For me and many others, the arrival of spring was heralded not by the vernal equinox nor by the springing forward of clocks but by the appearance of Cadbury Creme Eggs in grocery and drug stores. (With global warming messing everything up these days, such material signs might soon be the only evidence of seasonal change remaining.)
It could be argued that Creme Eggs only taste as good as they do because they are available for a limited time. If distance makes the heart grow fonder, then corporate-induced scarcity makes the stomach grow hungrier.
This year I stocked up and hatched (Hatched. Get it?) a plan to take my Creme Egg obsession where it had never gone before. To ice cream.
The most challenging part of making this ice cream was breaking the Creme Eggs into pieces small enough to mix into my ice cream maker without jamming the machine and burning out the motor. I knew that cracking the eggs open would result in a useless, gooey mess, so I decided to freeze the eggs first. But whereas a block of frozen chocolate can easily be broken into tiny pieces if hit with a wooden hammer or smashed against a counter top, frozen fondant has the consistency of half-dried rubber cement and does not separate from itself so easily.
After freezing the eggs overnight (and after a failed attempt to smash the lot with the underside of a heavy saucepan) I resulted to chopping the eggs with a chef's knife. It worked perfectly, as seen above, although the friction of the blade caused the eggs to defrost a bit as I worked, so the pieces went back into the freezer after I finished.
The result, using a delicious recipe for double chocolate ice cream adapted from a Williams Sonoma cookbook, was some of the tastiest ice cream I've had in a while. Smooth chocolate ice cream hid chunks of chocolate shell and chewy bits of sugary white and yellow fondant. This is the stuff that I imagine Ben & Jerry's brainstorming meetings are made of. Now, if only we actually celebrated Easter.
Full recipe for the ice cream after the jump. It makes a little less than a quart, and for that amount I used about eight Creme Eggs and garnished the dish seen above with Cadbury Mini Eggs. Get 'em while you can!
Chocolate Ice Cream:
1.5 cups whole milk
1 cup + 1/2 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tsp vanilla extract
Combine the egg yolks, sugar, cocoa, salt, and 1/2 cup of the cream in a bowl. Whisk until the mixture is smooth, with no clumps of cocoa powder of sugar granules remaining.
Combine milk and the rest of the cream in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until bubbles form around the edge, stirring frequently.
Remove milk/cream mixture from heat. Slowly whisk about 1/2 cup of the hot mixture into bowl with the egg mixture. Whisk constantly until smooth and then pour the entire egg mixture into the saucepan.
Cook over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. This should take about five or six minutes.
Put the chocolate pieces in a heatproof bowl (Pyrex, metal, etc.) and pour the hot custard on top. Stir until the chocolate has melted evenly.
Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the custard into another bowl. (Don't worry if you're left with a little chocolate and custard at the end that doesn't want to go through the sieve. Push through what you can with a wooden spoon and forget about the rest.)
Add the vanilla and stir well.
Place the bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice cubes and water. Stir occasionally until cool. (If you've run out of bowls at this point, you can use a large casserole dish or anything larger than the bowl that holds your chocolate custard. You're just trying to cool down the mixture, so even putting a layer of water and ice in your sink would do the trick.)
Cover the custard with plastic wrap. You don't want any kind of skin from forming, so press the plastic wrap lightly onto the surface of the custard. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (Can be made up to one day ahead.)
Pour the custard into your ice-cream maker and let it work its magic. Freezing times vary by machine, but start adding the Creme Egg pieces about 3/4 of the way through the process.
Scoop the ice cream out of your ice-cream maker and into a freezer-safe container. Freeze for at least three hours.
Garnish with two or three Cadbury Mini Eggs or one Marshmallow Peep. Serve and enjoy.