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milk chocolate-black pepper ice cream

In case you’re wondering what goes on inside my head, my most recent urge was to upgrade the pepper in my peppermills. I think I’m coming late to that game since I’ve read so many things urging…begging me…to use fancy, expensive pepper. But I tend to buy a bag of black pepper from a local spice shop, which seemed good enough. Or so I thought.

A few weeks ago, I found myself back in Goumanyat, and they had at least a dozen black and colored peppers to sniff. So I took advantage of their collection and smelled them all. Then decided to make some ice cream out of them.

Tazmanian pepper

I added crème fraîche to this ice cream, which is one of France’s great gifts to the world. Aside from being rich and creamy, it’s got a bit of a tang that I think compliments ice cream and offsets any sweetness. Milk chocolate has its fans, and a few detractors. I know, because I used to be one of them.

whisking in crème fraîche

But when I was writing The Great Book of Chocolate, I started tasting some of the higher-percentage darker milk chocolates, and realized that they had their place in life. I was comparing them to dark chocolate, which I generally prefer. But since milk chocolate has dairy added, I like to think of it as a confection, not pure chocolate. Which is fine. I can live with that.

Since it’s a bit on the sweeter side, I had a hunch milk chocolate would be the perfect foil for the Tazmanian pepper I got, which was insanely expensive—almost 4.5 euros for roughly 67 peppercorns. I didn’t count them, but that was my best guesstimate. (Is there a word for that in French?) Because it was for the blog, I splurged on them, as well as a more reasonable jar of Sarawak peppercorns for me to use everyday, tossing out the outrées peppercorns in my peppermills. So don’t say I never did anything for you.

whisking pepper

I knew my hunch paid off when I began grinding up some of my fancy new peppercorns in my trusty mortar and pestle. Instead of a sharp bite of black pepper bursting forth, there was instead a lovely, complex, peppery scent, somewhat reminiscent of chocolate, and once ground up, it’s chocolate-brown color echoed my chocolate-inspired sentiment. I love when my hunches pay off!

It was a truly fantastic flavor combination: the spicy zip of the black pepper was a great foil to the creamy-smooth milk chocolate, and this ice cream would be perfect served alongside a slab of chocolate cake or gingerbread, or alongside a wedge of pumpkin pie or another spice cake, like warm persimmon pudding.

It’s a great way to sneak a little extra chocolate on your holiday table and I doubt anyone will be disappointed by your efforts to do so.

milk chocolate-black pepper ice cream

Milk Chocolate-Black Pepper Ice Cream

Recipe adapted from The Perfect Scoop Because the flavor (and price) of these peppercorns is so special, I chose not to infuse them in the milk mixture, instead adding them at the end. I left them relatively coarse, since I think it’s interesting to get little “bites” of pepper, although these peppercorns are on the soft side. If using another kind of pepper, use your best judgment, depending on your personal tastes. And, of course, feel free to use more or less than I did.
  • 8 ounces (230g) dark milk chocolate, (at least 35% cacao solids), broken or chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups (375ml) whole milk
  • 3/4 cup (150g) sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups (375ml) creme fraiche or heavy cream, or a combination (see Note)
  • 2 teaspoons Cognac or brandy
  • 1 tablespoon good-quality ground black peppercorns, I used Tazmanian peppercorns
  • Put the pieces of milk chocolate in a large bowl and set a mesh strainer over the top. Then make an ice bath in a larger bowl (or the sink), that you’ll rest the bowl of milk chocolate within later.
  • In a medium-sized saucepan, warm the milk, sugar, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.
  • Once the milk is warm, slowly pour about half of it into the yolks, whisking constantly, to warm them. Scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof utensil, until the custard thickens and coats the spatula.
  • Immediately strain the custard over the milk chocolate, and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the creme fraiche or heavy cream (or combination of the two), the cognac, then the ground peppercorns.
  • Rest the bowl of milk chocolate custard in the ice bath, and stir until cool. Chill thoroughly, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Should the custard get very thick once chilled, whisk it vigorously before adding it to your machine, which will thin it out so it’s pourable.


Note: If using creme fraiche, chill the ice cream within eight hours of adding the crème fraiche; letting it rest in the refrigerator overnight and turn the whole batch a bit too-tangy. If using heavy cream, it’s fine to chill overnight.
If crème fraîche is unavailable, you can use full-fat sour cream.

