Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Italian Plum Torte

Looks can be deceiving. And if you look at the list of ingredients for this Italian Plum Torte you might easily think 'doesn't look like anything special to me'. That reaction would be, as they say 'a fatal mistake'. Okay that may sound a bit overdramatic, maybe only a teensy-tiny bit. Because this rather ordinary list of ingredients torte is anything but. Given the number of textures (a little bit crunchy, a little bit custardy-like, a little bit cake like) and flavors in this Italian Plum Torte, it is almost impossible to believe it isn't one of those highly technical cakes. The kind requiring hours and hours of preparation, having a lengthy list of ingredients, and directions so complex it would be easier to put together a piece of furniture from IKEA without the instructions rather than bake the cake. While this Plum Torte has only been around for the past 33 years, it has all the makings of a classic, timeless dessert.

So why did I gussy it up with flowers and fruit? In the absence of a virtual taste test or access to scratch and sniff software, I was hoping this Italian Plum Torte would grab your undivided attention. No, that's not entirely true. I wanted you feel almost compelled to immediately run out to the market to pick up some Italian Prune Plums so you could make it. More than likely you have all of the other ingredients in your refrigerator and pantry. Shamelessly I wanted to draw your attention away from all of the other recipes posted to foodblogs, appearing in new issues of cooking magazines, or tabbed in any recently purchased cookbooks. At least temporarily until you had a chance to bake and eat this torte.

Other than telling you how easy and inexpensive it is to make or how the yellow flesh Italian prune plums turn into brilliant fuchsia colored pools of sweetness, I resorted to appealing to your visual sense in an effort to influence you and potentially set off a shortage of Italian prune plums.

Italian prune plums (sometimes called Empress Plums) are a petite, egg-shaped fruit characterized by a deep purple, often powdered blueberry colored smooth thin skin, and yellow flesh. Unlike other clingstone plums (meaning the pit is difficult to separate from the flesh), these plums are free-stone (meaning very easy to pit). Italian prune plums are firmer and less juicy than other plums. Which means they hold their shape better in baked goods and yield a more intense flavor. Having a relatively short season, they arrive in late summer and all but disappear by the end of September, early October. This means you only have the next couple of months to make this Italian Plum Torte. Once you taste it, you are more than likely to want to make it again. If for whatever reason you decide to put off making it until the Italian prune plum season is almost over, the year long wait will seem excruciatingly longer.

Unlike other stone fruits, the cutting and pit removal of these prune plums is almost effortless. Thanks to these plums, my stone fruit cutting confidence has been restored.

The base of the torte is a nothing more than a simple butter cake made with only five ingredients. When butter, sugar, eggs, salt, flour and baking powder combine to create incredible scrumptiousness, why mess with perfection. Before making this cake I considered adding some vanilla to the cake batter. However, my instincts said that wasn't such a good idea, at least not with this cake. Trusting my instincts served me and this cake well.

At the risk of leaving just one plum half out, forget trying to make a pattern with the plums. In other words do as I say (I really mean suggest) not as I did. Not just because there is no such thing as a torte with too much fruit. As this cake rises beautifully around the shrinking, flavor intensified plums (think 'plum puddles') any well intentioned design gets a little lost in the baking.

Allegedly an early version of the recipe called for one tablespoon of cinnamon. Apparently this was an error as the intended amount was one teaspoon. Over the years the recipe was published by the New York Times and other foodbloggers, the amount of cinnamon seemed to switch back and forth between one tablespoon and one teaspoon. Deb Perelman (SmittenKitchen) thought one tablespoon worked. And if you are a lover of cinnamon, I think she may have been right. I took the midway approach and used two teaspoons. The next time I might use a generous two teaspoons or go all in with one tablespoon. Use whatever works for your cinnamon loving palate. Squeezing a little lemon juice (about 2 teaspoons) over the top of the cake gives it a sprinkle of pixie dust before the torte goes into a preheated 350 degree (F) oven.

