Cocoa Ice Cream |
with egg yolks (custard)

Cocoa Ice Cream | with egg yolks (custard)

September 22, 2021


© 2022 Biterkin

For this Cocoa Ice Cream, you only need five ingredients: cocoa powder, milk, cream, sugar and egg yolks. Although it contains only cocoa powder -and no chocolate- its flavour is insanely chocolate-y, with a bright cocoa flavour and a bold chocolate aroma. 

In this cocoa ice cream, the aroma of the cocoa powder you use will shine through, so use your favourite one to make it. Or open yourself up to try any kind you like because I have tested it with various types of cocoa powder, from cheap to expensive and from raw to Dutch-processed, and each batch was divine, no matter the cocoa powder.

This kind of ice cream is custard-based: cream cooked with egg yolks to thicken. Egg yolks are the miraculous, natural ingredient that makes perfectly velvety ice creams. They also preserve the ice cream’s perfect texture in the freezer for a long time. The cocoa powder is enough to cover any egg taste so that the ice cream benefits from the presence of egg yolks -a perfect mouthfeel and texture- and is perfectly chocolate-y at the same time. If you want an eggless alternative, click here.

The Biterkin tricks to a perfect custard Cocoa Ice Cream:

Making custard-based ice cream the usual way may feel intimidating because you need to cook the custard until thickened (80ºC/176ºF). If you do not have a thermometer, you may find yourself stirring over the stovetop, feeling unsure if it is ready.

In this recipe, a unique, simple method is used, which only requires that you:

  1. properly weigh the ingredients
  2. make sure the egg yolks are cold from the refrigerator and
  3. the dairy comes to a full boil

Why it works: when we pour (X) boiling liquid into (Y) fridge-cold egg yolks while whisking the egg yolks vigorously, the final mixture (X+Y) instantly reaches the desired temperature, approximately 80ºC/176ºF.

This method comes after years of personal observation in ice cream making, and you will likely not find it anywhere else.

You can replace regular sugar with good-quality raw cane sugar, such as Demerara or Turbinado, which are very aromatic, thanks to their natural content in molasses and have an earthy, slightly caramelised aroma.
By replacing regular sugar with raw cane sugar like the above, you boost the cocoa flavour of the ice cream, creating the ultimate chocolate ice cream experience.
Choose good-quality raw cane sugar, one which smells divine when you sniff it. The best Demerara sugar is known to originate from the island of Mauritius, so check the label for the origin.

The ingredients:

This is what you will need:

Every ingredient plays a vital role in the recipe. Do not attempt to reduce or replace anything; everything is there for a reason. Look out for these:

The recipe at a glance:

Here is a quick overview of the recipe. If you are new to making ice cream, read the recipe before proceeding.

Note that the colour of your ice cream mixture depends on the cocoa powder and the chocolate you will use, so its hue may differ from that of the photos.

Cocoa Powder Ice Cream | with egg yolks
Cocoa Powder Ice Cream
with egg yolks

For best results, use a digital kitchen scale and measure the ingredients directly into the bowl/saucepan, as you proceed with the recipe. 

For volume measurements:

1 cup (US) = 236 | 1 Tbs. = 15 ml

– for sugar: measuring sugar in tablespoons is more accurate than measuring it in cups. Use a 15 ml measuring tablespoon; this is 10 gr of sugar. Do not use a regular tablespoon. To measure correctly, each time you scoop the sugar, level it with the flat side of a knife.

– for cocoa powder: first, sift the cocoa powder into a bowl and then measure by the spoonful by gently taking a spoonful at a time and levelling it with the flat side of a knife. Measure the cocoa powder right after sifting it, as its volume lessens while it sits.

– for liquid ingredients: make sure that you thoroughly scrape with a rubber spatula the cup every time you measure something and empty it.

Any unsweetened cocoa powder will do.
Use your favourite unsweetened cocoa powder, or choose a cocoa powder judging by its aroma and colour. A dark brown colour and a lovely cocoa aroma are good indicators for the maximum chocolate flavour in the ice cream.

