A couple of years ago, I discovered the one treat that surpassed all other frozen desserts I had tasted before: dark chocolate gelato. Sound modest, doesn’t it? I assure you, this gelato’s anything but. Dark chocolate is my go-to dessert: I end most meals with a square of 70% chocolate. I eat it slowly, let it melt on my tongue and coat my mouth with goodness. I find it to be the perfect palate cleanser: a bite of bittersweetness that leaves me happy and satisfied.
At the height of the summer season, though, dark chocolate is less enticing. First, it melts in my hands before it even reaches my mouth, and second, I long for something that’s refreshing. Because I’m lactose-intolerant, cream-based iced treats are out of the question and although I love sorbets, they often fail to provide the lusciousness of a satisfying dessert.
Enter ice cream master David Lebovitz. His recipe finally allowed me to enjoy something cool that tastes rich and creamy, without fearing painful tummy-aches. Plus, the flavor of this gelato is so deep that I only need a small scoop to satisfy my chocolate craving.
I call it a gelato because it reminds me of the famous Italian frozen dessert: it’s softer than ice cream, richer in flavor and it doesn’t contain cream or eggs. The secret to this gelato is the use of best quality Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder. This ingredient defines the taste of the finished product, but also its gorgeous, deep, dark brown color. I use Valrhona, which is incredibly rich and smooth, but there are many other good brands. Don’t fear the price tag, it’ll last you a long time and will bring your favorite chocolate desserts from good to exceptional.
I make my Dark Chocolate Gelato with lactose-free milk, which works perfectly because it reaches the boiling point without turning grainy. If you want to avoid milk altogether, David Lebovitz suggests you can use almond, soy or rice milks – just make sure to use a type of milk that can be boiled. In case you’re wondering, the addition of alcohol is Lebovitz’ little trick to help preserve a scoopable texture even after several days in the freezer. Kalhuà, a sweet coffee-flavored liquor, complements chocolate really well, but you can also use a neutral spirit such as vodka, or omit it completely.
Now go ahead, take the churner out, and prepare for the strongest hit of cocoa you’ll ever taste, short of biting into a square of dark chocolate. You may never crave for ice cream again.
Makes about ¾ quart (¾ liters)
2 cups [500 ml] milk (I use low-fat but you can also use whole or non-fat)
½ cup [125 ml] sugar
Pinch of salt
½ cup [125 ml] Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder (such as Valrhona)
4 oz [115 g] bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (such as Baker’s)
¼ tsp [1.25 ml] vanilla extract
2 tbsp [30 ml] coffee-flavored liqueur, such as Kahluà (optional)
In a medium-sized saucepan, warm half of the milk with the sugar, salt, and cocoa powder. Bring to a full boil while whisking, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 30 seconds.
Remove from heat and add the chocolate, the vanilla, and the coffee-flavored liqueur, if using. Stir in the other half of the milk.
Taste, and if the chocolate is a bit grainy, puree it in a blender to smooth it out then strain it through a fine sieve.
Chill the chocolate mixture thoroughly, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Recipe Credit: Adapted from David Lebovitz.
- How to Make Gelato: A Detailed, Step-by-Step Recipe
- Cocoa Powder FAQ: Dutch-process & natural cocoa powder
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