It takes slightly less than an hour (my baking time was 58 minutes) for the Italian Plum Torte to bake. And you only have to wait about 45 minutes before you can cut your first slice.

Some cakes/tortes are best on the day they are made, others are best the next day. It's almost impossible to have to decide which camp this Italian Plum Torte falls in. So I won't. If you are lucky enough to have any leftovers the next day, let me know what you think.

If you take the eggs and butter out the night before and get up a little earlier than usual, you can make the Italian Plum Torte for breakfast. Regardless of the time of day or day of the week you decide to make it, your life needs a slice (or two). Really it does.

Italian Plum Torte (an ever so slight adaptation to Marian Burros's Plum Torte recipe published in the New York Times)

1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder (recommend Rumford Baking Powder)
Generous pinch of kosher salt
1 cup granulated sugar
8 Tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
12 small purple Italian Prune Plums, cut in half, pits and stems removed
2 teaspoons or up to 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
2 - 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1-2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl, mix together the 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Set aside.
4. In a medium sized bowl, cream together one cup of sugar and butter until light and fluffly (approximately 3-4 minutes).
5. Beat in eggs, one at a time until blended.
6. Mix in dry ingredients until combined. Do not over beat.
7. Scrape batter into a 9" springform pan. Using an offset spatula, smooth the top.
8. Press cut plums into the cake batter (skin side up).
9. Sprinkle top of cake with cinnamon-sugar mixture.
10. Squeeze 1-2 teaspoons from a 1/2 lemon over the top of the cake.
11. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until top is golden and/or a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Note: My baking time was 58 minutes.
12. Remove from oven, place on rack and allow to cool.
13. Cut into slices. 
14. Store torte at room temperature. Be sure to cover any leftovers.

Serving suggestions: Serve as is, sprinkle top with confectionary sugar, and/or serve with some cinnamon ice cream.

Notes: (1) Use a 9" springform pan, it's the perfect size. If your pan is non-stick, even better. (2) Some say you can replace the prune plums with regular plums. I am not so sure. (3) This torte would be perfect for breakfast, brunch, as a lunch dessert, or served as an afternoon indulgence.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Nectarine and Plum Crostata

Recently one of my friends posted to her 'book of faces' page she would be blocking all of the political hype and rant posts for the next couple of months. For some reason this jogged a memory. Years ago, while walking through one of the exhibits at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, I remember being taken aback by the tone of the images and rhetoric depicted in the political and editorial cartoons published in the 1860s. Based on my reaction, it was clear my early social study/history education had been unbalanced, filtered, and slightly skewed. Sometimes portrayed as a devil, sometimes as a jester, the perceptions and opinions some held of Lincoln back then seemed far from the ones we (or at least I) have of him today (thanks in large part to new historical research). So it seems over the course of the last 150 plus years not much has changed as negativity continues to play a large, distractible role in presidential campaigns. And I agree with my friend, sometimes we need a break from all of the hateful, hurtful, harmful political, opinion as fact rhetoric dominating social media. Too much of anything can sometimes not be a good thing. So was anyone else as thrilled as I was to have had the distraction of the Olympics for the past two weeks? Now, if only the next season of "House of Cards" could be released sooner rather than later.

Last week I presumptively posted a photo of this Nectarine and Plum Crostata to my 'book of faces' page before we tasted it. Although this may have been a little risky on my part, I couldn't imagine something so pretty not tasting delicious. Having already tried my hand at making a free-form rustic apple crostata as well as a summer fruit crostata, it was time to make a more refined rustic version (in other words, one without a fancy lattice top). The arrangement of the nectarines and plums gave the crostata its' 'eye candy' look. Spoiler Alert: It was over the top delectable.

