It wouldn't be Valentine's Day without something sweet. Well, in our case, it wouldn't be Tuesday (or Wednesday...or Thursday...) So, instead of a dessert that heats things up, here's one to cool you down: a chocolate-cherry ice cream that's tinted just the tiniest hint of pink.
We've mentioned our love of chocolate and cherries together before, so it didn't take a lot of imagination to come up with this recipe.
We borrowed a tip from David Lebovitz, whose Toasted Almond and Candied Cherry Ice Cream (from his book The Perfect Scoop) we've made before. We bought a jar of sour cherries and boiled them down with some sugar to make sweet-tart cherries in syrup. They are a great addition to this ice cream, which is a similar but much simpler version, thanks to our tried-and-true eggless method.
Sour Cherry-Almond Ice Cream with Chocolate Chunks
makes one quart
For the cherries:
1 24-ounce jar of sour cherries (in juice)
1/2 cup sugar
For the ice cream:
1 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon corn starch
3 1/2 cups half and half
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon almond extract
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Combine the sugar and cherries, with their juice, in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat slightly and simmer for about 30 minutes. The liquid will reduce a bit but won't thicken considerably. Cool to room temperature. Then drain the cherries, reserving the liquid in a bowl. Roughly chop the cherries.
In the bottom of a medium bowl, whisk the cream cheese until loose. Set aside. Prepare an ice bath in a larger bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of the half and half, making sure the cornstarch is dissolved. Pour the rest of the half and half into a large pot and whisk in the sugar and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and then simmer, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes.
Remove from heat and whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return the pot to medium-high heat, bring back to a boil, and cook for 1 more minute, stirring or whisking constantly, until the mixture is slightly thickened.
Pour the milk mixture into the bowl with the cream cheese and whisk until the cream cheese is combined. Add the salt, almond extract, and 1/4 cup of the reserved, sweetened cherry liquid*. Set the bowl into the ice bath and cool, stirring every few minutes, until the liquid is thoroughly chilled. This should take about 25 to 30 minutes. It's even better if you can refrigerate it for several hours or overnight, but it should freeze fine after the ice bath if it's completely cool.
Freeze in an ice cream maker, adding the cherries and chocolate at the very end or stirring them in after you stop the machine. Transfer the ice cream to a container and freeze for several hours until firm.
*Save the rest of the cherry liquid; it's good drizzled over plain vanilla ice cream or even over yogurt.
(Images: Elizabeth Passarella)