I am neither a chocophile nor a chocophobe, but I'm definitely not a chocoholic. You won't tempt me with a slice of chocolate layer cake or a molten chocolate soufflé, you won't win my heart with a ribbon-wrapped box of bonbons and you certainly won't find me participating in a communal chocolate fondue.
Which is not to say I don't appreciate good chocolate. I simply don't yearn for the stuff as others do. I like a small piece of bittersweet chocolate or a cocoa-dusted almond with an espresso, and chocolate-covered coffee beans and candied orange peel dipped in dark chocolate.
It's partly a preference of savory over sweet, of salt over sugar. And when I do want dessert, it usually means something fruity, like a French fruit tart or good old peach pie, or something nutty, like Italian almond cookies or Vietnamese sesame candy. Or something frozen, like a tart lemon granita or bright raspberry gelato or colorful Mexican paletas in tropical flavors. On the other hand, as a child I really loved a chocolaty Fudgsicle or a half-pint of cold, cold chocolate milk, shaken in the carton for extra froth. I probably still would.
Now that I think of it, there are maybe a dozen other chocolate confections that I like. A small portion of well-made chocolate mousse. A bit of tiramisu. Chocolate bark studded with pistachios. Wafer-thin chocolate mendiants, speckled with dried and candied fruits.
And lately, high-quality dark chocolate bars have held a certain attraction for me. These don't come cheap, but the flavor is better than in the cheaper mass-produced ones; they can be smoky, earthy, bitter. A small amount is satisfying. I might break off a little piece midafternoon or after dinner.
When it comes right down to it, though, if offered my choice of chocolate dessert, I would take a bowl of chocolate ice cream. When pressed further, I'd say chocolate ice cream profiteroles. Dense dark chocolate ice cream on a mound of softly whipped cream, encased in crisp choux pastry, drizzled with sauce and showered with hazelnuts. Just the thought of it gives me a little craving.
Maybe I do love chocolate after all.
Chocolate Ice Cream Profiteroles
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Yield: 24 profiteroles
2 ounces/60 grams raw shelled hazelnuts (optional)
1/4 pound/113 grams unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup/150 grams all-purpose flour
4 eggs, plus 1 egg lightly beaten for glaze
1 cup/120 milliliters heavy cream, chilled
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 quart/1 liter chocolate hazelnut ice cream (see recipe), or other ice cream
1 cup/240 milliliters warm bittersweet chocolate sauce (see recipe), or other chocolate sauce
Confectioners' sugar, for garnish
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. If using hazelnuts, place on a baking sheet and roast until quite dark, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly, then use a clean kitchen towel to rub off skins, discarding the skins. Crush nuts coarsely with a rolling pin or meat mallet and set aside.
2. To make the puffs, put 1 cup/240 milliliters water, the butter and the salt in a saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until mixture comes together and forms a sticky ball. Lower heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring, for a minute or 2 more.
3. Transfer dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix at medium speed to cool dough slightly, then increase speed and begin to add 4 eggs, 1 at a time. Make sure each egg is fully incorporated into dough before adding the next. When all eggs have been added, scrape down sides of bowl and beat again until dough is smooth and glossy.
4. Line a pair of 12-by-18-inch baking sheets with parchment. Put dough in a pastry bag (or use 2 soup spoons) and form mounds that are 2 1/2 inches in diameter, 12 mounds per sheet, spaced evenly. Brush each mound with beaten egg, smoothing pointy tops with a finger. Bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduce heat to 375 degrees and continue baking until puffs are well browned and crisp, about 25 minutes more. Cool to room temperature. (If desired, puffs may be baked in advance, frozen and recrisped at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.)
5. Put cream and sugar in a small mixing bowl and whip to a soft, light consistency.
6. To assemble profiteroles, cut puffs in half horizontally. Place 2 tablespoons softly whipped cream on the bottom half of each puff, then a scoop of ice cream. Replace the tops. Transfer filled profiteroles to dessert plates or bowls, 2 per serving. Drizzle with warm chocolate sauce and sprinkle with reserved crushed hazelnuts, if using. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve immediately.
Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream
Time: 1 hour, plus 4 hours' freezing
Yield: 1 quart
2 ounces raw shelled hazelnuts, about 1/2 cup
3 cups half-and-half
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon tapioca starch
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Put hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast until quite dark, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly. Use a clean kitchen towel to rub off skins; discard skins. Crush nuts coarsely with a rolling pin or meat mallet and set aside.
2. In a saucepan, heat half-and-half and sugar over medium flame, whisking to dissolve sugar. Do not let mixture boil. Whisk in cocoa powder until completely incorporated, then add chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, until chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low.
3. Put egg yolks, salt and tapioca starch in a small bowl and whisk together. Slowly add 1 cup of hot chocolate mixture to egg yolk mixture, whisking well to keep yolks from curdling. Pour combined mixture back into saucepan and cook 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until it thickens slightly and coats back of spoon. Strain and let cool completely, then chill in an ice bath. (This chocolate custard may be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated.)
4. Churn the custard in an ice cream maker for 20 to 25 minutes until semi-firm. Stir in hazelnuts and transfer ice cream to a quart-size container. Place in freezer for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, before serving.
Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce
Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 2 cups
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped or broken into small chunks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1. Place double boiler (or a makeshift version) over medium heat and bring water to a simmer. Put sugar, cream, chocolate and butter in top part of double boiler. Let simmer, without stirring, for about 15 minutes, until cream is hot, sugar is dissolved and chocolate has completely melted.
2. Add Grand Marnier and whisk until glossy and smooth, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and keep warm. Sauce may be refrigerated for later use, but cool completely first, then reheat in a double boiler.
© 2015 New York Times News Service