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Agave-Sweetened Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe

Scoop of Chocolate Ice Cream

As a cookbook author, whenever you do a cooking demonstration, there’s always ‘The Question’. It’s the one that’s the most frequently asked when you’re doing classes on a book tour. For me it’s often “Can that be frozen?”

Since my freezer is usually so crammed with stuff I can’t imagine wedging in a multi-layer cake amongst all the rock-hard frozen madness that I call “my freezer”…except for now, because I came home from the country last weekend and found my freezer door had nudged itself open, or more likely I accidentally left it ajar in my haste to get outta town, and when I came home, my freezer looked like an Antarctic blizzard had happened in there and had to be completely cleaned out…so now there’s plenty of room and I can start jamming it full all over again.

Anyhow, when you write a book completely devoted to frozen desserts and ice cream you can smugly think to yourself, “Ha! I’ve nipped that one in the bud.” Of course, all ice cream can be frozen. But little did I realize something insidious had taken ahold of my fellow Americans. “Can I use Splenda?” was The Question I was getting.

I don’t use artificial sweeteners in my cooking and don’t know how they behave so I’m not going to dole out advice on how to use them. But some people can’t have highly-refined or white sugar for health reasons, so I told those folks I’d “get back to them on that” – which I’m doing here and now. I wanted to come up with a recipe for ice cream-lovers who are looking for a sugar-free option that tastes every bit as good as regular ice cream. And this is it.

Chocolate Ice Cream

After my last book tour ended, I jettisoned home and decided to come up with a top-drawer recipe for Sugar-Free Chocolate Ice Cream that used no artificial ingredients. I made a trip to my local health food store in Paris, picked up a jar of agave nectar, and got churning.

I decided to create sugar-free chocolate ice cream, since the luscious, silky-smooth taste of dark chocolate was probably something that most folks on sugar-restricted diets were craving. But I didn’t want to make something that tasted like just an acceptable substitute for chocolate ice cream: I wanted it to be the real thing, smooth and creamy, with the luxurious flavor of rich, dark chocolate.

If you live outside the United States, you can often find tablets of unsweetened chocolate at some chocolate shops and specialty stores. In France it’s usually labeled, 100% pâte de cacao—100% chocolate paste.

Chocolate Ice Cream Bowl

Agave-Sweetened Chocolate Ice Cream
About 1 quart (1 liter)

Since the custard is made without sugar, keep an eye on things as it will cook rather quickly. You can either use a flame-tamer or cook the custard in bain-marie, a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, to avoid overcooking if you’ve never made a custard before. And because I don’t like washing dishes, I use the same saucepan for cooking the custard that I used for dissolving and blooming the cocoa powder, I simply scrape it as clean as possible and use it again for making the custard.

If you would like to reduce the quantity of agave nectar here, you can cut the amount to ½ cup (120 ml) if you wish.

  • 10 tablespoons (155 ml) agave nectar
  • 2 ounces (55 g) unsweetened chocolate, very finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup (35 g) unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Valrhona)
  • 3 cups (750 ml) half-and-half*, divided
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • pinch of salt

1. In a small saucepan, warm the agave syrup with the unsweetened chocolate over the lowest heat possible, stirring constantly, until the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and transfer mixtures to a large bowl. Set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, add 1½ cups (375 ml) of the half-and-half and whisk in the cocoa powder. Cook over moderate heat until the mixture begins to bubble, then simmer for 30 seconds, whisking frequently, making sure to break up any clumps of cocoa powder.

3. Remove from heat and scrape the mixture into the bowl with the chocolate-agave mixture. Stir them together, then set a mesh strainer over the top.

4. Add the remaining half-and-half to the saucepan with a pinch of salt, turn on the heat, and when warm, slowly pour the warm half-and-half into the yolks whisking constantly, then pour the warmed yolks back into the saucepan.

5. Cook, stirring constantly over moderate heat, until the mixture becomes steamy and thickens. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read about 170F degrees. (76C).

6. Pour the mixture through the strainer into the chocolate mixture.

7. Stir, then let cool a few minutes until tepid. Once it’s not super hot, whiz the mixture in a blender for ten seconds until it’s smooth and velvety. (Never blend very hot liquids in a blender since it creates a hot vortex and can cause the liquid to blast out of the top.)

8. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Theo Chocolate

People often say I’m the luckiest person in the world for the kind of life they perceive that I lead. But I’ve found some folks who’ve got me beat, hands-down.

I’m back from my book tour, which was exhilarating but made me a tad homesick. Although really, if one thinks about it, how many times can one visit Target in a month? And don’t even get me started on Walgreens…I mean, how much chapstick does a guy need? (Well, plenty, it seems…)

With my suitcases stuffed to the gills, my last weekend was spent in Seattle, Target-free, where I had lots and lots of good things to eat and drink, from sipping espresso with gal-pal Shauna, to get-together with a gaggle of food bloggers that was well-oiled by lots of good wine mixed with plates of the freshest food overlooking the water. There was time to catch up with new and old friends, unwind, and after a few glasses of wine, a bit of comparing notes was in order.
So watch it out there, readers!

