Alton Brown’s chocolate ice cream + a general guide to cooking your ice cream base

From Food Network, Amazing cake by Smitten Kitchen


Every year for Nathan’s birthday I buy him an ice cream cake from a certain ice cream place. It’s packed with chocolate and vanilla ice cream and an amazing fudge and cookie crumble center. Because I am making our ice cream this summer, I decided to tackle his birthday cake as well. Enter the counterpart to Alton Brown’s Vanilla Ice Cream – chocolate ice cream. This chocolate ice cream is exactly perfect. Creamy, smooth, thick, and, of course, full of chocolate flavor. A definite win.


So let’s talk about cooking your ice cream, which many recipes require because they often contain eggs. Eggs make ice cream soft, smooth, rich, and custardy (yes, please). Usually I cook the base the night before, so that the mixture can cool completely before going into the machine. It’s almost like making pudding, but easier. Homemade pudding and I don’t always get along, as I frequently mess it up. But cooking ice cream? Easy.

For this recipe, you first need to simmer the liquid ingredients with the cocoa powder. Whatever you do, do not let your ice cream base boil. Just keep a close eye on it. While the base is heating up, you will whisk the egg yolks and sugar together, preparing to temper them. If you add egg yolks to really hot liquid, you scramble the yolks – not what you’re going for! So you temper the egg yolks. This is done by slowly slowly slowly pouring a thin stream of the simmering liquid into the yolks/sugar, while constantly whisking. This ensures that the egg yolks slowly warm up while preventing scrambled eggs. Once you have whisked in about a third of the simmering liquid, you will pour the yolk mixture back into the pot with the remaining liquid. Your yolks are nice and warm, and not scrambled. Now you can slowly heat your mixture (keep stirring to prevent scorching) to 170-175 F. If you don’t have an instant read candy or meat thermometer, just wait until the mixture thickens a bit and coats the back of a wooden spoon. When you run your finger down the back of the spoon, a clear line should form. If it fills in quickly or drips a lot, it’s not ready yet. Once it’s finished, you can let the mixture cool to room temperature (to prevent condensation from forming on the lid) and then cover it and place it in the refrigerator. The next morning (or even the next afternoon or evening), you can pour it into the machine and enjoy amazing custard ice cream. Yay for you!

Now back to the ice cream. And oh this cake. I’m not going to lie – the homemade ice cream was a hit. But the homemade fudge sauce is to die for. It’s thick and rich and when frozen is chewy and melt-in-your mouth good. Oh, and it takes all of ten minutes to put together. Check out the link to this ideal summertime cake; Deb from the Smitten Kitchen provides excellent instructions – homemade from start to finish. Ok, I bought the Oreo cookies and cherries because, hello, leftovers. And speaking of leftovers, this cake didn’t last long. At all.


Chocolate Ice Cream

Yield: 1+ quart


1 1/2 ounces unsweetened cocoa powder, approximately 1/2 cup

3 cups half-and-half

1 cup heavy cream

8 large egg yolks

9 ounces sugar (a conservative 1 1/2 cups)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Place the cocoa powder along with 1 cup of the half-and-half into a medium saucepan over medium heat and whisk to combine. Add the remaining half-and-half and the heavy cream. Bring the mixture just to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and remove from the heat.

In a medium mixing bowl whisk the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add the sugar and whisk to combine. Temper the cream mixture into the eggs and sugar by gradually adding small amounts, until about 1/3 of the cream mixture has been added. Pour in the remainder and return the entire mixture to the saucepan and place over low heat. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon and reaches 170 to 175 degrees F. Pour the mixture into a container and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract. Place the mixture into the refrigerator and once it is cool enough not to form condensation on the lid, cover and store for 4 to 8 hours or until the temperature reaches 40 degrees F or below.

Pour into an ice cream maker* and process according to the manufacturer’s directions. This should take approximately 25 to 35 minutes. Serve as is for soft serve or freeze for another 3 to 4 hours to allow the ice cream to harden.

*If you have a 1.5 quart maker like me, you will need to do this in two separate batches.

Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown, 2005


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My adventures with bread and the deliciousness of life.

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