Dark Chocolate Ice Cream w/ Candied Orange Zest

Last time I experimented with ice cream, I made two versions of Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream – one with fresh mint leaves and the other with pure mint extract – and compared their respective qualities. The experiment was a success, as both ice creams were noticeably different in flavor and really delicious. However, while melting the chocolate used for chocolate chips in these recipes, I realized that I have yet to make a chocolate ice cream. What have I been doing with my life!??!

Thus, I set out on a quest to find a great chocolate ice cream recipe, and of course I found this Dark Chocolate Ice Cream recipe  from my favorite ice cream recipe maker thus far – Max Falkowitz from Serious Eats.

Instead of making plain ol’ dark chocolate ice cream, I decided to experiment a little bit by mixing in some homemade Candied Orange Zest. This decision was also a practical one, as it enabled me to use up a bunch of Cara Cara oranges that I had picked up at the local Farmers Market.

Thus, this post includes several firsts: making chocolate ice cream, as well as making candied orange zest. I must say that the resulting ice cream was THE BOMB…read on to learn about the process and the results.

Making the dark chocolate ice cream

It makes the most sense to follow along with the recipe while looking at the following description.

By the way, this recipe uses cocoa nibs, cocoa powder, and dark chocolate for an intensely dark chocolate taste – beware!

First, I brought the milk to a simmer, took it off the heat, and steeped the cocoa nibs in the covered pot for two hours. Then I strained the milk and pressed on the cocoa nibs with a spatula to release any additional milk from them. I tasted the milk at this point, and to be honest it was pretty gross…cocoa alone is not the best tasting stuff in the world.

Next, I whisked the cocoa powder and sugar together, added the egg yolks, and mixed until well combined. Then I put the milk on medium-low heat and poured the egg/cocoa/sugar mixture into it. I messed up at this point by failing to add the dark chocolate during cooking – instead I melted the chocolate while churning the ice cream in a later step, resulting in dark chocolate chip ice cream instead of dark chocolate ice cream. Whoops. I cooked this mixture slowly until it reached 170º F. I definitely noticed some significant thickening of the custard, and I filtered out a fair amount of solids, but not as much as I did in my previous experiment with Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. I strained this mixture into a tupperware container and let it chill in the fridge overnight.

The next day, I mixed/froze the ice cream using this recipe as per usual – whisking and freezing in multiple stages. Initially, I whisked each mix for 15 mins in a bowl that was placed in a larger bowl containing a healthy amount of ice/salt. Then, I froze this mix (while still sitting in the ice bowl) for 45 mins. I then whisked it for another 10 mins. About halfway through the second mixing, I melted the chocolate (using the same double boiler technique I used in my previous experiment), and added in the chopped candied orange peels to one of the mixes. I churned it for another 5 mins or so before putting it back in the freezer to sit all day and thoroughly freeze.

Making the candied orange zest

Making candied citrus zest involves first boiling/cooling citrus zest multiple times in order to remove any bitterness, and then candying the zest by simmering it in a mixture of sugar/water until the pieces are translucent. To make the zest, I followed this recipe.

First, I peeled 4 Cara-Cara oranges using a standard hand peeler. I attempted to take off as little pith as possible, but this proved to be pretty tricky. I figured that the blanching would take care of this bitterness, but next time I’m going to try to be more diligent about excluding more pith. I’m also going to attempt to take longer, even pieces of orange peel instead of hacking away at it.

I then filled a pot about ¼ of the way with water, and also put cold water and a healthy amount of ice in a large mixing bowl. Once the pot began to boil, I threw in the orange zest and let it cook for about 30 seconds. I then poured the water out through a fine sieve and put the sieve in the ice bath (note that it is easier to manage the orange zest pieces when they’re kept in the sieve at this stage). I then refilled the pot with water, brought it to a boil again, and repeated the whole process two more times.

Once I finished the blanching, I combined the sugar, water, and light corn syrup in a pot and brought it to a simmer. I then threw in the orange zest pieces, lowered the heat a little, and let the mixture simmer for 30 mins or so. Eventually, the mixture began to thicken a bit, and the candying process was finished. I poured the orange peels and the sugar-water solution into a tupperware container and stored it in the fridge until incorporating it into the ice cream during the second part of the churning/freezing stage.

Observations / Improvements for next time

I tried the ice cream after it had been deep freezing for about 10 hours, and it was pretty damn tasty. It had a very intense dark chocolate flavor, almost to the point of bitterness, so I may reconsider how much of the various cocoa/chocolate components I use next time.

I also messed up the way in which I was supposed to add the dark chocolate to the mix. I was supposed to add it to the mix while cooking the egg/milk/cocoa mixture, but instead I melted/added it during the churning stage. This resulted in the chocolate becoming chocolate chips instead of being fully emulsified with the mix. It still tasted okay, but the chunkiness of the chocolate chips gets in the way of the chewy orange zest chunks. Next time, I plan to do it the correct way, but it was still tasty this way.

This ice cream seems to be a little less creamy than the Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream that I made, so I may use ½ milk and ½ heavy whipping cream next time.

The candied orange peels are an excellent flavor combination with the dark chocolate, but they were still a little bit too bitter. They complemented the bitterness of the dark chocolate in a negative way, making some bites a little too bitter to handle. Next time, I will likely blanch the zest one or two more times (4-5 total), or perhaps I’ll leave them in the boiling water for a little bit longer than 20-30 seconds during each blanching session to get ride of even more pith and bitterness.

Despite a few disappointments, like accidentally making chocolate chips and mixing in some slightly bitter candied orange peels, I still declare this ice cream experiment to be a success! It still tasted pretty good, and it increased my confidence that I am capable of doing more flavor/mixin experimentation in the future.

Next, I’m going to attempt to make Salted Caramel ice cream, so stay tuned for a post on that next week! I’m also starting to experiment with making my own bread, so perhaps I will write another post about that as well.

Thanks for reading, catch ya later!

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