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Hot Fudge Sauce with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

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Hot Fudge Sauce with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Tips: In case you haven't noticed, I have purist tendencies in some matters. I love homemade frozen desserts in many varieties, but I tell you there is no better base for a purist hot fudge sauce than a homemade vanilla bean ice cream. You must promise me that you will not use supermarket chocolate for the fudge sauce. It really is important, as the usual supermarket brands in the baking section simply don't have the perfectly smooth texture you'll want in your finished product. Sweet Celebrations, the King Arthur Flour Baking Catalogue, A Cook's Wares, and all sell chocolates of excellent quality; I'm sure other retailers do, too, but shop around for price before you buy. If you're looking for a novel holiday present, a jar of a good hot fudge sauce makes a mighty welcome gift, and I promise you this will be far better than just about anything of the same name you can buy. Once made, this sauce will keep for at least 10 days in the fridge.

Regarding the ice cream, I can find Madagascar vanilla beans, so I'm lucky, but, whatever kind you find, make sure they are plump and pliable; if they're dried up, they won't give a good flavor. You'll also need a candy thermometer, a fine strainer, and a 1 quart ice cream churn. My churn is an electric model, a Krups, which I've had for several years. It's rather a nuisance to have to remember to freeze the cylinder 24 hours in advance, but this machine has never failed to work beautifully for me. The Frangelico or vodka is optional, technically, but it will add little or no taste to the ice cream and prevents it from freezing rock-hard in your freezer.

I hope you will be surrounded by family and friends during the holidays. However, I recognize that there are many people out there, even those we love, who are perfectly content to eat most commercially-prepared foods, including ice cream and any toppings. Send these people out to the mall for their favorite mocha mint rhubarb cherry chip butterscotch swirl ice cream with marshmallow sauce while you gather the discriminating few around you to enjoy this classic combination.

Hot Fudge Sauce:

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • Few grains of salt
  • 4 ounces best-quality unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 to 1-1/2 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate (see Note)
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, sliced into thin pats
  • 2 Tbsp. sifted unsweetened alkalized (Dutch processed) cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream:

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 6 egg yolks, from eggs graded "large"
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (see Note)
  • 3 Tbsp. nonfat dry milk powder
  • Few grains of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 Tbsp. Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur) or vodka

Optional for serving:

  • Very lightly sweetened, real whipped cream

Make the hot fudge sauce first. Combine the sugar, cream, corn syrup, water, and salt in a 1 quart, heavy-bottomed, nonaluminum saucepan. Set aside.

In medium heatproof bowl, combine chocolates and butter. Place over simmering water on low heat (water should not touch bottom of bowl); stir often until almost melted. Remove from heat and hot water; dry bottom and sides of bowl. Stir until completely melted and smooth. Add cocoa powder; with a small whisk, whisk in briskly until most lumps are gone ( a few small lumps are OK). Set aside near stovetop.

Place pot with sugar-cream mixture over low heat. Stir almost constantly until sugar is dissolved, scraping sides of pot occasionally with heatproof rubber spatula. Increase heat to medium. Stir occasionally until mixture comes to a boil. Boil 6 minutes. The mixture should come to a rolling boil and may boil up to the top of the pan, but reduce heat slightly it if threatens to boil over. Stir occasionally (about once a minute); scrape sides of pan occasionally with heatproof rubber spatula. It may look like there is a layer of foam on top of the boiling mixture—OK. When the 6 minutes are up, remove from heat and place on hotpad near stovetop.

As soon as bubbling has stopped, add all of melted chocolate mixture. Let stand for a few seconds, then whisk gently but thoroughly until chocolate is incorporated into sauce (this will take a minute or two). Be sure to scrape pan bottom and sides occasionally while whisking. Whisk in vanilla.