Related Links and Recipes

Persimmon Bread (Recipe)

Making Ice Cream Without a Machine

The Easiest Chocolate Ice Cream…Ever! (Recipe)

Candied Bacon Ice Cream (Recipe)

Tips on How to Make Ice Cream, and Q & A

White Chocolate Sorbet (Recipe)

Let’s Make Ice Cream!

Quick Coconut Ice Cream with Saffron (Recipe)

The Best Chocolate Sauce Recipe (Recipe)

White Chocolate and Fresh Ginger Ice Cream (Recipe)


    • Aran

    I like how you admitted to your “milk chocolate snobbism”. I smiled because I know that I have been guilty of it too. The photos alone are killing me. A must try.

    • eko

    I anxiously look forward to having an ice cream freezer again to make this!! I have learned that in Europe even milk chocolate is GOOD. I made your peppermint ice cream for Christmas last year and my husband announced it tasted like toothpaste. SO, I need to also find an audience with a good sense of gastronomie!

    Bravo – thanks for this, and your WHOLE site. The Baking in Paris entry was most helpful, just excellent!

    • Cat B.

    Oh my gosh, this sounds and looks absolutely delicious. What a great and unique flavor combination this must be. My mouth is watering!

    • Michelle in NZ

    Was first turned off by the “milk chocolate”. Then read high quality milk c and excellent fresh pepper. Continue to enjoy this wonderous discovery. I will in my day dreams.
    Huggles and care, Michelle in NZ

    • Eileen

    Hmm, this recipe at first gave me pause, but the photos are so beautiful. And the more I think about the combination of ingredients, it most likely is very, VERY good! (Everything I’ve made from your books and posts has been very, very good!)

    • kaszeta

    I’m intrigued, and will probably make this next week. I’ve always found that I have to be careful when using recipes like this, since I’ve got some seriously good suppliers for most of my spices, which means that if I’m not careful, a lot of times I overspice recipes like this on the first try (I made a chocolate and cinnamon ice cream recently using some fresh-ground Sumatran cinnamon that ended in a nearly inedible fire-y concoction!).

    • David

    kaszeta: When I made this, I started with 1 teaspoon, and was surprised when I kept adding more and more. I didn’t want to overwhelm the chocolate flavor, or be too spicy, and this was just the right balance.

    When you infuse things in warm liquid, as you know, they can get pretty intense. And since spices and peppers vary, one needs to rely a bit on their better judgment. It’s easy to add more, but hard to take away. Btw: Your chocolate-cinnamon ice cream sounds right up my alley! : )_

    • radish

    Oh wow, this looks transcendent — I will have to find this fancy Tazmanian pepper — the peppercorns looks so beautiful. The most amazing ice cream I’ve ever had was somewhere in Nice — it was vanilla with pink peppercorns (long before pink pepper was trendy) — and ever since then I’ve loved pepper in my ice cream! I Have to make sure i have all my ice cream machine parts not lost during the move so i can try my hand at this.

    Hey radish: You could try Kaluystans, which likely has a great selection of pepper. I went a bit wild and probably overspent, but nothing is too good for the readers of my blog (!) Check and sniffing are great ways to find a pepper that you like. Happy hunting…and churning! x-dl

    • Amy

    mmmm….yum yum….*drool*

    • Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy

    When I was younger I had a problem with adding salt to everything, so much so that now I under-salt everything. In its place, I LOVE Pepper and over-use it! I’d love to try this, and the different pepper flavors :)

    • Diva

    I love a kick with my chocolates. When I was a pastry chef we used a lot of pepper and other supposedly “savory” flavors with fruit and it worked so well.

    Here in Florence we “spike” our drinking chocolate with chili pepper or ground ginger or cinnamon.

    As you say, spending the extra euros for quality spices is the secret!

    I just had some ingredible cinnamon in sweets in Sicily, which in turn they use for savory!

    • Serving-Ice-Cream

    What an interesting flavor combination – definitely not your usual chocolate ice cream – but it sounds good! Thanks for the suggestions about what to serve with it too!

