When I was making desserts for a Manhattan restaurant (that's no longer open), I found myself experimenting with unusual chocolate-based combinations. Long a lover of white chocolate (more on that later) I wanted to make something for our petit fours platter that used white chocolate in an interesting way, with another ingredient that would play off its sweetness. A brilliant friend suggested Nerds. Perfect. Who doesn't love Nerds? They remind us of happier, crunchier times, when swigging them out of the box like a flask made us cool. As I got older (and less cool, for sure) my priorities changed, and Nerds fell by the wayside. I'm glad they're back in my life.
A note about white chocolate: Personally, I think white chocolate gets a bad rap. It's made from cocoa butter, the natural vegetable fat from the cocoa bean. After the beans are roasted and ground, the cocoa butter is strained out and the remaining cocoa solids are ground again into cocoa powder. Real white chocolate isn't actually white. It's a rich ivory color, and should have only three or four ingredients listed on the package: cocoa butter, milk solids, sugar and maybe vanilla or an emulsifier like soy lecithin. Generally, the fewer ingredients, the better the chocolate. While not as nuanced or varied in its flavor as dark chocolate, good white chocolate can still be fairly complex, with notes of nuts, citrus, caramel, or honey.
I've made some tasty treats in my time, but I honestly consider this combination to be my most successful. It's so simple—there are only two components, after all—and they could not be more different from each other. The white chocolate is smooth, buttery and sweet, and the Nerds are crunchy, tangy and sharp. Opposites attract, especially in food, and they are delicious together.
Here's they are, in ice cream form. Don't tell your friends what the bright specks in their ice cream is—let them figure it out for themselves. Everyone who tries it asks, "Are those Nerds?" and smiles. Isn't that every cook's dream?
Max Falkowitz writes Serious Eats' weekly Spice Hunting column. He's a proud native of Queens, New York, will do just about anything for a good cup of tea, and enjoys long walks down the aisles of Chinese groceries.
- Yield:1 quart
- Active time: 1 hour
- Total time:12 hours
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 8 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup Nerds, assorted colors/flavors
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until they turn pale yellow, about 3-5 minutes. In medium saucepan, mix the milk and cream with egg yolks and sugar, and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and holds a line on the back of a spoon.
Add white chocolate to large bowl. Pour hot custard through strainer into bowl with chocolate, and stir carefully until chocolate is fully melted and incorporated.
Let ice cream base rest at least 4 hours and up to overnight in refrigerator.
Spin it in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions. Meanwhile, put medium mixing bowl in the freezer to chill. When ice cream is finished, scoop it out of machine into chilled bowl and mix in Nerds. Freeze until hardened, 1 to 2 hours.