Jul 27, 2008

Chocolate Pandan Ice Cream

Chocolate ice cream is not to be taken lightly. It's serious business. I've tried many recipes, but this one is, by far, THE ONE. The chocolate ice cream recipe is based on David Lebovitz version from The Perfect Scoop. It is the best I have ever tasted. Hands down. David is the man. And I would have stopped there, very satisfied. But I'm a big fan of Katrina Markoff's creations for her company, Vosges Haut-Chocolat.

On her web site, I had seen her ice cream flavors. But I'd never gotten around to actually placing an order. My husband and I sent each other her chocolates many times during our courtship. But then our Whole Foods began carrying much of her line and it seemed just too indulgent (even for me) to order ice cream from across the country. So I pined for the chocolate pandan flavor, having only tasted her chocolate pandan truffle.

Then, one day while virtuously gliding by the Central Market ice cream selection, I spotted her ice cream line. Without thinking, I squealed and bounced. I couldn't help it. People laughed, but I didn't care. Vosges chocolate pandan ice cream was here. In my hands. Well, OK, so we bought the Red Fire and Wattleseed too. They were all as good as her truffles, a high standard. But I loved the chocolate pandan most. I'd never even heard of pandan before Vosges. Thus, the quest to make my own began.

I started digging around and found that pandan is a leaf used in Thai and Southeast Asian cuisines. You can sometimes find the leaves frozen in Asian markets. But I found pandan extract to be much more common. The only catch, it's bright green. That works fine in chocolate ice cream, you can't see it. But try a little in some rice and you get a Dr. Seuss dinner. But it's worth it for the flavor. Markoff describes it as having notes of pine nut, vanilla wafers and tree nuts. A small amount goes a long way. But it adds another dimension to chocolate, particularly chocolate ice cream.

So I put just a wee bit (1/2 teaspoon) into my favorite chocolate ice cream and it reached a higher plane. It is aromatic, slightly nutty, but not in a definitive or overwhelming way. It just adds a little something, much like a little coffee is often added to chocolate to enhance it's chocolateness. It somehow makes it more chocolate.

David's recipe is superluscious. He calls for 2 cups of cream to 1 cup of whole milk. I adjusted that proportion to have a little more milk. It could probably go down to 2/3 milk and 1/3 cream, but the texture might suffer then and we wouldn't want that. Be as decadent as you like, but definitely try it with the pandan.

One tip: plan ahead. The base should really be made the day before you want to serve it, to allow enough time for chilling.

Chocolate Pandan Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
5 ounces 70% bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely
3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
5 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pandan extract

Combine the cream and cocoa in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk together as it comes to a boil to combine well. When it comes to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer at a very low boil for 30 seconds, whisking continuously. Take it off the heat, add the chocolate and stir until the chocolate melts and becomes incorporated. Pour into a large bowl (with a spout if you have one).

Using the same saucepan you just emptied, combine the milk, sugar and salt. Warm over low heat just until it simmers. While it's heating, in a separate bowl, whisk together your egg yolks. When the milk is warm and the sugar has dissolved in it completely, very slowly pour the milk into the eggs, whisking constantly, to temper them. Then pour the eggs and milk back into the saucepan. (I know, it starts seeming a little fussy here, but stick with it. It's so worth it.)

Heat the egg/milk mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until it starts to thicken and will coat the back of a spoon. You can test it by running your finger down the back of the spoon. If it leaves a trail, you're there.

Remove from heat and pour through a sieve into the chocolate mixture. Stir together well.

Place the chocolate ice cream base bowl into a larger bowl. Fill around the sides of the larger bowl with ice and cold water to make an ice bath. Let it chill in the ice bath until the ice melts. While it's chilling, stir in the vanilla and pandan.

Then pour it into a lidded container and place in the fridge overnight to thoroughly chill. This will make for better ice cream.

The next day, process in your ice cream maker according to its instructions.

Makes about 1 quart.

Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.

Note: I also tried serving this in little chocolate shells from the baking aisle in the market. Place a spoonful in each just after it comes out of the ice cream machine, while it's still soft. The shells come in a handy plastic tray which was perfect for placing on our toaster oven tray and placing in the freezer. Take them out in about an hour and place in a sealed container. Eat them within 24 hours for best texture.


Hillary said...

Thank you so much for this recipe! I went with my husband and two sons to the Vosges in Las Vegas. That was definitely a highlight of our trip. We were given many samples and I ended up chosing a scoop of the chocolate pandan ice cream even though it was a chilly day. We all got something really delicious there. I am planning on trying this recipe for my son's 16 year old birthday dinner. He said that he wants to have some exotic foods on the dinner menue so I am still trying to figure out the rest of the meal, but at least I have a plan for dessert. I wonder what kind of cake to serve with the ice cream. Maybe an ice cream cake would be nice. Do you have any suggestions? I am so glad to have found your website!

Lauren said...

Thanks for the comment, Hillary! I'm so jealous that you got to visit a Vosges boutique. (I just placed an order with them this week for Valentine's...shh!...don't tell my hubby.) You can also use pandan in Thai and Indonesian recipes. I've tried it in rice, which was quite tasty. I've also seen recipes where you can grill or roast chicken wrapped in pandan leaves to impart that nutty flavor. I want to try that. Congrats on having a teenaged son with such a developed palate. As far as cake recommendations, maybe just a straight chocolate cake or cupcakes? You could flavor the frosting with the pandan too, if that's not too much. Would be great with a basic vanilla cake too for more contrast. Or make ice cream sandwiches with chocolate wafer cookies and this ice cream. Enjoy!

Tina Chua said...

Can't wait to try out this recipe!