so, apparently there is some wildly famous ice cream that involves cherries and chocolate? i’m sure i’ve tried it ever, but it’s definitely not a favorite flavor of mine. which may leave you wondering why i’m about to launch into a soliloquy on why this chocolate cherry rosemary ice cream is my new favorite thing ever. i mean, rosemary? what???
before we jump into this magical flavor concoction, allow me to tell you the fascinating origins of the idea for this flavor.
so, i was sitting at my dining room table one afternoon staring into space… um, yep. that’s it. that’s basically the whole story. i suppose i should mention that i was snacking on fresh cherries at the time and there is a small rosemary plant on my dining room table, in my line of sight when i’m, uh, focusing very diligently on my computer/work. but that’s it. the combination of cherries and rosemary just popped into my head like a little baby eureka! light bulb.
i grabbed my copy of the vegetarian flavor bible to see if rosemary and cherry together is a Thing. it wasn’t listed as a pairing but, undeterred, i plucked a little piece of rosemary off the plant and popped it in my mouth, along with a cherry (because, science and hypothesis testing and all) and discovered that this delicious combination must have been inadvertently left out of the book… but would soon be appearing my kitchen (or basement, but let’s not get ahead).
from there, it was mostly a matter of figuring out how much rosemary to use to infuse the heavy cream with flavor (similar to my method with thai basil ice cream). rosemary is one of those herbs that can go from “yum!” to “WOAH! who could ever eat this?!?”, depending on the amount used so i erred on the side of not too much (then ratcheted it up for version 2.0). inedible ice cream = no bueno.
so, rosemary, check. fresh cherries, check. on to the chocolate. i have a recipe for a rosemary chocolate tart that is delicious (check back with me this fall for the recipe!) so i knew that chocolate was going to be a happy friend with rosemary and ben and jerry have already proved that cherry and chocolate isn’t half bad.
except i didn’t want just regular chocolate chips thrown in there. you know how when you buy good ice cream and the chocolate pieces are nice and melty and taste like chocolately goodness and then you eat all of that ice cream and dig around in the back of the freezer, only to find some chocolate-less ice cream and toss a few chocolate chips in, then nearly bite your tongue off chomping down on little bits of gravel flavored and textured frozen chocolate? yeah, “we” solved that (by which i mean i did exactly what this article told me to and it worked perfectly, of course).
so we’re ready! chocolate cherry rosemary ice cream, here we come! we established last summer that egg-based custard ice creams and i are just a fiasco so i picked up where i left off last summer with the jeni’s ice cream base.
another thing i learned last summer, from my experience and also that of one of my dear friends/readers/commenters, is that getting the ice cream to become increasingly cold in a machine which is becoming increasingly warm is… a special process.
now, i’m not knocking the cuisinart ice cream maker that i have and enjoy using (and that cooks’ illustrated recommends) but just think through this with me for a second: the freezing canister is as cold as it will ever be when it comes out of the freezer, then you fill it with liquid (which is, by definition, not frozen), and put the canister on top of a motor (which… heats up when you use it). then you run the machine for a while, enduring a fair amount of racket, and hope that something remotely frozen results from all of this.
luckily when i made this ice cream, it was actually relatively cool in my house, unlike some sticky july days when i’ve been inspired to churn ice cream out of 88° F air… however, it occurred to me that i could help the ice cream maker along by placing the machine in the coolest place in my house… which is the basement. (ok, we have to all agree NOT to tell my husband about this part: he is not a fan of the quantity of spiders that reside in our basement but i have a solution for that!)
i set up the noisy ice cream maker on a table (aka my husband’s work bench) in the basement and then, because i love my husband (and don’t want to eat spiders either), i put a grease splatter screen over the top of the ice cream maker so that it could still get the air that it needs to churn in, sans spiders. (i think this is brilliant. my husband will not touch the ice cream left in the freezer with a 10’ spoon if he finds out about this. more for me?)
so, anyway, setting up camp in the basement is optional, of course, but it’s worth thinking about which areas of your house/apartment/tree house are the coolest and considering setting up the machine there. i would be surprised if the kitchen is your coolest room in the summer.
regardless of where you actually churn the ice cream, do try it, as it is delicious and the rosemary is subtle (or not, depending on your preference; see the recipe notes) yet super yummy and makes the whole thing taste refreshing. ok kids, stay cool, either by making this ice cream, or by moving to maine, where it is currently lovely degrees out.
