Saturday, July 16, 2011

Chocolate Moosetracks Ice Cream with Mini Peanut Butter Cups . . . Heat Waves Have Their Benefits!

I have to believe that humans had a harder time enduring summer before the advent of ice cream. I mean, come on, how did those cavemen get along on the steamiest days with all that excess hair, no air conditioning, and--worse yet--no ice cream whatsoever?? It must have been hellish.

Yes, the present era may be heavily laden with its own problems, but historically speaking, I figure we're pretty darn lucky. For one thing, we have easy access to moose tracks. And I'm not talking about the kind of tracks imprinted in mud by a four-legged creature. No, I refer only to the endearingly frosty, alluringly creamy variety. The kind you can scoop up, press down into a brittle sugar cone, or plop generously into a big shiny bowl. I speak, my friends, of that singular ice cream that's swirled with fudgy streaks and dotted with mini peanut-butter cups.

It's one of womankind's favorite treats (and probably mankind's too). It's moose tracks ice cream, and it's a flavor concept that was, by the way, born and bred right here in Michigan. I guess it was only a matter of time before I had to take a stab at producing a homemade version.

Too much heaven, you say? Oh please. This is me you're talking to. We both know there's no such thing.

About this recipe . .

Everything valuable I know about making ice cream at home I owe to pastry chef David Lebovitz. I've probably already told you in the past that I never made really spectacular ice cream until he wandered along and published what I now view as nothing short of a seminal volume, The Perfect Scoop.  

Dear David, 
You've done civilization quite a service. 
Are you even remotely aware of that? Gosh, I hope so. 
Love, Jane.  
P.S.  I seriously think a copy of The Perfect Scoop should be placed in a time capsule at the North Pole, post haste. Just in case. 

I've lately been reading his memoir/cookbook, The Sweet Life in Paris, and in doing so have become ever more enamored of this down to earth, fun-loving pastry chef. He's got poetry in his soul, whimsy coming out of this ears, and by all accounts he's the kind of dedicated chef who tests and tests and retests again until he gets it right. What more can one ask?

Today's recipe is adapted from his formula for milk chocolate ice cream in The Perfect Scoop. I changed his base recipe very minimally, by deleting the 3/4 cup of cocoa nibs as well as the 2 tsp. of cognac. Instead, I used 2 tsp. of Kahlua (coffee flavored liqueur that goes fantastically well with chocolate), and I added a few swirls of homemade milk chocolate ganache into the just-churned ice cream before freezing it, along with a half cup or so of Trader Joe's mini PB chips (they're actually very good, not too sweet, and not waxy).  And, of course, I reworded the Lebovitz recipe to reflect exactly what I did 'cuz, well, that's just what I do.

Thus, I present you with my version of chocolate moosetracks . . . or as I imagine David Lebovitz might casually blurt out, in a cute French accent, "Voila le moose tracks du chocolat!"

(Oh, and before I forget, many thanks to Denali brand ice cream, for coming up with their original moose tracks flavor to begin with. You are a credit to our great mitten-shaped state!)

Milk-Chocolate Moose Tracks Ice Cream 
with Milk-Chocolate Ganache and Mini Peanut Butter Cups 

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

8 oz. milk chocolate (with at least 30 percent cocoa solids), finely chopped (I used Trader Joe's brand milk chocolate; comes in a very big bar and has, I think, 33% cocoa solids. Not expensive, but nice  flavor. It's a good bargain to use for everyday baking, etc.) 

1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 and 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar (I use cane sugar when I make ice cream. Has better flavor, I feel, and they say it has fewer impurities than beet sugar.)
1 large pinch of salt (I used coarse kosher salt.)
4 large egg yolks
2 tsp. Kahlua (coffee flavored liqueur)
1/2 cup mini peanut butter cups (I used Trader Joe's brand for these, too. Yummy.)
1/2 cup milk-chocolate ganache, at room temperature (See separate recipe for ganache below.)

In a large metal bowl set atop a saucepan of simmering water, heat the chopped milk chocolate and the heavy cream. Stir gently, heating until the chocolate is completely melted. Remove the bowl from the saucepan, using care to get no water into the bowl. Set the bowl aside and place a clean mesh strainer close to it. 

Set up an ice bath by placing ice cubes and cold water in a large shallow bowl. This will be used to cool down your egg-based ice cream mixture before it goes in the fridge. Have the ice bath ready and waiting before you start the next steps.

In a medium size saucepan, warm up the whole milk, sugar, and salt. While they're warming, in a medium size bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Pour the warm milk mixture slowly into the yolks, whisking constantly. Then quickly scrape this mixture back into the saucepan with a flexible spatula.  Over medium heat, stir constantly, until it thickens and can coat the spatula or a wooden spoon. Be very careful not to over thicken this mixture. It should be very pourable; you don't want it to look like pudding at this point.

Pour the heated mixture quickly through the mesh sieve placed over the bowl of melted chocolate and cream. Urge it through with your spatula if needed. Stir to combine the two mixtures. Stir in the Kahlua. 

Place the combined ice cream mixture, in its bowl, atop the waiting ice bath, being careful not to let water get into the ice cream mixture. Stir the mixture now and then to help it cool. 

When it's at least room temperature, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least several hours or overnight. 

Make the milk chocolate ganache at least an hour or more before you plan to churn the ice cream in your ice cream maker. The ganache needs to be no cooler than room temperature so you can swirl it quickly and easily into your just-churned ice cream.

To make the milk chocolate ganache, and to finish making your ice cream: 

4 oz. milk chocolate, finely chopped (I used the same type of chocolate that I used for the ice cream mix.)
4 oz. heavy cream

Place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl. Heat the cream slowly in a small saucepan. When it's hot but not boiling, pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit undisturbed for a few minutes, then gently stir it until all of the chocolate has dissolved and the ganache is smooth and silky. Let the ganache cool uncovered until it reaches room temperature.

When you're ready to churn your ice cream, have on hand the ganache and the mini peanut butter cups. Churn the ice cream mix according to your ice cream maker's directions. As soon as it's done churning, quickly spoon in dabs of the ganache, swirling it in as you go, and sprinkling in the peanut butter cups as evenly as you can manage. Freeze your churned ice cream overnight so it can fully ripen. (I prefer to keep my churned ice cream in a couple of pint-sized sturdy glass containers that have tight lids because it seems to freeze more evenly and quickly than when I do it in metal or plastic.)

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