On this last day, a chocolate tasting was planned at Theo Chocolate, one of a handful of excellent small-scale chocolate makers in the United States. From the moment I walked in the unassuming front door on North Phinney Avenue, I knew this was going to be a heckuva lot of fun for me and the guests who stopped by to say hi and sample.

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It was like a big party going on inside, with lots and lots of chocolate everywhere. I’ve never seen such happy, excited people. Now those people are living the sweet life. But can you blame them? Being surrounded by all this chocolate, I’d be the happiest fellow on the planet as well. And for one afternoon, I was.

As mentioned, Theo is one of the few chocolate-makers in the US, making chocolate from the beans to the bar. Using organic and Fair-Trade beans, batches of beans are roasted, ground, then shaped into tablets of chocolate, many of them ‘origin’ bars, highlighting the nuances of cacao beans from various parts of the world. But unlike some of the other chocolate-makers, they’ve got chocolatier Autumn Martin, who’s crafting some of the finest chocolate confections I’ve ever tasted in my life.

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Do you mind if I talk about the richest, purest flavors imaginable?

Okay, don’t mind if I do.
With just two-and-a-half years of chocolate-making under her belt, Autumn’s managed to hit just the right notes with every chocolate I tried.

Continue Reading Theo Chocolate…

Bi-Rite Creamery

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I am such an idiot. I won’t tell you who, but years back, someone with a thriving restaurant on 18th Street in San Francisco alerted me to a great business opportunity nearby. Food-related, of course. I passed, and now the area is the culinary destination in the Bay Area.

(Aside from the taqueria on Church Street across from the Afeway…)

Although I missed the proverbial boat, I’m glad to see the smart folks at Bi-Rite Creamery scooping up some excellent ice cream in that neighborhood. I sampled just about all of them, from the fruity Cherry-Almond to the most curious Soy Chocolate. There’s a seductive Salted Caramel and a Butter Pecan as well. But my absolute, hands-down favorite scoop was the Mint Chip. Flavored with organic mint oil, it’s a big dose of refreshingly cool mint with big, honkin’ chunks of housemade chocolate chards. Think the best kind of Girl Scout cookies all mashed together and piled in a cone. Yum!

There’s plenty of toppings to choose from at Bi-Rite Creamery, but where there are salty little grains of fleur de sel enrobed in dark chocolate from Michael Recchiuti, why order anything else?

Bi-Rite Creamery
3692 18th Street
San Francisco, CA

(For those who can’t make it to Bi-Rite Creamery, their most popular recipes can be found in their book, Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones.)

Amano Chocolate

In my continuing adventures to bring you some of the more interesting chocolates from around the globe, and get through as much of my chocolate before the meltdown of summer heat attacks my chocolate stash, you might remember a few months back I wrote about a conversation I had when I shocked some unworldly women (who…me?) that asked me which country makes the best chocolate.

For a few years now, I’ve been swapping messages with Art Pollard of Amano chocolate who has spent ten years searching for cacao and learning how to make artisan chocolate tablets at the company he started in Utah. But it wasn’t until just a few months ago I was able to taste his handcrafted chocolate, which he sent me here in Paris.

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Amano isn’t currently making a whole slew of chocolates, but is concentrating on two different bars: A tablet of Ocumare chocolate, and another made from chocolate from Madagascar. I’m a big fan of Ocumare chocolate in general, which is considered one of the finest cacao beans in the world. Grown in Venezuela, some manufacturers claim it’s a criollo bean, and I’ve been told various stories that dispute that, and many chocolate experts agree that pure criollo chocolate doesn’t really exist anymore.

I’ll let the geneticists work that out, and concentrate on the taste of the chocolate. Luckily I had help during this tasting from Pam Williams, who runs Ecole Chocolat, an online school for budding chocolatiers. (That’s her hand with the girly-girl ring, not mine.) An expert on chocolate, Pam and I snapped the chocolate into manly-sized pieces and we tasted away.

Continue Reading Amano Chocolate…

Healthy Hershey’s

I don’t like to stir things up too much around here. Last time I did that, I got my ass kicked in the comments. Truth be told, I’m a people-person and try to see the good in everything and everybody no matter what.

Heck, I’m even listening to Up With People! as I’m typing right now…

I don’t like to trash people or companies in general. But sometimes, every once in a while, someone needs to get their pee-pee smacked.