- 10 oz. (1 1/4 cups /296 ml) heavy cream
- (3 – 4) 6” sprigs of fresh rosemary, see notes
- 16 oz. (2 cups / 473 ml) cold whole milk
- 3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
- 4 ¾ oz. (135 g. / 2/3 cup) sugar
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 12 oz. (340 g.) fresh cherries, stems removed, pits still in
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon liquor, see notes
- 3 oz. (85 g.) dark chocolate (60 – 70% cocoa) in bar format (not chips), roughly chopped
- 1.5 teaspoons neutral flavored oil
- if you are using a canister-style ice cream maker, be sure to let the empty canister chill in the freezer for at least 24 and ideally 48 hours before you put it to use making delicious treats.
- pour the heavy cream into a heavy bottomed sauce pan and add the rosemary. heat over medium, stirring frequently, just until the cream starts to simmer. remove from heat and allow to steep for 30 minutes (don’t let it steep longer or it will turn bitter). strain the cream into a large (ideally metal) bowl; discard the rosemary.
- put the cream cheese and a ½ cup of the milk in the blender and blend briefly until smooth. add this mixture to the bowl with the cream.
- add the remaining milk, sugar, and corn syrup to the bowl and whisk until smooth. cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- preheat the oven to 400° F.
- in a roasting dish that can take a good soak/scrub, combine the cherries, sugar, and liquor. mix everything around so the cherries are coated. roast the cherries for 25 minutes until they are slumpy but not so long that the sugary liquor juice totally burns and makes everything bitter. the liquid will bubble, foam, and brown, which is ok. stir the cherries every 10 minutes or so while they are roasting.
- when the cherries are done, let them cool for a few minutes until they are cool enough to handle. remove the pits (i just pulled them out with my fingers) and roughly chop the cherries (watch for juice splatters during these two steps!). put the cherries in a covered container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- if possible, set your ice cream maker up in a cool(er) room. whisk the ice cream base again to combine the sugar that may have settled. pour the mixture into your frozen ice cream maker canister and process according to the manufacturer’s directions. i ran it through my machine for 30 minutes. if you have a thermometer, you want the base to reach 21° F (or colder).
- once the ice cream base goes into the ice cream maker, combine the chocolate and oil either in the top of a double boiler or a microwave safe bowl. stirring frequently, melt the chocolate. remove from heat and set aside. when the ice cream is done in the maker, you want the chocolate to be liquid but not very hot so that you can drizzle it into the base before it goes in the freezer to finish freezing.
- once the ice cream base is ready, transfer 1/3 of it to a shallow, plastic storage container with a lid (here’s why). drizzle 1/3 of the chocolate over the ice cream and sprinkle 1/3 of the chopped cherries on top. repeat in 2 more layers with remaining ingredients. tightly seal the ice cream and get it into the coldest (back) part of your freezer asap. freeze until desired consistency is reached. enjooooooy!
rosemary: the first time i made this ice cream, i used 3 sprigs of rosemary and removed the leaves and just steeped those (i did not steep the stems). the flavor was good and noticeable (and my husband said stop here, no more rosemary). i, predictably, wanted more rosemary flavor. the second time i made this, i used 4 sprigs and did not remove the leaves from the stems, i just steeped the whole sprig. i loved this version because the rosemary flavor was much more pronounced, like a delicious and unmistakable rosemary punch in the mouth (in the best possible way).
if you’re wary about this rosemary situation though, you’ll probably want to start with the more mild version. regardless, if you want more rosemary flavor, use more rosemary, rather than steeping for longer. the rosemary will start to taste bitter if it steeps for too long.
liquor for cherries: multiple rounds of testing confirmed that the liquor is important but that it doesn’t much matter what the actual liquor is. to wit, i saw recipes that called for roasting cherries in bourbon and other recipes that called for grand marnier, among other things. i decided that the jack daniels and blue curacao we already had would be just fine, and they were (i made two half batches and couldn’t detect a difference between the two). using some kind of liquor keeps the ice cream from coming out of the freezer totally frozen rock solid and, mostly importantly, roasting the cherries with a little bit of liquor keeps them from becoming so cold and icy that they hurt your teeth to bite into, even if you don’t normally have sensitive teeth.
if you don’t want to include the alcohol (or be able to steal spoonfuls throughout the day without hassle), let the ice cream soften for a minute or two when you take it out of the freezer before you serve it and be sure not to skip roasting the cherries, as that helps remove the moisture that turns icy and freezes solid.
ice cream base adapted from jeni’s ice cream base published in saveur. chocolate improvements courtesy of serious eats’ “subtle secrets to making the best ice cream mix-ins”. cherry roasting adapted from the bojon gourmet’s roasted cherry vanilla ice cream with bourbon and chocolate.
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