    • chumpman

    Wow, looked so so good! ice cream with a hint of pepper. nice…

    • Susan

    Dark chocolate has always been my preference until recently. I don’t know if it’s my contrary nature or burnout, but I’ve stepped back to a lighter chocolate. It seems a trend to go over the top when new chocolate choices were being offered and that’s good, we need to push it first to learn where limits lie. The high end deep bittersweet chocolates available have finally found my limit and my pendulum is swinging back some! Cracked pepper sounds like a really great way to get some punch into the lighter or milk chocolates so they aren’t dismissed as bland. Thanks for this, I can’t wait to try it.

    • Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy

    David, just thought you should know that your posts (and many, many others) are being scraped on this site: http://recipes(dot)zengato(dot)com/. It’s outrageous! I don’t know what can be done.

    • David

    Susan #1: There’s been such a propensity towards ultra-high percentage chocolate (which maybe we can blame on the Fear Factor-effect?) where people think “more” is “better.” I like very bitter chocolate, but some of the high percentage chocolate are so dry and acrid, they’re not enjoyable.

    A company recently sent me some filled chocolates that are 85%-99% and I’ve been reluctant to try them. But I will..soon!

    Susan #2: Ick! Those scraping sites are awful. I tried to contact WordPress since that’s their platform, but didn’t have any luck. I only publish partial feeds via RSS so they can’t steal the whole thing. Merci!

    • Sarah

    I recently found a recipe for creme fraiche that can be made at home. The ingredients are simply 1 to 2 tablespoons buttermilk and 2 cups heavy cream. You mix them together and let them sit overnight in a warm area of the kitchen (the cultures in the buttermilk help to thicken the mixture). I made this recipe and was initially very happy: it was the same texture and acted the same in sauces as creme fraiche I bought in France, but the buttermilk flavor was overpowering! Have you heard of homemade creme fraiche before? What do you think of this recipe? Creme fraiche is one of the things I miss most about France, and of course I can’t find it here in the States. If I can make it at home, that would be wonderful, but the buttermilk recipe is not the same as the creme fraiche I remember. Do you have any suggestions for a change in this recipe? Thanks so much for your time!

    • Rianne (Art of Dessert)

    Ooooh…this is right up my alley. I’ve been in a spicy mood lately, so I’m really intrigued by this ice cream. Thanks for sharing the recipe.
    I really need to put your chocolate book on my x-mas list ;-)

    • AlexC

    Oy, this sounds divine. I have always been a secret milk chocolate lover even though it isn’t chouette to admit it.

    • Paula Maack

    Wow, David! This is tantalizing!!! I love your creativity and dedication to your blog readers!

    Did you use Guittard Chocolate for the recipe? How do they get their chocolate so creamy-dreamy, anyway?

    While I wouldn’t call myself a “dark chocolate only” snob (snobbery is over-rated), there are very few milk chocolates I can appreciate. I used to think See’s and Guittard were two separate chocolates in that rather small category. But, thanks to you, I know better now. : )

    Oh, and for Sarah… I don’t know if there is a Trader Joe’s near you, but they sell Creme Fraiche, and at a reasonable price, too.


    ~ Paula
    (from Ambrosia Quest)

    • Anjali

    Chocolate & Peppers of all sorts make such a great match! Thanks for the new pepper that I now need to try :)

    • Dana Mccauley

    David, this ice cream sounds sensational! Did you get a chance to try Bali Long Peppercorns?

    I tried them recently and I can see them being a nice thing to add to a pear poaching broth or even to an ice cream like the one you present here.

    if you’re interested, here’s I wrote about them: Bali long peppercorns.

    • Susan

    David, thanks for your reply above. I just like to think that good quality chocolate, regardless of how mild or assertive the flavor, has been produced with someone or some use in mind. We enhance everything else that’s perfectly good by itself with other ingredients and pairings, so why not chocolate! I’ve used some of the high percentage bittersweet chocolates instead of unsweetened in several recipes that call for it with outstanding results, so there is even a place for the most acrid and dry, too. It’s just good to see a pastry chef, who’s also a bittersweet chocolate lover, experiment with the lighter blends as well. Thank you!

    • Lewyintheuk

    Hi David,

    Great recipe once again. Are there any brands of that milk chocolate confection you could recommend? And where did you get your whisk? I’ve been looking for a good plastic whisk for an age. Thanks for continuing to tempt me across the channel to Paris rather than all of the other European destinations which a never get around to visiting!

    • David

    Lewyintheuk: I used Lindt Lait Extra Fin, which I got at the supermarket and I’m pretty sure is readily available in many places and not expensive. As long as it’s a “dark” milk chocolate (upwards of 35% cacao solids), any quality milk chocolate should work well.

