Milk Chocolate and Hazelnut Stracciatella Ice cream

I know it’s stating the obvious but what I’ve come to realise is that you really feel like ice cream when it’s beautifully sunny outside… but you don’t want to be stuck inside making ice cream on a sunny day. You want to be outside enjoying the sun, catching the rays and making the most of it whilst enjoying some ice cream.

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So when it poured down yesterday, instead of baking something comforting and warm, I made ice cream. Cunning I know. I had double cream and whole milk in the fridge so I just needed to decide what flavour I’d make based on what we had in the cupboards; because with the torrential rain outside, there was no way I was venturing out. Seb and I were most definitely holed up inside for the foreseeable future.

Whenever we purchase an ice cream out from a gelato shop, I always tend to go for nut flavoured ice creams or my favourite, mint choc chip. I had a look at a mint choc chip recipe but it would decimate my supply of mint in the garden in one fail swoop so that one was off the menu. However, what did catch my eye was the recipe for milk chocolate hazelnut ice cream or as it was referred to as ‘Gianduja Gelato’.

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The idea of milk chocolate and hazelnuts had me conjuring up memories of one of my favourite ice creams from my childhood… A Feast. I used to love the challenge of eating off the crunchy chocolate on the outside, licking off the outer layer of milk chocolate ice cream to reveal the slab of chocolate stuck to the wooden stick. It was like getting a bar of chocolate at the end of an ice cream. A double treat in my book.

Making ice cream like this is quite a long process and often my baking style is quick recipes that deliver quick results. Most unlike my cooking preference where I’ll happily spend hours putting together a meal which is then devoured in 15 minutes.

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I took the time to read through the recipe a few times because at first it seemed a little complicated but actually the most difficult part would be making the custard. I’ve had my fair share of failures with custard the result often being scrambled eggs; which of course isn’t ideal when you’re aiming for a smooth creamy ice cream.

On reading the recipe, there really wasn’t the option of starting again as you were making the custard using your cream and milk that had been infused with hazelnuts and that took time to happen. Plus I only had enough hazelnuts in the house to make this once.

Whilst Seb ate dinner (this is when baby led weaning is great and he can feed himself instead of me having to sit there with a spoon), I didn’t stop that spatula stirring through the custard so that I produced what I can only describe as ‘THE’ best custard I’ve ever created. Seriously, it was perfect. It didn’t even need to go through a sieve it was that damn perfect. There may have even been a little jig in the kitchen and high five with Seb.

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The custard was then chilled once it had been mixed with the melted milk chocolate before going in the ice cream maker that evening to work its magic.

I decided to try and be a little bit fancy and added melted dark chocolate to the ice cream in the final stages of churning which is meant to then break into tiny shards of intense chocolate as it hits the freezing ice cream. This is what actually makes the name ‘stracciatella’ which is the flow of chocolate hardening immediately into streaks, which are the shredded (stracciato) into ‘shards’ as the ice cream churns.

I think I only just managed to get away with this as I possibly left it a couple of minutes too late in the churning process. But, the odd larger chunk rather than perfect small shards of dark chocolate in this lip-smacking hazelnut ice cream was pretty darn good anyway.

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Using hazelnuts to infuse the cream and milk at the start really does enhance the flavor of the hazelnuts to new levels which are only complemented further with the combination of creamy milk chocolate. It had an incredibly smooth texture which you only get with an custard based ice cream recipe and it makes the ice cream taste just a little bit more rich, silky and indulgent. It has all the components of what makes a Feast ice cream so great, but in a slightly more sophisticated form.

It really is a special ice cream that is now ready to go in the freezer, just waiting for that sunshine to reappear at the weekend.

Milk chocolate and Hazelnut Stracciatella Ice cream

From The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz –  ‘ Gianduja Gelato’ Recipe

Makes about 1 litre

 Ice cream ingredients:

185g toasted hazelnuts (you can purchase them ready toasted)

250ml whole milk

500ml double cream

150g sugar

¼ tsp sa salt

115g milk chocolate, finely chopped

5 large egg yolks

1/8 tsp vanilla extract

Stracciatella ingredients:

Enough to combine with 1 litre of ice cream:

100g dark chocolate (45% cocoa solds) finely chopped

To make the ice cream:

Finely chop your hazelnuts in a food processor.

Warm the milk with 250ml of the double cream, sugar and salt in a saucepan over a medium heat until your sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and add your chopped hazelnuts and leave to infuse for about an hour.

Add your chopped milk chocolate to a bowl.

Heat the remaining 250ml of double cream over a high heat until it just starts to boil and then pour it over your milk chocolate. Continue to stir the mllk chocolate and cream until the chocolate has completely melted and have you a nice smooth consistency.

Place a sieve over the bowl full of melted milk chocolate an pour your infused hazelnut milk onto the sieve. Using a ladel push through as much liquid as possible out of the hazelnuts so that you get as much flavor as possible from your hazelnuts. You can discard your hazelnuts or add them on some yoghurt, or as I did added them to some cookie dough.

Rewarm, the milk chocolate – hazelnut mix in a saucepan over a low to medium heat.

In a separate bowl whisk together your egg yolks.

Very slowly pour your milk chocolate – hazelnut mix over your egg yolks making sure you whisk constantly. This is really important as it will help prevent the scrambled egg scenario!

Pour the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan you were just using over a medium heat and don’t for a second stop stirring. Make sure you scrape all round the sides and bottom of the saucepan with your spatula and keep stirring until you have a custard that is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This can take a little while i.e 10-15 minutes so please be patient. It is worth it!

Pour your custard through a sieve into a new bowl that is set over an ice bath (another bowl full of ice) and add your vanilla.

Continue to stir until the mixture has cooled down at which point it can be put in the fridge to chill for a few hours.

Add your chilled mixture to your ice cream as per its instructions and get churning.

To make the stracciatella: 

In a bowl over a barely simmering saucepan of water, melt the chocolate until it is completely smooth. Make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.

Final stage: 

In the very final stages of churning drizzle a very thin stream of the warm melted chocolate onto the ice cream making sure you hit the ice cream rather than the paddle as it’ll just stick to it. If this does happen, don’t panic, remove the ice cream from the machine and scrape into an airtight container and drizzle the remaining chocolate onto the ice cream and layer more chocolate on top. Stir the ice cream a little to break up any larger chunks as you wish.

Freeze the ice cream and enjoy when the sun shines either in a tub or on an ice cream cone.

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