Now is the time of year that my mind drifts toward vacation. Not the kind of vacation involving mugs of hot chocolate, scarves, hats, mittens, and days spent in front of a roaring fire but rather the kind of vacation with plenty of sunshine, late afternoon strolls and a sampling of the local libation.
As of late, Italy has been the object of my affections and vacation planning dreams. When digging through my saved recipe bookmarks last week I rediscovered a recipe for french toast made with panettone that made its way into my frying pan in less than 24 hours. I had to haggle with myself to audition this ice cream for all of you because it seems a bit irrational to keep suggesting recipes for frozen anything when layering clothing is a necessity just to walk out the front door.
Everything about this ice cream reminds me of that oh-so-famous Italian chocolate and hazelnut spread — the flavor is spot on and the texture is eerily similar. Hands down, this is the thickest ice cream (alright, gelato) I have made and it was lovely. The hazelnut flavor is very pronounced, and that is exactly what I loved about it. I could not help but think how perfect this would be scooped between two chocolate wafers for the quintessential ice cream sandwich, but there was also no room to complain when served simply in a bowl with a spoon. Although ice cream is no substitute for an actual vacation, it will more than do for today.
adapted from The Perfect Scoop
yields 1 quart
1-1/2c hazelnuts, toasted
1c whole milk
2c heavy cream
1/4t coarse salt
4oz milk chocolate, finely chopped
5 large egg yolks
1/8t vanilla extract
If your hazelnuts still have their skins, rub vigorously with a kitchen towel to remove as much as possible. Finely chop the hazelnuts using a food processor or a blender.
Warm the milk with half of the cream, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Add the hazelnuts when the mixture is warm, remove from the heat, cover and let steep for one hour.
Heat the remaining cream in a saucepan until it is almost boiling. Pour into a bowl and stir in the chopped chocolate until completely melted and smooth.
In a separate bowl, set a fine mesh on top and pour in the hazelnut mixture. Squeeze the hazelnuts to extract as much flavor as possible. Discard the hazelnuts.
Rewarm the mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Slowly pour the hazelnut mixture into the egg yolks, constantly stirring. Then, pour the everything back into the saucepan.
Over medium heat, stir the mixture until thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Be sure to stir constantly, taking care to scrape the bottom of the pan. Once thickened, pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer into the chocolate mixture. Stir, add the vanilla extract and cool over an ice bath.
Let the mixture cool in the refrigerator, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.