Finding The Perfect Chocolate Ice Cream

The world of Chocolate is deep and mysterious and it turns out chocolate ice cream is much more complicated than you’d think. How you introduce chocolate will vary: cocoa powder or chocolate or even chocolate liquor. There are various reasons to use one or the other which will affect overall fat content, freezing point, and of course flavor.

Cocoa powder is almost pure cocoa solids with minimal cocoa butter, which brings a more concentrated chocolate flavor. But some argue that cocoa powder you lose the complexity of flavors that chocolate can hold and that purely using powder makes the ice cream takes like, well, chocolate powder. On the other hand, those who use just chocolate claim that it lacks the intensity they’re looking for.

Dark Chocolate contains roughly 20-40% cocoa butter, while a fat, is not the same as butter fat and it firms up at room temperature. Then of course you have the oil fats, like chocolate liquor or a mixture of cocoa powder with vegetable oil, that stays liquid at room temperature. This will all effect the texture and the richness in the mouthfeel.

All this to say, there’s a lot of variables and way more science and math than I thought I’d have to consider – however – this is a necessary evil and while all this initial research feels overwhelming, I am ready to deep dive and test (taste) as many batches as necessary!

Since there are too many variables at once, we decided to look for recipes that are closest to our favorite bases, the Ph-rench and the Sicilian (see our ice cream base experiment here), and use those as jumping off points. And because of the common argument for the benefit of using cocoa powder, we’re also going to test a recipe that includes both chocolate and cocoa powder.

Carlienne’s Chocolate Ice Cream Experiment

Note about using chocolate: many recipes call for unsweetened chocolate to control the amount of sugar in the recipe. If you don’t have that on hand or prefer to use a dark chocolate because of flavors, use a little less sugar. For example, both Ben and Jerry recipes call for unsweetened chocolate plus 1 Cup of sugar but we used dark chocolate, and only 3/4 Cup of sugar. You can play around with the sugar and the chocolates a bit but be careful not to stray too far from the ratio as it will change your ice cream texture.

Ben’s Chocolate Ice Cream

From Ben & Jerry’s recipe book.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup Whole Milk
  • 1 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 4 oz Unsweetened Chocolate*
  • 2 eggs (pasteurized)
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tsp Vanilla

Instructions

  1. Create a chocolate milk by warming the milk and chocolate on the stove or slowly in the microwave. Stir often to get the chocolate fully incorporated and be careful not to burn.
  2. Set chocolate milk in fridge to chill.
  3. When chocolate milk is cold, combine all ingredients. You can hand mix or use a blender. Put mix back in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours.
  4. When mix is cold, proceed with churning by following the instructions of your machine and freeze for at least 4 hours.

Thoughts:

This Ben’s Chocolate Ice Cream mix is essentially the Ph-rench (Ben & Jerry’s Sweet Cream) base with 4 oz of chocolate and Vanilla added, which unsurprisingly was a favorite of ours. The flavor was recognizably their chocolate base for many of our Ben & Jerry favorites. The chocolate is mild and would serve well as a base for mix-ins, but may lack the intensity for a standalone chocolate ice cream. The texture was fluffy and smooth and the ice cream melted fairly quickly.

Ben's chocolate ice cream
Ben’s chocolate ice cream

Jerry’s Chocolate Ice Cream

From Ben & Jerry’s recipe book.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 Cup Whole Milk
  • 1 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 2 oz Unsweetened Chocolate
  • 1/3 C cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs (pasteurized)
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla

Instructions

  1. Create a chocolate milk by warming the milk on the stove and whisking in the cocoa powder. Once that’s smooth, drop in your chocolate and continue to stir often to get the chocolate fully incorporated. Be careful not to burn.
  2. Set chocolate milk in fridge to chill.
  3. When chocolate milk is cold, combine all ingredients. You can hand mix or use a blender. Put mix back in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours.
  4. When mix is cold, proceed with churning by following the instructions of your machine and freeze for at least 4 hours.

Thoughts:

Jerry’s Chocolate Ice Cream is very close to Ben’s but uses both chocolate and cocoa powder, so we thought it was worth a try. There was a slightly chalkier texture and flavor and I tasted something alcoholic (likely from our cocoa powder) but Carl didn’t. This recipe would also serve better as a base for mix-ins rather than a standalone chocolate ice cream, however we preferred Ben’s recipe.

Jerry's chocolate ice cream
Jerry’s chocolate ice cream

Jamie Geller’s Chocolate Gelato

Ingredients:

  • 3 C Whole Milk
  • 4 oz Unsweetened Chocolate
  • 3/4 C Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Cornstarch

Instructions

  1. Make a chocolate milk by warming the milk and chocolate on the stove. Stir occasionally to incorporate the chocolate. Be careful not to burn.
  2. While the chocolate milk is warming, combine your sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.
  3. Create a slurry by pouring a little chocolate milk into your sugar and cornstarch mix. When that’s well mixed, pour the slurry back into the pot of chocolate milk. Continue to cook and stir mixture until thickened.
  4. Place mixture into fridge to chill.
  5. When mix is cold, proceed with churning by following the instructions of your machine and freeze for at least 4 hours.

Thoughts:

This Chocolate Gelato recipe came from Jamie Geller and it was the closest we could find to our Sicilian style base, so we had high hopes. Our only concern was that it doesn’t call for any cream, which in the end is probably why it didn’t turn out the way we anticipated. The texture was more on the icy side, which took away from the chocolate flavor. While scooping you could feel that gummier texture (compared to the ice cream textures) but the end flavor was just a mix. Because of this disappointment, we decided to go back to our original Sicilian base.

Jamie Gellers's chocolate gelato
Jamie Gellers’s Chocolate Gelato

Carlienne’s Dark Chocolate Recipe 1.0

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 C Whole Milk
  • 1.5 C Heavy (40%) Cream
  • 4 oz Dark Chocolate
  • 3/4 C Sugar
  • 3 Tbsp Cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Make a chocolate milk by warming the milk, cream and chocolate on the stove. Stir occasionally to incorporate the chocolate. Be careful not to burn.
  2. While the chocolate milk is warming, combine your dry ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. Create a slurry by pouring a little chocolate milk into your dry mix. When that’s well mixed, then pour the slurry back into the pot of chocolate milk. Continue to cook and stir mixture until thickened.
  4. Place mixture into fridge to chill.
  5. When mix is cold, proceed with churning by following the instructions of your machine and freeze for at least 4 hours.

Thoughts:

This recipe is our favorite Sicilian base and simply adding 4 oz of chocolate. To our delight the flavor was much more intense and though the frozen texture was almost like fudge and quite hard, the melt off was like eating pure dark chocolate, which was exactly what I was hoping for. Simply allow for a longer defrost period before serving.

Carlienne's Chocolate Ice Cream
Carlienne’s Chocolate Ice Cream 1.0

Conclusion:

Given the complexity of chocolate ice cream, we’re pretty happy with this initial experiment. As big fans of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, we’re excited to have their chocolate ice cream recipe as a base for our own mix-in flavors. We’ll likely keep the Ben’s recipe as is and start to experiment with adding fun things like cookies or fudge. For our pure chocolate ice cream, we’re going to continue tweaking our Sicilian style recipe so perfect the texture and attempt an even deeper and more decadent flavor. What are your favorite chocolate ice cream recipes or makers? Let us know in the comments below!

Tools Used To Make This Dish*

Camera Gear List*

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