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The Charms of Chocolate Ice Cream

In the warm summer months ice cream takes on a special appeal, and for chocolate-lovers, of course, there is chocolate ice cream and chocolate sorbet to turn to . . . Chocolate and ice cream combine two treats together, but what are the culinary challenges involved?

To get an insight into the process of working with chocolate to make ice cream, talked to both a noted chocolatier, Damian Allsop, and also to acclaimed chef and ice cream maestro Jacob Kenedy of Italian restaurant Bocca di Lupo and Gelupo, the highly regarded Soho-based gelateria.

Damian Allsop, a famous patissier before he moved to working with chocolate, is noted as the innovative pioneer of the water-based chocolate ganache; a chocolatier who has long championed the flavours of chocolate in all their subtlety and complexity, He and his wife Anna are now based in Grenada, Spain where he will be opening a cocoa-inspired restaurant this autumn. “When it comes to chocolate ice-cream, as in anything I do, I must first connect with my product. So I choose certain chocolate that has both character and ethics,” he explains. “This quality of chocolate demands that you use non-flavoured ingredients with it to texturise it. Not only it has enough flavour and character to take the starring role, hiding that character under thick heavy cream or any other flavour will mean the customer cannot taste it and all the work and effort are for nothing. I use the fat from the chocolate, the cacao butter, to give me the same fat content as a normal ice-cream”

For Damian, using high-quality chocolate is essential. “Only the good chocolates can do this, not every chocolate. Not the mass-manufactured chocolate, and the chocolate compounds and flavourings.” Damian, always interested in culinary innovation, feels “we are now in a new culinary era and the old classic French terminology restricts proper expression from the chef and inhibits clear understanding by the client. The old set up was easy:  sorbet or water ice was a non-fat mix and an ice-cream was a mixture containing fat. Simple. But now we have sorbets that are made using emulsifiers and don't contain fat.. we have sorbets that do contain fat...we have frozen mixes containing fat where the fat used isn't cream ...” He also points out that “making an ice-cream for a cone, or to eat ice-cream on its own, is very different to putting an ice cream or sorbet  on a plated dessert with other flavours present, where they need to harmonise,” hence his emphasis on creating chocolate ice cream where the flavour of the chocolate itself will shine through.

At Gelupo gelateria, their famous chocolate sorbet is one of the perennially popular bestsellers. “How could it not be?!” laughs chef and Gelupo co-owner Jacob Kenedy. Why did Gelupo go down the chocolate sorbet rather than the chocolate ice cream route we asked him? “Fat impedes rather than enhances flavour, and dairy fat (in aqueous emulsion), in particular, is chocolate's nemesis,” he explains. “If ever you want to cleanse your palate after eating chocolate, have a sip of milk. I like pure, bittersweet chocolate and the only way to get that pure, bittersweet flavour in an ice cream is to eliminate all the dairy.” Creating Gelupo’s trademark chocolate sorbet presented challenges. “Other than banning dairy in the recipe, the main challenge is getting enough chocolate flavour without so much fat as to render the sorbet a solid, rather than the sexy semi-solid texture we all love. I use a careful balance of cocoa powder and dark chocolate, and ensure the cocoa is fully cooked out to remove any trace of powdery texture.” Interestingly, Jacob also explored the potential of creating a more specialised range of chocolate sorbets. “About 3 years ago I wanted to make a range of cru sorbets and experimented with almost every single estate and blended chocolate of note. The result: pointless - at the sub-zero habitat of my sorbet, every nuance is lost, every subtle aroma frozen. It's worth using a high quality couverture, but worthless going further than that.”

The key to success in creating Gelupo’s chocolate sorbet “is a precisely balanced array of sugars, and the right levels of cocoa solids and fats. I use small quantities of invert sugar, glucose and dextrose but similar results can be achieved even using supermarket ingredients (see my recipe in the BOCCA cookbook). Sugars, water and cocoa should be taken to 95°C, then the chocolate melted in as the mixture cools. The type of machine you use to churn it has very little effect on this style of ice.”