Dutch-processed cocoa is a good choice for it has a rich flavour and colour, but you can also use natural cocoa powder or raw cacao powder.

Use only regular sugar (white granulated sugar) or raw cane sugar such as Turbinado or Demerara.

Do not use:

  • sugar substitutes, such as table sweeteners or stevia
  • confectioner’s sugar
  • honey or other liquid sweeteners, natural or artificial

Use heavy cream with 35-40% fat content and pourable consistency. “Ultra-pasteurised cream” and “cream suitable for whipping” with 35-40% fat are ok, too. Avoid any cream which contains sugar or other sweeteners.

You can combine double cream with whole milk to make heavy cream for this recipe. To make 460 gr (16.2 oz.) heavy cream, you need:

  • 330 gr double cream (11.6 oz.) (appr. 50% fat)
  • 130 gr/ml whole milk (4.6 oz.) (appr. 3.5% fat) *

To make the heavy cream, put the double cream in a large bowl, then pour in the milk, a little at a time, stirring smoothly with a rubber spatula until smooth. Avoid whisking, as it may turn into whipped cream.

The resulting heavy cream has 36% fat, perfect for this ice cream. Proceed with the recipe, just as if you had the 460 gr (16.2 oz.) heavy cream needed. 

*this 130 gr (4.6.oz.) milk is extra to the 390 gr milk (13.8 oz) asked in the recipe. If using double cream, you need in total 520 gr milk (18.4 oz.), from which:

  • 390 gr (13.8 oz.) are for the recipe; and
  • 130 gr (4.6 oz.) are mixed with the double cream to make heavy cream

Egg yolks must be fridge-cold, or else they will cook from the boiling cream when you pour it over them.

Use a scale to weigh the egg yolks. 

If you do not have a scale, use egg yolks from 4 eggs in the range of 65 – 75 gr; 2.3 – 2.65 oz, approximately (this is the weight of a whole egg, in its shell). These eggs are labelled as:

  • Large (L) in the UK
  • Extra-Large (XL) in the USA
  • Jumbo in Australia

TIP: to separate the egg yolk from the white, do it when the eggs are cold from the fridge, as the egg yolks are firmer and are easy to handle.

A flexible rubber spatula is good for:
-wiping the bottom of the saucepan when cooking dairy on the stovetop.
-scraping residues from bowls, saucepans etc.
If you do not have one, I strongly encourage you to buy one, preferably a flexible one.

Use a saucepan with a long handle to make the custard in step 2. The long handle makes it easy to hold the saucepan with one hand and pour the boiling cream while you whisk the egg yolks with the other.
Bonus tip: put a towel under the bowl with the egg yolks to keep it in place while whisking.

Plan ahead:

Make the ice cream mixture (steps 1-3) one day before churning it.

If your ice cream maker has a removable freezer bowl, put it in the freezer for the whole time indicated by the manufacturer before churning, usually 24 hours.

Step 1: Make the cocoa-milk

Place a rubber spatula and a whisk on a plate next to the stovetop to have them close and ready to use interchangeably.

Sift the cocoa powder (50 gr; 1.8 oz; 10 Tbs.) through a fine-mesh sieve and into a small bowl. Do not skip sifting, even if it seems unnecessary.

Warm the milk with the cocoa: in a medium saucepan, put the milk (390 gr; 13.8 oz.; 1⅔ cups), the cocoa powder and 3/4 gr of the sugar (156 gr; 5.5 oz.; 12 Tbs.). Warm over medium heat, often whisking until very hot and steamy and the cocoa has fully dissolved. Do not let it come to a boil. Remove from the heat.

Strain the cocoa-milk through a fine-mesh sieve and into a bowl while it is still hot. Set aside to cool down while you prepare the custard.

Step 2: Make the custard

Prepare the egg yolks: put the cold egg yolks (80 gr; 2.8 oz.) in a large heatproof bowl, and whisk them lightly to break them down. Put them in the fridge to keep them cold, keeping the whisk in the bowl. Aim to proceed with the recipe as soon as possible, as the egg yolks dry out quickly.

