Having an interest in cooking/eating makes it pretty easy to peg you for appropriate gifts when the time comes. For example, this Xmas alone I received a signed copy of Charlie Trotter's vegetable cookbook (quite an unexpected and unnecessary gift, found at an estate sale by my sister-in-law, blog follower, and antique guru Michelle), the well-regarded "On Cooking" textbook that many culinary students use, a renewal of my Saveur subscription (nice), and (last but not least) an ice cream maker (ICM) from Mrs. Hackknife. I've been wanting an ICM for a while as it seemed that I couldn't come across a recipe last summer that didn't involve the use of one (at least those pertaining to frozen desserts, or, if you're Charlie Trotter, the occasional savory side dish such as goat cheese ice cream). Now that I actually have one, I find that they're remarkably simple machines: you have the base, the freezer bowl, the mixing paddle, and the cover. Could I have rigged up one of these things in the garage on my own? Probably not, but you get the picture.
Anyway, this past weekend, I decided to try it out. My first choice for recipe was the dark chocolate sorbet, mostly because I already had all of the ingredients on hand to make it (cocoa powder, sugar, salt, vanilla, and water); also, by going dairy-free, my lactose-intolerant mom (who was visiting) could try some. The only advance prep required is that you have to freeze the freezer bowl overnight on a level surface (i.e., so the ice cream forms uniformly when you use it). This is trickier than it sounds since at the Commissary, we only have one of those bottom drawer freezers that is currently packed to the gills. So, I took it outside to our backup refrigerator/freezer in the garage. Funny thing about that, though - the freezer part in the backup unit doesn't work so well when the ambient temp falls below 32F (our garage isn't heated), probably due to some violation of the thermodynamic principles that allow refrigeration to be possible in the first place (enlighten me, all you engineers out there). As we're now in the middle of a typical Midwestern winter, there was still a sloshing noise in the bowl when I took it out. Cursing, I brought it back inside and managed to stuff it into the Commissary freezer by removing the ice cube tray (we don't use any of those infernal things anyway).
By Saturday morning, the bowl was nice and solid and we were ready to begin. All I needed to do was mix up water, sugar, and salt on the stove until the sugar dissolved, whisk in the cocoa powder/vanilla, let the whole concoction cool for a couple of hours, then throw it into the ICM for 20 minutes. Bam! Out came a surprisingly good and refreshing chocolate sorbet that we are still enjoying around here. I'm stoked about trying future recipes from the ICM booklet that actually include cream in them (probably not going to help my cholesterol much).
3 c. water
1 2/3 c. granulated sugar
1 2/3 c. cocoa powder, sifted
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1. Prepare a simple syrup with the water, sugar, and salt by combining all three in a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat. Cook mixture until the sugar is fully dissolved (about 10 minutes).
2. Gradually add the cocoa powder to the syrup by whisking constantly until smooth. Add the vanilla and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate 2-3 hours or overnight.
3. Turn on the ICM, pour the mixture into the frozen freezer bowl, and let mix until thickened, about 15-20 minutes. The sorbet will have a soft, creamy texture. If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the sorbet to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.