Why It Works
- Whipping the cream in advance streamlines the process and cuts down on cleanup.
- The addition of spirits or liqueur, such as crème de cacao, creates complexity of flavor in the ice cream, for a more dynamic chocolate flavor.
- Instant espresso adds dimension to the cocoa flavor, while taming the overall sweetness of the ice cream, without contributing a discernible flavor of its own.
- A water bath helps dissolve the sugar and cook the eggs, so that they gain more volume when whipped.
Unlike no-churn recipes based on sweetened condensed milk, this chocolate ice cream starts with whole eggs, cooked briefly over a water bath. This gives the finished ice cream a rich, custard-like quality, along with a light and airy consistency.
The chocolate flavor here comes from cocoa powder alone, so reach for the good stuff; see the note at the bottom of the recipe for specifics and links to our recommendations. Try Dutch-process cocoa styles for a deep, dark chocolate flavor and color, or use a natural cocoa for a lighter color and fruitier profile.
- 7 ounces heavy cream (about 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons; 200g)
- 1 ounce best-quality Dutch or natural cocoa powder, not low-fat (about 1/3 cup, spooned; 28g); see note
- 1 ounce complementary spirits or liqueur, such as crème de cacao, dark rum, or Kahlúa (about 2 tablespoons; 38g)
- 1/4 ounce vanilla extract (about 1 1/2 teaspoons; 7g)
- 1 1/4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
- 3 large eggs (about 5 1/2 ounces; 155g)
- 4 ounces light or dark brown sugar (about 1/2 cup; 115g)
- 1/4 teaspoon (1g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip cream, cocoa powder, crème de cacao (or other booze), vanilla extract, and espresso powder until the mixture is thick enough to hold stiff peaks. The time required for this step will vary depending on the power of a given mixer, so keep a close eye on the process. Transfer to a large nonreactive container, such as a 2-quart baking dish, then cover and refrigerate until step 2 is complete. (This container will later be used to hold the ice cream.) Rinse the bowl and whisk, then wipe dry.
Fill a large pot with a few inches of water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to maintain a simmer for a steady supply of steam. Crumple a long strip of foil into a thick ring and place ring into the water; this will act as a "booster seat" later in the process to keep the bowl from touching the water or the pot directly.
Place eggs, brown sugar, and salt in the stand mixer bowl and stir with a flexible spatula to combine. Set bowl onto the foil ring, so that it touches neither the water nor the pot, and cook, stirring and scraping constantly, until the egg mixture has warmed to 160°F (71°C), about 5 minutes. This step should not take significantly longer than 5 minutes; major delays simply indicate insufficient heat/lack of steam, so adjust the heat accordingly.
Transfer bowl to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip on high speed until the mixture is foamy, more than quadrupled in size, and thick enough to briefly mound up like soft-serve ice cream when dropped from the whisk, roughly 5 to 8 minutes depending on the horsepower of the mixer.
Fold the prepared cocoa/whipped cream into the egg mixture in stages, working gently to incorporate it as thoroughly as possible without deflating or over-mixing the base. Scrape into the now-chilled container, cover tightly with plastic wrap pressed directly against the surface of the ice cream, and freeze until firm enough to scoop. The time required for this will vary depending on the size and material of the container, as well as your freezer setting, but expect this to take 6 to 8 hours.
To serve, warm a spoon or ice cream scoop in a glass of hot water and shake dry before use. Scoop the ice cream, rinsing and rewarming the spoon as needed. Well wrapped in plastic to protect it from odor absorption, the ice cream will keep for up to 1 month in the freezer.
The flavor of this ice cream hinges on cocoa powder, so it's important to use rich, flavorful brands made with at least 20% cocoa butter. Those commonly found in supermarkets tend to be both low-fat and high-starch, producing an ice cream that's lean, bland, and starchy. See our guides to the best Dutch cocoas for dessert and the best natural cocoa powders for more information on what to look for when shopping, as well as our favorite brands.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Well wrapped in plastic, or in an airtight container, the ice cream will keep for about 1 month in the freezer.