovely .......I like the word nibs and this recipe is beautifully simple.
    Cherries have just appeared at the market so once have eaten a bagful straight up I might start with your compote.
    I need to buy an icecream maker.
    I am in london at the moment and just a hour ago was sitting in the garden telling my mum about your pea soup x

  5. Hi Rachel,
    I would highly recommend investing in an ice cream maker! The possibilities are seemingly endless.

    Oh London, I wish I could be there too. There are so many places there that I would love to visit now. I lived there for a bit in '97, but the food scene was definitely not what it is today...

  6. Hi !
    I live in France and I love your blog ... it's very interesting - It's wonderful ...
    excuse me for my english !!!

  7. Celine,
    Thanks for visiting! And thank you for your kind words:)

  8. The cherry compote sounds very tempting. I love Alice Medrich's book. The cacao nib ice cream sounds like a hit to me. It's time to dust my ice cream machine and get it working. Thanks for sharing

  9. Wow, that ice cream sounds and looks AMAZING!!! One more reason to finally go buy an ice-cream maker......