Crostatas can be made either free-form rustic or tart pan refined. When made free-form, the edges of the rolled out dough are folded up over the fruit filling piled high in the center. lightly brushed with an egg wash, sprinkled with some sugar, and baked. For an understated elegant look to the crostata, the rolled out dough is carefully placed in a fluted, removable bottom tart pans (or shallow rimmed pans), filled with fruit (or jam), left plain or topped with a lattice crust, and baked. Regardless of which way the crostata is made, this centuries old Italian confection is the perfect way to begin the day or end a meal. 

Taking advantage of the abundance of stone fruits at the farmer's market, I decided this crostata would be made with a combination of nectarines and plums. When choosing fruit for a 'baked' crostata, look for the unblemished, ripe but slightly firm ones. White nectarines are a little sweeter than their yellow counterparts (this is due to the difference between their sugar and acid levels), but you could easily use yellow nectarines for this recipe.


Just as there is variability in the fruits (and or jams) used in a crostata, there is variability in the recipes for the dough. Some doughs use granulated sugar, others use confectionary sugar; some use eggs or egg yolks while others are eggless; some incorporate lemon and/or orange zest; some use a little baking powder to lighten the dough, others leave it out; and some use only cold unsalted butter, others use a combination of cold unsalted butter and cream cheese. The dough recipe used in the making of this Nectarine and Plum Crostata came from the Standard Baking Company's Pastries cookbook. Not only is it easy to make, it has incredibly great flavor and texture. Additionally, it rolls out beautifully on a lightly floured surface after resting in the refrigerator for an hour (although you can make it the night before).

Doubling the ingredients from the original recipe (the recipe post below reflects the amounts I used) gave me more than enough dough to line a 9 inch tart pan. I used some of the remaining dough to provide another layer of dough layer along the edges or the crostata. The rest I wrapped up and froze for use at a later time (maybe for a smaller free-form crostata). To neatly trim the top of the dough, simply roll the rolling pin over the edge of the pan. Refrigerate until ready to fill with fruit.

For some reason I am slightly stone fruit cutting challenged. This short youtube video makes it look easy. Rather than explain how I managed to cut 1/4" slices of nectarines and plums, it would be easier if you just watched the video. 

For added flavor as well as to slightly thicken all of the juices released from the fruit during the baking process some honey, light brown sugar, cinnamon, and all-purpose flour were mixed in the bowl of sliced fruit.

If you begin overlapping slices of fruit around the edge of the 10" or 11" tart pan and work your way to the center, it really isn't that hard. Sure a few slices of fruit may slip along the way, but with a fork or kitchen tweezers you can get them back in place. The majority of the sliced plums were placed in the center of the crostata. The leftover slices were placed randomly in the tart. Note: I used an 11" tart pan for this crostata.

The total baking time for the Nectarine and Plum Crostata is approximately one hour. In a 425 degree (F) oven, the crostata is baked for 15 minutes before the oven temperature is reduced to 375 degrees (F). Continue baking for 40-45 minutes or until the edges of the crostata are nicely browned (and slightly pulling away from the pan) and the juices of the fruit have thickened. Allow to cool to warm or room temperature before serving. Note: Always place your tart pan on a baking sheet before baking in the oven.

"One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating." Luciano Pavarotti More than likely this sentiment has very little to do with being hungry. Could it be that our eyes rather than our stomachs tell us when we should drop everything and eat? Or could it be food is one of life's great distractions? There may be no better way to test out these theories than with this light, not too sweet, yet sweet tooth satisfying Nectarine and Plum Crostata.