And in this case, it’s Hershey’s.

hersheyhealthychocolate

Normally I make it a point to eat the best-quality chocolate I can since the good stuff has the same amount of calories as the bad stuff. Because I live in Paris, depending on how you feel about it, I don’t eat much Hershey’s chocolate. But when you have a blog, no matter where you like, you get ‘sales pitches’ from pr folks wanting to send you products to that they hope you’ll mention favorably on your blog. I like to try new American products and since I don’t live where they’re easily found, I let the ones that sound interesting come my way.

But one French company insisted (repeatedly, against my better judgment) on sending me a food basket of goodies a while back.

Continue Reading Healthy Hershey’s…

La Maison du Chocolat

Don’t hate me when I tell you this: Last week I was invited to La Maison du Chocolat.

But not just to one of their swanky boutiques in Paris, the marble-lined, cocoa-hued temples where people flock to worship at the alter of founder Robert Linxe. (And yes, you can count me as one of the converted.) Instead I was invited to tour their chocolate production laboratoire just outside the city.

La Maison du Chocolat

Descending the RER train in the nondescript suburb of Nanterre, we finally came upon a beige building that was scrupulously clean; we knew we’d arrived at le mothership.

Robert Linxe, who was born in the Basque region and founded La Maison du Chocolat, was one the major proponents of using ganache in his chocolates; that slightly-airy amalgamation of chocolate and cream. Then he went on to develop a flavor palette of ganache-based chocolates…and the rest is one of the most successful stories in chocolate history.

Continue Reading La Maison du Chocolat…

Chocolate Tasting

The problem around here is that I buy chocolate in 5 kilo, about 11#, boxes and every afternoon, and sometimes (ok…make that ‘often’…) first thing in the morning, I dig my hand deep in the box and pull out a few pistols every time I walk by. People have the impression that I eat chocolate all the time, every day. And although I usually deny it, I would have to admit it’s definitely true.

Except last night when I was flossing, part of one of my teeth flew out and plinked onto the floor. So today it’s like eating and talking with a thumb tack in my mouth, and I’m having a rare, chocolate-free day.

Who knew it was possible to floss to hard? Does that make me a ‘power-flosser’?

(When I called my dentist, I was stumped trying to figure out the verb ‘to floss’ in French. Ça existe?)

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Anyhow, in addition to the little palets of dark chocolate I’m always dipping into, I also have tons of unusual chocolate bars around here I’ve been amassing over the past few months.

Many I pick up when traveling, and some I get sent by companies wanting me to try them out. I happily sample them all and love to find something new or especially unusual. Often I taste them systematically by sitting down, snapping off a corner and savoring the flavors. As I roll and chew the chocolate around in my mouth, I ponder the different characteristics, noting origin and the various flavors: Sweet, fruity, acidic, roasty, bitter, citrusy, woodsy—all the various tastes we find in chocolate.

And other times, I’m not so good and I rip off the covering and start gnawing away at the chocolate until it’s nothing but an empty wrapper with a few crumbs of chocolate left. I never did well in science since I’m lacking in patience.

So during the next few weeks, it’s your turn to be patient.

Continue Reading Chocolate Tasting…

Getting Your Butt to Melt

I don’t know if some of you noticed this, but there’s been a petit void in cyberspace lately. As some of you know, Michèle of Oswego Tea has moved to London and at the same time ended her blog. The good thing is I don’t need to add that pesky backwards accent anymore now that she’s moved to England. (Although she started adding the British extra u to words like flavour…who does she think she is anyways, Madonna?)

A while back one of my readers advised if I ever got back to London, I need to go to Melt, one of the highly-regarded chocolate shops in the city. Since I didn’t know when I’d get back there, I thought I’d send Michele in to check it out.

So I started bugging Michele to get over to Melt to hopes she’d write an entry here about it. It took her a while, but she finally wrote back, saying she was really busy after her move, but realized that it was time to “…get my ass to melt!”

However in deference to folks searching the internet for photos of butt-melting (which I’m sure there are out there…) I changed her wording a bit since I didn’t want to get my potty-mouth washed out with soap, like Michele’s gonna get next time she comes back to Paris for punishment.
Which may incite more internet searches, bien sûr

While I’ve no doubt pictures her butt melting might be far more intriguing to some readers out there who came expecting something other than a visit to a chocolate shop, you’ll have to make do without. But for those of us who’ve missed Michele’s terrific blog, I finally was able to get her to do her guest post here on my site about getting her butt to Melt.
And here it is.

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Getting My Ass To Melt

When a friend sends you an email asking for a favour, admit it, sometimes you worry. In the back of your mind there’s this nagging voice that says “Please don’t let it have anything to do with moving a large couch up a narrow flight of stairs..”

Luckily for me, the friend in question was David, who at the first mention of looking for a new apartment will come right out and say “Don’t ask me to help you move.” I think he waved a finger the first time he said that to me.

The favour he wanted of me?

Continue Reading Getting Your Butt to Melt…