Cool briefly, then pour into storage container. Chill, covering tightly when cold. To reheat: reheat only as much sauce as you'll use at any given time (repeated reheating and re-chilling will make the sauce grainy). Place required amount of sauce into heatproof bowl, then place bowl above simmering water on low heat (water should not touch bottom of bowl). Stir often until melted, smooth, and warm (despite the name, hot fudge sauce should never be truly hot when it's poured onto ice cream). Alternatively, place required amount of sauce in microwaveable bowl. Microwave for brief intervals at 50% (medium) power, stirring well after each, until sauce is melted, smooth, and warm.

Generous 2 cups

Note: This is not a particularly sweet hot fudge sauce; the extra half ounce of semisweet chocolate boosts the sweetness just a bit. Either quantity will work here.

For ice cream: Off the heat, in small, heavy-bottomed, nonaluminum saucepan, combine cream and milk. Set aside briefly. Off the heat, place egg yolks into a 2 quart, heavy-bottomed, nonaluminum saucepan; add a couple of tablespoons of the cream mixture and beat well with a fork to blend.

Reserve a couple of teaspoonfuls of the sugar, then add the rest to the egg yolk mixture, along with the nonfat dry milk powder and salt. Beat well with fork to blend.

Cut off the tips of the vanilla bean and discard them; cut the bean itself into about 2 inch lengths. Using a small, very sharp knife, slit one side of each vanilla bean section lengthwise. Sprinkle the reserved granulated sugar onto the slit vanilla bean sections. Using the knife tip, scrape out as many of the tiny black seeds from each bean as you can (the sugar helps you to do this, but it's still a messy job—don't drive yourself too crazy over it). Scrape the vanilla bean—sugar mixture and the slit vanilla bean sections into the egg yolk mixture and stir in. Have ready a pan both larger and shallower than your 2 quart pot; half-fill this pan with ice and cold water and place it near the stovetop.

Heat the remaining cream mixture over low heat until very hot, stirring often (alternatively, you can heat the cream mixture in the microwave); while you can skip heating this mixture and add it cold, heating it speeds up the cooking process. Switch the fork with which you've been stirring the egg yolk mixture for a large spoon. Very gradually, stirring the yolk mixture constantly, add all of the hot cream mixture.

Place yolk-cream mixture over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture registers 176 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat; immediately stop the cooking by placing the 2 quart pot into the larger, shallower pan half-filled with ice and cold water. Stir the custard in the 2 quart pot until all of the ice in the larger pan is melted, then remove the 2 quart pot and carefully dry the bottom and sides. Pour the vanilla bean custard (still with the slit vanilla bean sections in it) into a heatproof container of about 1 quart capacity. Chill until very cold, at least 4 hours or overnight. To cover, place a piece of paper towel over the top of the container, then cover the whole tightly with plastic wrap (the paper towel will absorb any condensation that might drip into the custard).

Shortly before you're ready to churn the ice cream, have ready the components of the ice cream machine and the Frangelico or vodka. Stir the cold vanilla bean custard well (many of the vanilla seeds will have shrunk to the bottom). Strain the custard through a fine strainer into a pitcher or liquid measuring cup of about 1 quart capacity. It's fine for the tiny seeds to stay in the custard, but you want to strain out the vanilla bean sections, any lumps of egg yolk, etc.).

Churn the custard according to the manufacturer's instructions. When the custard is almost done, add the Frangelico or vodka, 1 tablespoon at a time, waiting until the first half is incorporated before adding the second. Follow manufacturer's directions for storing the now-soft ice cream. As with most homemade ice creams, I think this is best within about 3 days of churning.

Yield: 1 generous quart of ice cream

Serve generous amounts of the warmed hot fudge sauce over slightly softened portions of the vanilla ice cream. If you like, top with very lightly sweetened whipped cream (that's whipped cream from cows, not from cans!).

Note: I tend to like non-chocolate desserts a bit on the sweeter side. While this recipe will work perfectly well using 2/3 cup granulated sugar, I like the small extra boost of sweetness, particularly as the hot fudge sauce isn't very sweet.

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