Nectarine and Plum Crostata (slight adaptions to the crust recipe from Standard Baking Company's Pastries cookbook and filling recipe influenced by several sources)

2 cups plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
12 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2" pieces
6 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1/2" pieces
2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons ice cold water

4 large firm unpeeled white nectarines (or yellow nectarines), cut into 1/4" slices 
2 firm unpeeled black plums, cut into 1/4" slices
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour or cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Sanding sugar for finishing (optional)
Vanilla Ice Cream for serving

1. In a food processor, add flour, salt and baking powder. Pulse to just combine.
2. Add butter and cream cheese, pulse until mixture is crumbly.
3. Add water, pulsing until dough begins to pull away from sides of the bowl.
4. Remove and form into one large disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.
5. Remove chilled dough from the refrigerator. Lightly flour a surface and roll out dough to a 1/4" thickness. Place over a 10 or 11 inch tart pan (with removable bottom). Carefully press dough along sides of pan. Use a rolling pin to cut overhanging dough away from tart pan. Note: You will have dough left over. Either roll out long strips and adhere to sides of tart pan (will need to re-cut top of tart pan with rolling pin) or wrap and use for another crostata or cookies.
6. Place dough lined tart pan in the refrigerator while preparing fruit.

Filling and Assembly
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees (F).
2. In a medium sized bowl, combine the sliced fruit, honey, cinnamon, and light brown sugar. Stir to mix.
3. Beginning at the edge of the tart pan, overlap slices of the fruit (skin side up) until the crostata is completely filled with fruit. Optional: Sprinkle top with sanding sugar.
4. Place tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees (F).
5. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees (F) and continue to bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the crust is browned and slightly moving away from the edge of the pan and the juices of fruit are thickened.
6. Allow to come to room temperature before slicing. Optional: Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Notes: (1) There is enough dough for a crostata made in a10" or 11" tart pan and/or a 10" free form crostata plus an additional free form 6" crostata, (2) Can use all nectarines (white or yellow) instead of a combination of nectarines and plums; (3) Always choose the firmest stone fruit when making a crostata (4) If making a free-form crostata, roll dough out to at least a 12" circle. Pile fruit in center. Fold edges of dough over the fruit. Brush sids of dough with an egg/milk or egg/cream wash. Sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake as directed above.

Summer's bounty at the Chicago Botanic Garden (August 2016)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Pollo Alla Romana

Almost ten years ago when I moved from one house to another, I witnessed seeing more than 25 years of cooking magazines being thrown into the dumpster. Not because there wasn't any room in the two super-sized moving trucks, but because the person who shall remain nameless said it was time for me to let go of a few things. At the time, it felt like I was having a limb removed without the benefit of any anesthesia. Needless to say I survived. My collection of more than two hundred cookbooks contained more recipes than I could possibly make in several lifetimes. Now ten years later, I have amassed a new collection of cooking magazines and probably another hundred cookbooks. Each time I go into one of the shrinking storage rooms in the basement or look at the sagging bookshelves, I began to wonder if I should get rid of some of these magazines. It's always easier, yet not necessarily less painful, when you make this decision yourself. Even though I have long since given up remembering which of the magazines contained recipes I loved or wanted to make (there is only so much space in my memory bank for such things), I am (slowly) coming around to the realization that I don't need to save every magazine I buy. And tearing out pages from them isn't a sacrilegious act or heinous crime. So this past week I began the process of going through this new ten year cooking magazine collection. Deciding which ones to keep or which recipes to save. It's a different kind of pain this time, but at least it's not one requiring any medical intervention or the intake of massive quantities of painkillers. As long as no one asks me to get rid of any of my cookbooks, I think I will be just fine.

Pollo Alla Romana is an old, traditional summer dish originating from the Castelli Romani in Lazio, a collection of towns once inhabited by noble Roman families in the 14th century. 'Alla Romana' simply means 'Roman Style'. This classic rustic dish was typically prepared for Ferragosto, the August 15th holiday, celebrating the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Prepared early in the morning and served later in the day may have been a way for Italian cooks to avoid having to cook a meal during the hottest time of the day. However, in actuality there is a greater benefit of the the cook early-serve later approach. The flavors further deepen as the dish rests. But for an even deeper flavor, making it the day before and reheating to 'warm' before serving is how it should be made. While it's incredibly delicious served on the same day it's made, the overnight mellowing of the flavors transforms the Polla Alla Romana into one causing you to never want to leave the dinner table. 

Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes From an Ancient City by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill is turning into one of my new favorite cookbooks. The recipe for this version of Pollo Alla Romana was inspired by theirs. Other than using chicken breasts and thighs (instead of a whole chicken cut up) and increasing the amount of diced tomatoes, I tried to stay true to all of the recommended ingredients.

Even though using bone-in chicken (versus deboned chicken) is known to add more flavor to any recipe, I decided to use a combination of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs. Although the next time (and there will be next time) I make it, it will be with using skin-on (but still boneless) chicken breasts and thighs. So the dish at least gets the benefit of the flavor from the skin's fat.

Salting and refrigerating the chicken for at least six hours or overnight was one of the recommendations in the recipe. They should have made it a requirement. So instead I am.

The chicken and peppers/onions are initially cooked separately before ultimately being combined. This type of cooking process allows each of ingredients to absorb something from the other. The result is a savory rich dish having very distinctive flavors.

Some recipes for Polla Alla Romana call for the use of both red and green peppers. However, this version of the recipe recommended using red and yellow peppers. And not because yellow peppers have a sweeter flavor than the more bitter green peppers. Rather because the combination of yellow and red in this dish represents the colors of the city's flag and AS Roma, one of Rome's two professional soccer teams. Apparently the Roman's show allegiance to their favorite soccer team has influenced the making of ancient Roman recipes.

Instead of cutting the seeded peppers into one inch strips, mine were cut into half-inch strips. Once the chicken has been browned on all sides and removed from the pan, the peppers, onions, and garlic were sautéed until tender. The addition of dry white wine helped to lift up the brown bits of chicken as well as added even more flavor. After the diced tomatoes and marjoram were added, the browned chicken was returned to the pan. Then the magic started to happen.

Adding just enough water (which really shouldn't be very much) to ensure the chicken is at least halfway submerged, the chicken is cooked to a point of perfect tenderness while the sauce thickens and develops a deep red color. Cooking time may range from 30 to 45 minutes (or longer depending on the heat setting of your stove). Note: My cooking time was somewhere between 45 and 50 minutes.

Instead of serving the chicken on the same day it is made, I would strongly encourage you to shred the cooked chicken, return to the sauce, and refrigerate overnight. I am not sure I can put into words the taste difference between the same day and next day versions. So all I will say is I heard an almost window shattering 'wow' immediately after someone took a bite of the next day Pollo Alla Romana. 

Served with a salad, some great crusty bread and a great bottle (or two) of wine, the Pollo Alla Romana becomes an undeniably perfect summer and year round meal. If made the day before, it becomes one of those seemingly effortless meals. With peppers coming into the height of their season, there may be no better time to make this dish for the first time. It is perfect meal to serve at a casual or intimate gathering of family and/or friends. Everyone will feel as if they have been transported to Rome and maybe no one will leave the table until the last morsel has been eaten.

Pollo Alla Romana (slight adaptation to the Pollo Alla Romano recipe from Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes From an Ancient City by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill)

3 3-1/2 pounds of a combination of boneless/skin-on chicken breasts and thighs
Kosher salt
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large red peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2 strips
1 large yellow or orange pepper, seeded cut into 1/2 strips
2-3 large cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
2 yellow onions, cut into 1/4" rings
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used a Pinot Grigio)
1 Tablespoon freshly chopped marjoram
16-20 ounces canned diced tomatoes
Great crusty bread (for serving)

1. Season chicken with salt. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. When oil begins to simmer, add chicken, skin side down and cook until browned on all sides (about 7-10 minutes). Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
3. Add the onions, peppers, and garlic to the pan and cook over medium heat until the onions and peppers have softened (about 10 minutes). 
4. Add wine, increase heat to high and scrape up any of the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. After the alcohol aroma dissipates, add the tomatoes and marjoram. 
5. Return chicken to the pan and cook stirring occasionally for 30-45 minutes or until chicken is tender and sauce has a thick consistency and color is a deep red. Note: Add a small amount of water to pan to ensure chicken is partially submerged when cooking. If the sauce becomes dry while cooking add either some additional diced tomatoes or some water. 
6. Remove pan from stove and transfer to a large platter. Serve hot or at room temperature.
7. OR allow the chicken to come to room temperature. Remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to tomato/pepper sauce. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Reheat before serving. Note: Highly recommend waiting overnight before serving.