Boil the cream and the rest of the sugar: place the heavy cream (460 gr/ml; 16.2 oz; 1¾ cup plus 50 ml) and the rest of the sugar (52 gr; 1.8 oz; 4 Tbs.) in a medium saucepan; you can use the same saucepan as in the previous step, no need to rinse. Warm over medium heat, often stirring with the rubber spatula until the sugar dissolves.

Increase the heat to high and remove the egg yolks from the fridge. 

Pour the boiling cream into the egg yolks: when the cream comes to a full boil (large bubbles begin to cover the surface), remove it from the heat, and immediately start pouring it in a slow, steady stream into the cold egg yolks with one hand, while whisking them vigorously with the other.

When boiling the milk, water evaporates; an excessive loss of water results in less water and more sugar in the ice cream mixture. During churning, the ice cream will not fluff up and become sloppy.
Do not worry about it too much, though. Keep an eye and remove the milk from the heat when the first bubbles appear on the surface.

Stir: with the rubber spatula, stir well and thoroughly, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl.

You have to stir the custard with a rubber spatula while it is still hot, thoroughly scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl, where residues of egg yolk lie. Those residues, which you cannot see, should be incorporated into the mixture while it is still hot. Stirring also makes the custard thicken slightly.

Step 3: Chill the ice cream mixture

Mix the cocoa-milk with the custard: pour the cocoa-milk into the custard scraping all residues from the bowl. Stir until it is a uniform brown colour with no streaks. This is your ice cream mixture.

Strain the ice cream mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and back into a bowl (you can use the same bowl the cocoa-milk was in).

Cool it down: prepare an ice bath by putting ice cubes and cold water in a large bowl and carefully nest the bowl with the ice cream mixture in it, taking care that no water slips into it. Let it cool down for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Chill thoroughly: the ice cream mixture should come to fridge-cold temperature before you churn it with the ice cream maker; to chill it, use one of the two methods below (click on methods to read more):

When you have time, prefer the slow method to mature the ice cream mixture and improve its flavours. If you are in a hurry, you will be happy to know that most people do not notice this flavour improvement, so feel free to shortcut.
When choosing the fast method, consider that it needs more ice than an average household usually holds.

When churning with a domestic ice cream maker, your ice cream mixture should always be thoroughly chilled. Otherwise, if the ice cream mixture is not cold enough, the ice cream maker may not churn it to its fullest potential, resulting in a sloppy liquid vs fluffy ice cream.

Step 4: Churn the ice cream

Check the ice cream mixture if it is thoroughly cold before churning: it should feel fridge-cold to the touch (or if you have an instant-read thermometer, it should read 4ºC–10ºC / 39ºF-50ºF). 

Prepare the ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

Stir: this cocoa ice cream mixture may become very thick after chilling, so give it a thorough and vigorous stirring with a rubber spatula to loosen it; this will allow it to churn for longer and to acquire a better texture.

The ice cream mixture will become thicker after chilling it, but it should still be pourable and fluid. If the ice cream mixture is too thick (like yoghurt), stir it vigorously to loosen it or blend it briefly for 5 seconds with an immersion/regular blender. Why do we do that? If the ice cream mixture is thick, it will quickly become too stiff during churning; and the ice cream maker will stop sooner than it should. In this case, the ice cream will be sloppy instead of fluffy.

So if you are after fluffy, mousse-like ice cream, take the time to bring the ice cream mixture to a fluid consistency before churning it.

Churn: with the machine running, pour the ice cream mixture through the canister and into the ice cream maker.

Leave to churn until fluffed up and creamy; depending on your ice cream maker this can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes; (see below).

This cocoa ice cream will expand and fluff up during churning. It is ready when it looks smooth and fluffy, with a mousse-like consistency. That could take anywhere from 30-60 minutes, depending on your ice cream maker.

To evaluate if it is ready, lift a spoonful; it should be thick enough to stand on the spoon, but it will be still soft like soft-serve ice cream. If you lift ice cream with the spoon and a pool immediately starts forming on its edges, you will have to churn it for longer.
In any case, if you feel doubts about the consistency, leave it to churn for ten minutes more. But beware: at this stage, do not expect it to be like store-bought carton ice cream; for now, it should be more like soft-serve ice cream. It will firm up and become like store-bought ice cream only after it sets in the freezer.