Recent years have seen the rise of artisan ice cream makers and gelaterias in the UK, so those who enjoy a taste of chocolate in its frozen form are spoilt for choice. conducted a taste test on some leading London sources of good quality chocolate ice cream (and yes, it was fun doing the research!)

27-29 Swallow St, London W1B 4QR
 - 020 7287 9506
On offer here is freshly scooped ice cream, with both chocolate and white chocolate ice cream flavours available. It arrived prettily presented, with a mini ice cream cone as a garnish. The texture was very soft, with the white chocolate, as one would expect, very sweet indeed, with the white chocolate flavour barely discernible. The dark coloured chocolate ice cream had a very mild chocolate flavour, with cocoa powder notes present, and was noticeably sweet. **


2 Russell St, London WC2B 5JD - 
020 7240 0746
On offer here is freshly scooped ‘dark chocolate ice cream with 72% dark Arriba chocolate’. Living up to its billing, it was indeed a dark colour. The ice cream had an interesting and appealing texture thanks to the tiny pieces of dark chocolate studding the smooth ice cream. Ingeniously, this means that as you eat it the ice cream melts first, leaving a pleasant crunch of chocolate pieces and so delivering a pleasing hit of chocolate acidity. While delivering a good chocolate flavour, this was not overly sweet, making it at once satisfyingly rich and refreshing. ****

7 Archer Street, London W1D 7AU
020 7287 5555

Freshly scooped bitter chocolate sorbet is on offer here. The colour is an appealing rich brown and the texture is soft and very smooth. The flavour is very well-balanced indeed – not too sweet, but also not overly bitter. This distinctly sophisticated, grown-up bitter chocolate sorbet delivers a great hit of chocolate flavour and has a noticeably long finish. Appealingly, it is light in texture, as befits a sorbet, but at the same time wonderfully rich in flavour; no wonder it’s a perennial bestseller. *****

La Gelatiera
27 New Row, Covent Garden, London WC2N 4LA - 
020 7836 9559
Freshly scooped dark chocolate sorbet and dark chocolate and chilli sorbet are on offer here. Noticeably very dark brown in colour, the sorbets have a smooth texture and a satisfyingly chocolate flavour. The dark chocolate and chilli sorbet works very well, with the presence of the chilli manifesting itself in a subtle after-burn at the finish. In contrast, the dark chocolate sorbet has a shorter, sweeter finish. The contrast of the full chocolate flavour with the icy smooth sorbet texture is very satisfying in both cases. ****

La Maison du Chocolat

46 Piccadilly, London W1J 0DS - 020 7287 850
In addition to its trademark chocolates, La Maison du Chocolat offer tubs of ice cream, including chocolat noir - dark chocolate ice cream. Despite its name, the ice cream was a light caramel brown in colour, with a pleasant mousse-like quality to the texture. The chocolate flavour, however, was not particularly pronounced, overwhelmed by dairy notes, and it had a short, slightly salty finish. ***

53 Brewer Street, London W1F 9UJ London
 - 020 7494 3082
On offer here were freshly scooped Chocolate fondente Ghana (made with ‘grand cru, pure single origin cocoa’) and Vegan Chocolate.  The Chocolate fondente had a smooth, rich texture, offering a pleasant chocolatey hit with almond notes on the finish. In contrast the Vegan Chocolate, very dark brown in colour, resembling a fudge sauce, had an odd oily texture and after-finish. Despite the intense colour, the chocolate flavour was very muted. Our advice is to stick to the Chocolate fondente. Chocolate fondente **** Vegan Chocolate *

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Fritz Bützer, who changed his name to Frederick Belmont when he settled in Harrogate, learned to become a confectioner and chocolatier while travelling through Switzerland and France. In 1919, he opened Betty's Tea Room in the Yorkshire town which has since become an institution. The company still makes and sells a wide range of chocolates using the finest Swiss Grand Cru.

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