Notes: The original recipe called for the use of a whole chicken cut into 8 pieces. Instead of using deboned chicken breasts and thighs, could use bone-in chicken breasts and thighs.

Benches in the Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, Illinois (2016)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Espresso Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

Once upon a time there was a girl who came to a new town to start a new job. At the end of the first day she asked herself 'what in the world was I thinking?' She probably should have just relaxed and taken a deep breath, but there was so much to do and so many 'land mines' to discover she barely even had time to breathe. The concept of relaxing was and would always be an illusive one for her. So when a boy came by and said 'I'm glad you're here', she understood for the first time what it felt like to be valued and validated for simply being her. And on those days when she began to doubt or question herself, it was the boy who could always see through the image, the facade she tried to project. And then he would say those words 'I'm glad you're here' and suddenly, as if by some sort of magic, all would again be right with the world. For all of the years she remained in that town and well after she left to work in other towns, those words were never lost on her. While she never really did learn how to take a deep breath, she always remembered how it felt to be genuinely accepted for all of her gifts along with some of her eccentric quirks and complexities. Those four words didn't just energize her spirit and warm her soul (more than a shot (or two) of espresso and/or a dark chocolate candy bar ever could) they tugged at her heartstrings too. Somedays the girl wonders if the boy really ever knew just how much she was affected by as well as how thankful she was and would always be for the priceless gift of those four simple words.

As much as I derive a great deal of pleasure from making some of those time and labor intensive foods and meals, what hasn't got lost on me is how much greater pleasure my friends get from making some of the 'simpler' recipes posted to this blog. Don't get me wrong, I am not at all inferring my friends don't or can't or won't make anything having a long list of sometimes obscure ingredients or those requiring long hours of cooking. What I am trying to say is they are the ones who realized long ago that some of the simplest recipes, the ones requiring the least investment of time (and money) yield the biggest, greatest wow factor results. Yes, my friends are sometimes smarter than I am (okay, there I said it!). And maybe I should have pursued a doctorate in common sense rather than one in educational organization and leadership. But that would have meant being practical, another one of those fleeting concepts.

In my basement sits a very expensive ice cream machine that hasn't seen the light of day in too many years to count. As much as I love ice cream, one would think it would be one of those used often kitchen tools. But having discovered a few years ago how sinfully delicious no churn ice creams can be, the ice cream maker will wait until I someday learn the secret behind the artisan ice cream sold at Rococo, one of my favorite ice cream stores on the planet. And since that won't be happening anytime soon, finding amazing recipes for over-the-top, hard to believe it's not hand-churned ice cream recipes is how I really need to be spending my time and energy.

After seeing a recent post for an espresso ice cream, I immediately embarked on the quest to discover how many and how different the recipes for a no churn espresso ice cream could be.

What I learned was they were not all that different. Everyone used a heavy whipping cream and sweetened condensed milk. Some used espresso or cold brew, some used espresso powder. Some used a liqueur, some used only vanilla. Some added a pinch a salt, some left it out. Some added chopped chocolate, some remained espresso ice cream purists. So all I had to decide was how much and which of the 'somes' to use. Call it beginner's luck, but I think I came up with a winning combination of ingredients for this Espresso Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream, the no churn version.

