An estimated 62% of my cooking begins with me lying in bed, thinking about some ingredient that needs using, and not being able to sleep because my mind is awhir, trying to devise rewarding ways to do so.
These closed-eye sessions usually yield satisfactory results and, every once in a while, a plain fantastic one. I am counting this ice cream among the latter.
The first taste of my improvised concoction, straight from the paddle of the ice cream maker, gave me pause: could it really have turned out so shockingly well?
The challenge was this: I had a bit of a dairy glut in the fridge, and in particular, a scant half tub of organic crème fraîche that had been open for three or four days, and which I was determined to use before it got any crazy idea like turning rancid or growing a beard. I also had real Greek yogurt* in there, which I know for a fact makes the best glace au yaourt (yogurt ice cream).
I had no basic recipe to build upon and merely played it by ear: I melted a few ounces of good dark chocolate, whisked it into the cream, added raw cane sugar, a little cocoa powder, salt and vanilla, added yogurt until the mixture looked and tasted right**, chilled and churned.
The first taste of my improvised concoction, straight from the paddle of the ice cream maker, gave me pause: could it really have turned out so shockingly well? A second sample was collected, and the report was confirmed by the official authorities: I had really made a shockingly good chocolate frozen yogurt, so much so that I felt compelled to twitter it.
Why so elated? Here’s why: the chocolate flavor is ardent enough to satisfy the die-hard cacao worshipper, but the smooth tang of the yogurt makes it pleasing to those who prefer (gasp!) milk chocolate — a rare conciliation, to which the raw sugar adds undertones of malt and caramel. And the cherry on the cake*** is this: once packed into an airtight container and placed in the freezer to set, this frozen yogurt remains blissfully scoopable — for as long as supplies last.
~~~asterisk fest begins~~~
** The trick to preparing an ice cream or sorbet without a recipe is to keep in mind that, once the mixture is frozen, the taste buds will perceive it to be a little less sweet, and a little less vividly flavored. So when you’re tasting it at room temperature, you should aim for something that’s a little sweeter and a little more boldly flavored than you’d like the finished product to be.
*** This edible idiom was adopted into the French language as a straightforward translation: la cerise sur le gâteau.
- 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) good-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 100 grams (1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon) crème fraîche or heavy cream
- 120 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) raw cane sugar, preferably one that's finely ground (you can run it in the food processor if it's not)
- 2 tablespoons good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
- a good pinch of sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
- 300 grams (10 1/2 ounces) plain Greek yogurt
- Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, or in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring frequently to ensure even melting.
- In the meantime, place the cream in a medium mixing-bowl (preferably one with a pouring spout; it will make your life easier). In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt until no lump remains.
- When the chocolate is melted, whisk it into the cream. Whisk the sugar mixture into the chocolate cream. Add the vanilla and yogurt, and whisk until well blended.
- Cover and refrigerate for an hour, until chilled. Whisk again, and freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
If you don't have an ice cream maker, you can still make this recipe on a day when you're home most of the time. Prepare the mixture in the morning. Pour it into a freezer-safe container and place in the freezer. An hour later, remove the container from the freezer, draw the sides in with a fork (the ice cream will set from the sides in), stir vigorously, and return to the freezer. Repeat every hour. The ice cream will be ready by dinnertime.