Our chocolate ice creams are further proof that I’m the biggest ice cream nerd in the world. Chocolate is not an easy ice cream to make. That is, if you want to have a say in what chocolate you use and how much you put in there.
Get ready because I’m going to bore thrill you with some serious deets here, and convince you that well-made ice cream is better than overplayed “weird” flavors (which many ice cream makers hang their hat on).
The problem with most other chocolates
To make chocolate ice cream, makers often do one of two things. First, they add a pre-fab chocolate paste to their pre-fab ice cream base. This off-the-shelf paste is calibrated to match the sugar content and other ingredients of the ice cream base to guarantee ice cream doesn’t become dry and crumbly when you scoop it. But the chocolate paste is generally bland in flavor. Or it’s loaded with black cocoa, which has little flavor but tricks your mind into thinking it tastes more like cocoa than it does because the ice cream is black (a cool trick, but a flavorless one).
The second common way to make chocolate ice cream is to add a bit of chocolate syrup. This is also tough because you really can’t add very much to a pre-fab base or else ice cream will end up dry and crumbly or too soupy from all the sugar. Ice cream makers call this light chocolate “milk chocolate,” but it’s technically a diluted chocolate—like a Frosty. But a true milk chocolate ice cream has much more concentrated milk in it, which is how we do it and why it’s one of my favorite flavors (more on that later).
In order to make a truly great chocolate ice cream you’ve really got to know your stuff when it comes to ice cream science.
Ice cream makers often talk about using bar chocolate (usually from very expensive, high-end companies). But this method doesn’t work. This is not the best way to make really flavorful chocolate ice cream. Chocolate is high in cocoa butter—meaning it’s high in a very brittle fat, and that fat does not do well when frozen, and it coats your palate. It doesn’t provide much flavor either.
Also, I have yet to find a stabilizer that doesn’t dull flavors like cocoa. That’s why we don’t use them—they add tin-like flavor to the end of every bite that feels out of place to me. Plus, chocolate ice cream doesn’t need them. The cocoa absorbs so much water that stabilizers and emulsifiers are truly unnecessary. But, again, you can’t build an ice cream from scratch unless you know how and have the right equipment, partner farmers, and are big enough to do it (yet small enough to care)—most ice cream makers don’t take the time or resources.
What makes our chocolates different
Suffice it to say, in order to make a truly great chocolate ice cream—milk or dark—you’ve really got to know your stuff when it comes to ice cream science. Because it’s not enough to add cocoa, syrup, or melted chocolate to a pre-fab base. You’ve got to rearrange all of the molecules to make it work. And I would rather have a well-made chocolate ice cream than all the fermented cherry black sesame ice cream in the world (though that flavor sounds pretty dang delicious, too!).
And that’s exactly what we do.
The only way to make a truly great, super flavorful chocolate ice cream is to find a really flavorful cocoa powder that’s low in fat and rich in flavor. Then use A LOT of it to make your ice cream. That’s exactly what we do, and it’s why ours are so rich and dark. But good quality cocoa powder with a rich, round finish is hard to get, and it’s difficult to work with. Cocoa powder absorbs all the moisture in ice cream. You have to know how to balance it out; the right ratio of milk and cream. You have to know how to rearrange all the molecules to make it work. We know how to do this because we are the world’s biggest ice cream nerds.
Whenever I bring a new person into the Jeni’s sphere I always give them chocolate first. They usually react that it’s “good” or “really good”—because it’s hard to realize how good it is until you go back and try that one chocolate ice cream you used to love. Then it hits you: Jeni’s really is different.
Chocolate is just a gateway to that sentiment because all of our ice creams are different in this way.
On perfecting Darkest Chocolate
The first thing you should know about this ice cream is that it is packed with so much deep, rich, reddish brown cocoa that it didn’t even qualify as an ice cream under the federal definition when we first ran the numbers. We had to up the cream just slightly to push it over 10% butterfat, the bare minimum needed to be considered ice cream. That’s why we always say Darkest Chocolate contains the most possible amount of cocoa. We could not put anymore chocolate in this flavor and still call it ice cream. It took me no less than 5 years of playing around to figure out how to do this one, and that was just the recipe part. It took an additional 5 years to find a Fair Trade cocoa that lives up to our flavor and quality standards.
On creating Milkiest Chocolate
I love milk chocolate. Like a really good, milky, almost salty with milk proteins, Swiss milk chocolate. Though it’s not the stylish chocolate right now, coming from dairy country, as I do, it’s still my favorite. To me, a good milk chocolate is MILK FIRST. You taste milk right away, then the chocolate creeps up. What makes this flavor so special are three things: really good Fair Trade cocoa (I spent 10 years looking for the right one), lots of evaporated milk (for super milky flavor), and honey (which provides a slight earthiness that I love with a milk chocolate).
Our milk chocolate looks darker than most milk chocolate ice creams. Because of the amount of cocoa solids in it, our Milkiest Chocolate is a closer kin to a milk chocolate bar than a standard milk chocolate ice cream. But it’s the milk solids that make this flavor truly amazing. I like it with a sprinkle of curried cashews or a slice of coconut cake.
No one makes chocolate like we do. Our chocolates are chocolate-maker chocolates. Try them.