When buying heavy whipping cream for making ice cream, whether you churn it or not, is to use one with a high fat content. The higher the fat content the more stable the cream when whipped (and ultimately frozen) and the smoother the texture of the finished ice cream will be. Look for whipping cream having at least 18 or 19% fat. This version Espresso Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream used an 18% fat whipping cream. The reason some commercially sold ice creams get away with having a lower fat content is because their big heavy ice cream making machines whip more 'air' into them. If you have ever tasted a less-expensive brand of ice cream and then asked yourself 'what was I thinking buying it?', you more than likely unhappily discovered what flavored air tastes like.

Instead of some fresh espresso or cold brew, I used espresso powder. This Espresso Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream was also made with a Godiva Dark Chocolate Liqueur. But you could easily replace it with some Bailey's Irish Cream, Kahlua or an espresso liqueur. Somewhere between 7 and 8 ounces of dark chocolate was coarsely chopped for this ice cream, however, you could also chop up some chocolate covered espresso beans. Or use a combination of both. Note: Next time I would increase the amount of chocolate to 9-10 ounces because there is no such thing as too much chocolate in espresso ice cream.

Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment makes whipping the cream easier. Although if you are looking for an upper body workout and wanting arms as sculpted as the ones you have been seeing on all of the Olympic athletes, feel free to use a whisk. Not that I want to discourage you from using a whisk, but the recipe for this Espresso Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream is intended to be easy to make.

When I started making no churn ice creams last year I invested in a couple of ice cream containers. The Tovolo insulated ice-cream containers are my favorites. The ones I found came from Williams-Sonoma, but you can find them in other places or you can use a plastic container with tight fitting lid. As a side note, always handwash your ice cream container versus putting it in the dishwasher (or risk having the lid never fitting tightly again).

Many no churn ice cream recipes say your ice cream will be ready in as little as four hours after being placed in the freezer. Maybe they were using commercial freezers. For best results, I would recommend you wait overnight (or 24 hours) before scooping out and serving this ice cream. 

And then be prepared to enjoy the most incredibly homemade Espresso Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream ever. Seriously, this ice cream is that good. It's definitely one of the things I would put on my short 'last meal' worthy list.

If you are someone who loves ice cream, really loves ice cream, especially Espresso Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream you will definitely want a bowl of this ice cream filled with ginormous scoops of it. Or if you prefer to pace yourself (now there's an interesting concept), start with a couple of smaller scoops. It would not surprise me if you or anyone you are serving it to asks for seconds though. And one of the best parts of this rich, creamy ice cream? It's one of those simple, easy to make recipes that tastes as good as, if not better (because it's homemade) any of those expensive ice cream store confections.

Espresso Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream - no churn (inspired by several sources)

2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream (at least 18% fat)
14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
2 - 3 Tablespoons of espresso powder (I used 2 Tablespoons) Recommend King Arthur Flour's Espresso Powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons Godiva Dark Chocolate Liqueur (could also use Bailey's Irish Cream, Kahlua or any espresso liqueur)
9-10 ounces coarsely chopped dark or semi-sweet chocolate (if you like slightly less chocolate, use 7-8 ounces) Note: Could also use chopped chocolate covered espresso beans or a combination of both chocolate and the chocolate covered beans.
pinch of kosher salt
Optional toppings: Chocolate covered espresso beans, chocolate sauce, sprinkles.

1. In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip cream until stiff peaks form.
2. With the mixer on low, slow pour the sweetened condensed milk into the whipped cream until well combined. 
3. Add espresso powder, vanilla, salt, and Godiva Liqueur to mixture. Turn mixing speed to high and beat until mixture has thickened (about 1 minute).
3. Stir in chopped chocolate.
4. Transfer to a container, cover tightly and freeze for at least 8 hours or overnight (recommend waiting the full 24 hours).
5. Scoop into bowls or cones. Top with favorite toppings or savor topping free.

Notes: The other no churn ice cream recipes on the blog are for Peach Ice Cream and Strawberry Ice Cream.

Summer flowers in bloom.