    The whisk, however, you’ll have to patrol the flea markets in Paris to find one like it. That’s where I got mine

    (Oxo makes silicone whisks, but they’re not as cool!)

    • Babeth

    God! chocolate and black pepper is my Mum’s favorite association! I should try to make your recipe to her.

    Anyway to change the subject: feel free to participate to create buzz around a cause dear to my heart: Help beat sarcoma (rare form of cancer). As we say all the little drops make an ocean ;-) Check out this site:

    Bises :-)

    • Murasaki Shikibu

    In the little town that I live in – it’s impossible to buy anything sweet that’s edible…almost – so your blog is fantastic and it also keeps me well-informed on new things since it’s really not trendy around here with regard to anything and everything.

    I even found about about Pierre Herme Tokyo from you.

    • Steve

    Off topic and parenthetical word note: I think English wins the style points here for its use of the term “sucker,” or as it’s normally pronounced, “sucka!” A “blaireau” is a badger (or the old-fashioned shaving brush made from a badger’s bristles) and that just doesn’t seem to have the same oomph, n’est-ce pas? Imagine calling someone a shaving brush.

    • katrina

    Milk chocolate and pepper ice cream? You are simply brilliant, David!

    • ygardin

    Milk chocolate and black pepper? Wow. I’m also a milk chocolate snob. I wish I could make that. Merci beaucoup!

    • Pia

    That ice cream sound dangerously good. Pepper and chocolate are two ingredients that I find very addictive.

    • Joan

    I used to dislike milk chocolate intensely and thought those who liked it were losers

    HAHAHA loves it!

    I’m guilty of that too and trying to accept it.

    but i have to admit that recipe looks fantastic. i love black pepper

    • krysalia


    you’re welcome !

    About the guess-o-meter, french relate it to the nose for some reason : à vue de nez, (at nose sight), means ” i’m using my sense of guessing, you know, that imperfect yet usefull way to evaluate something”.
    It is probably related to the french saying “avoir du nez” (to have some nose), that refers to the capacity of guessing right, pick right, or to find something without clues. For example, for choosing this kind of pepper for this kind of ice cream, I can bet that any french people would say that you had some nose !

    the argotic term for the nose is pif, and you’ll find most of french people talking about their pifomètre (pif-o-meter) :)
    One can also say à vue de pif, but it should not be mistaken with the other french saying ” au pif“, for example in the sentence : choisir au pif (to choose with the nose), this one means choosing totally au hasard, (totally randomly).

    • Dave

    I gave this a try over the weekend. The hum of the pepper that comes on a little bit after you think you’re done with a mouthful is really nice, and a great compliment to the chocolate. Overall this one is just a bit too sweet & cloying for me. I guess it’s the milk chocolate that does that. I’m going to try it again with a dark chocolate without replacing any of the sugar from the MC. Would love to taste the dairy and the cocoa and the pepper without all the sugar getting in the way.

    • Amanda

    So clever!

    • John

    That sounds fabulous.

    A question–how does the Tasmanian pepper (Tasmannia laceleota) compare to the black peppercorn (piper nigrum) in terms of flavors and sensory experience? The former I’ve only every read about, but as a foodie with a collector’s love of spices I’d love to hear anyone’s impressions of the similarities and differences.

    • Shirley Isaacs

    This ice cream looks super – – good for Christmas? I have family in Paris and will be visiting there next month – (we live in London). We’re looking forward to some good eating and lots of food shopping!

    • Inez

    In answer to the question about Tasmanian pepper: These berries are somewhat hotter than black pepper. Be careful how you use it because the hot flavour is destroyed by cooking over heat. (Ironic really).

    • laurie

    Just made the custard… even in my fancy Bay Area shops I couldn’t find Tazmanian, but found Cubeb – v. different from the standard Tellicherry — and it is GORGEOUS with the chocolate (El Rey 41%). Used a combo of cream / creme fraiche.

    I have a sticky ginger cake to serve it with (and some carrot gelato I made yesterday).

    David, you are a genius. Thank you for sharing it with us on your blog.

    • Spice Sherpa

    Better late than never I suppose! I love black pepper and chocolate ever since I tried a cookie made with those two ingredients. So when I found this post I was thrilled! Thanks for sharing and taking such lovely photos!


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