So, stop the ice cream maker when thick and creamy, as described above. If you leave to churn it for much longer, it will start turning grainy.

Warning: some ice cream makers are programmed to automatically stop after a specific length of time, which doesn’t make sense because the ice cream may need to churn for more to reach its fullest potential. So, if you notice that your ice cream maker stops on its own and upon checking the ice cream, you find that it is sloppy instead of fluffy, try to turn the machine on again and leave it to churn until it reaches the desired texture.

Step 5: Put in the freezer to set

Put in the freezer to set: before serving the ice cream or removing it to a container for storage, you have to put it in the freezer to set. Remove the removable freezer bowl (still filled with the ice cream) from the ice cream machine, cover it and put it in the freezer to set. Setting time depends highly on the type of ice cream maker you use; see notes below for indicative times

If you intend to transfer the ice cream to a container to store the ice cream, place this container in the freezer well ahead of time, too; this will prevent the ice cream from melting upon contact with it.

Serve or store: when it sets, you can serve it directly from the removable freezer bowl or transfer it to an airtight container for storage.

The setting time for the ice cream largely depends on the type of ice cream maker you use.

It can take :

  • 3-5 hours for removable freezer bowls (these are the ice cream maker bowls which should pre-freeze before churning)
  • 1-2 hours for aluminium bowls (these are the bowls from compressor ice cream makers)

Note: the times given are indicative. Setting time depends on many factors. Check it occasionally while it is in the freezer. To evaluate if the ice cream has set, insert a knife into it, all the way to the bottom: 

  • when it is ready, it is soft enough to insert the knife into it and yet has the same consistency from top to bottom. If you have an instant-read thermometer, this is at -11ºC / 12ºF,
  • not ready yet: it will feel hard on the top and softer as you go down
  • if left in the freezer for too long: it will be too hard for the knife to insert into it and too hard to remove from the ice cream bowl. Do not worry, though! Just read below how to soften it.

Straight after churning, the ice cream has a soft-serve consistency and melts immediately upon contact with anything. This makes it impossible to serve or transfer to another container.

Putting it in the freezer after churning, sets it and brings it to the right consistency, similar to that of an ice cream parlour’s.

If the ice cream stays in the removable freezer bowl for too long, it will harden and will be difficult to remove or serve.

Do not worry though, you can still make it scoopable by leaving it in the refrigerator to soften. This can take :

  • anywhere from 4 to 10 hours for removable freezer bowls which must be frozen before churning
  • 1-2 hours for aluminium bowls (these are the bowls from compressor ice cream makers)

(Note: the time given is indicative, actual time may vary depending on many factors, so do check it once in a while while it sits in the refrigerator).

After this, the ice cream will be easier to scoop and transfer to another container; or serve directly from the removable freezer bowl.

Storage and serving
Storage: in the freezer for one month, covered well to protect it from absorbing the freezer’s smells. 
Scooping: this ice cream, like all artisanal ice creams, freezes hard in the long term. To soften it to a perfectly scoopable consistency, put it in the refrigerator for one hour. 

If you have an instant-read thermometer, the perfect serving temperature of this cocoa ice cream is when the thermometer inserted midway through the ice cream, reads around -11ºC / 12ºF. At this temperature the ice cream is perfectly scoopable and with the most satisfying mouthfeel.

Use a rubber spatula: 

A flexible rubber spatula is useful for:

-wiping the bottom of the saucepan when cooking dairy on the stovetop

-scraping residues which would be otherwise left behind in bowls, saucepans etc.

If you do not have one, I strongly encourage you to buy one, preferably a flexible one.

Use a saucepan with a long handle: 

Using a saucepan with a long handle in step 2 is useful for easily pouring  the boiling cream with one hand, while whisking the egg yolks vigorously with the other.

Bonus tip: put a towel under the bowl with the egg yolks, to keep it in place while whisking.

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