Chocolate and almonds are both great pairings for cherries, so if you're trying to figure out how to use up your summer stone fruit stockpile (to say nothing of your leftover chunkies from other summer indulgences), why not use both? The nutty, bitter, roasted flavors of nuts and chocolate bring out all the great depth that quality cherries have to offer.
This cherry ice cream base is an easy one. It relies on roasting the fruit to concentrate juices and intensify their flavor. Once you've done that, all it needs is a quick blitz in a blender and a short time on the stove to cook a custard—no tempering eggs required. Homemade fruit ice creams are often icy because of fruit's high water content, but since you're essentially cooking a quart of cherries into 1 1/2 cups of concentrated cherry jam, this one is plenty creamy.
When shopping for cherries, seek out samples the smell and taste the sweetest. Tart, bland cherries might make tasty ice cream, but it'll be more cherry-flavored than actually cherry-ish. The best source for fruit may surprise you. Of the three I tried, including the farmers market, the dollar-a-pound cherries from a Chinatown grocery were the sweetest. Of course if you live in a state like Michigan, finding good cherries around now shouldn't be too great of a challenge. But if you're in a more cherry-deprived part of the country, it's worth hunting around. Frozen cherries are good options for sorbets, but won't take well to the roasting required in this recipe.
- Yield:makes 1 quart
- 1 quart ( 1 1/2 pounds) cherries, stems removed
- Kosher Salt
- 2 cups half and half
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 ounces dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa), chopped fine
- 2 ounces roasted almonds, toasted and chopped fine
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 450°F. Toss cherries in 13- by 9-inch ceramic or glass baking dish with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Roast until juices stack in high bubbles and cherries offer no resistance to a paring knife, 30 to 40 minutes. Set aside to cool.
When cherries are cool enough to handle, cut in half to remove pits. Transfer to blender and scrape in cherry juices. Add half and half, egg yolks, and sugar, and blend on high until very smooth.
Pour mixture through a stainer into a medium saucepan and place on medium-low heat. Cook, whisking frequently, until lightly thickened. Custard should coat back of a wooden spoon and a finger swiped through coating should leave a clean line, about 5 minutes. Season with additional salt to taste. Strain into an airtight container and chill over night.
The next day, churn ice cream according to manufacturer's instructions. In the last minute of churning, add chopped chocolate and almonds. Transfer to an airtight container and chill in freezer for at least three hours before serving.