ALEXANDER the Great had a passion for ice cream. The Emperor Nero even executed a general who let the Alpine snow for freezing his ice cream melt enroute to Rome. When Dolly Madison wasn't saving the White House, she was becoming famous for serving ice cream, and before her, when Thomas Jefferson wasn't serving corn on the cob to the French, he was serving French vanilla ice cream to America. For a purist like Jefferson, vanilla is the ideal. For the rest of us, chocolate is the answer.
Of course, Jefferson didn't have a trio of chocolates such as the recipes below. Because no sugar is added to these recipes the ice creams are richer in chocolate flavor and not nearly so cloyingly sweet as many commercial brands. All three ice creams can be made quickly and easily with a household electric ice-cream maker. The two-quart plastic-encased machines that use three or four trays of normal ice cubes and regular table salt work as well as, if not better than the extravagantly expensive stainless steel versions that make only one quart at a time, sans cubes and salt. The less salt used, the smoother the ice cream will be, so use the minimum amount recommended by the manufacturer, or a little less.
There is almost nothing that can be served which will not pale before a dessert of three homemade ice creams, so keep the meal simple and light -- no bechamel or bearnaise. And to drink, an extra dry champagne (not a brut or a vintage champagne, which belongs before the meal) or champagne-style sparkling white wine.
Never serve ice cream directly from the freezer. Ice cream tastes best when it has been allowed to warm slightly to a texture that is firm, but not hard -- about the consistency of sour cream. The ideal utensil for eating ice cream is an ice-cream fork, a cross between a teaspoon and a small three-tined fork. Ice cream forks are nearly impossible to find nowadays, so the best and most elegant utensil to use would be a small flat-tined salad fork.
The variations on this unctuous milk chocolate ice cream, using bittersweet or white chocolate, are equally delicious, and led to the creation of the Ultimate Chocolate Sundae and the Triple Chocolate Bombe. Any one of these ice creams would be great served alone, but together they form a dazzling smorgasbord for the chocolate lover. MILK CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM (Makes 2 quarts) 16 ounces milk chocolate, broken into pieces for easy melting 1 quart heavy or whipping cream 3/4 cup pecan pieces (irregular-sized pieces, each piece roughly a quarter to a sixth of a pecan in size)
Heat the chocolate in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally, and watch to prevent burning. The chocolate should be completely melted and warm to the touch, but not hot. Remove from the heat and beat in cream until well combined. Toss in the nuts. Transfer to the canister of an electric ice-cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions. WHITE CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM (Makes 2 quarts) 16 ounces white chocolate, broken into pieces for easy melting 1 quart heavy or whipping cream 1 cup unsalted macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
Heat the chocolate in a heavy saucepan over medium low heat. Stir occasionally, and watch to prevent burning. The chocolate should be completely melted and warm to the touch, not hot. Remove from the heat and beat in cream until well combined. Toss in the nuts. Transfer to the canister of an electric ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions. %ITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM (Makes 2 quarts) 16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces for easy melting 1 quart heavy or whipping cream 1 cup walnut pieces (irregular sized pieces, roughly a quarter to a sixth of a walnut in size)
Heat the chocolate in a heavy saucepan over medium low heat. Stir occasionally and watch carefully to prevent burning. The chocolate should be completely melted and warm to the touch, not hot. Remove from the heat and beat in cream until well combined. Toss in the nuts. Transfer to the canister of an electric ice-cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions. TRIPLE CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM BOMBE
Molding the three ice creams, or even two if that is all you choose to prepare, into a bombe is a simple way to make a very dramatic dessert. Two ways to layer the bombe are described. In the first, the ice cream layers are horizontal when the bombe is served; in the second, the layers conform to the shape of the mold.
Choose a mold between three and six quarts in size. There are special bombe molds with tight-fitting lids which are always difficult to open, but any decorative gelatin mold or even a plain mixing bowl will make an attractive bombe. The volume of the mold will determine the amount of each ice cream needed. Use equal amounts of each flavor. A 12-cup mold, for example, would use one quart each of the three ice creams.
Remove the ice creams from the freezer about 15 minutes before preparing the bombe so they will be soft enough to spread easily and evenly into the mold.
Rub the inside of the mold with a very light coating of a bland vegetable oil to facilitate unmolding the bombe.
Method One: Pack the white chocolate ice cream into the bottom of the mold in a smooth, even layer. Place the milk chocolate ice cream in a second layer on top of the white chocolate. Finally, complete the bombe by packing the bittersweet ice cream on top of the milk chocolate. Cover tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and store in the freezer compartment of a refrigerator.
Method Two: This method of layering the ice cream is a little more time consuming, but the final effect is worth the effort.
Pack the white chocolate ice cream into an even layer around the entire inside surface of the mold, using about two thirds of the ice cream and leaving the rim around the top of the mold uncovered down to about the thickness of the ice cream layer. Place the remaining ice cream in the freezer until needed. Next, pack a layer of milk chocolate ice cream onto the white chocolate ice cream in exactly the same way, leaving a similar uncovered rim between the top of the white chocolate ice cream and the top of the milk chocolate ice cream to be filled later. Return the unused milk chocolate ice cream to the freezer. Fill the center of the bombe with enough bittersweet chocolate ice cream to come to the top edge of the milk chocolate ice cream. Spread remaining milk chocolate ice cream over the milk chocolate and bittersweet ice creams in the mold so that it comes to the top edge of the white chocolate ice cream. Finally, top the bombe with the remaining white chocolate ice cream.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and store in the freezer compartment of a refrigerator.
To unmold the bombe: Plunge the bombe into a large pot of hot water for about 10 to 15 seconds, then remove the cover and invert onto a serving platter. If the bombe is frozen too hard to unmold easily, return to the water for another 10 to 15 seconds, or until you see the surface of the ice cream that touches the mold just begin to melt. Then unmold immediately and place uncovered in the freezer to refreeze the surface of the bombe. THE ULTIMATE CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM SUNDAE
Use large dinner plates for the sundaes. With an old-English-style soup spoon or another large serving spoon, place on each plate a generous oval-shaped lozenge of each of the three ice creams, spreading in a fan shape from the center of the plate. With the same nuts that were used to prepare each of the ice creams, arrange a fine border around the base of each ice cream scoop. Serve immediately, passing white chocolate whipped cream sauce separately (see recipe below). WHITE CHOCOLATE WHIPPED CREAM SAUCE 1 cup whipping cream 4 ounces white chocolate, finely grated
Place the whipping cream in a large bowl and beat until well thickened but still running. Fold in 4 ounces of white chocolate which has been finely grated. Serve this sauce within 30 minutes of its preparation. Store in refrigerator.