Cold As Ice...

It's somewhat mystifying to me that even after almost two years of blogging, there are still beloved foods and recipes that I've failed to write about. For instance, though I've mentioned it several times, I still haven't talked about my favorite, fool-proof, insanely delicious chocolate cake recipe (though it is on the docket, as I'm planning on baking one for my birthday unless some other whim captures me). Also, I've somehow managed to go the last two years without making one of my favorite frozen desserts -- chocolate sorbet.

I know what you're thinking: "Chocolate sorbet? How does that work?" Sorbets often get a bad rap for being icy and lacking the smooth, unctuous mouth-feel of ice cream, but I can assure you, a properly made sorbet can be just as velvety as its dairy-based brethren; the secret is to make sure the mixture is very, very cold before churning, which prevents the creation of large ice crystals caused by rapid chilling, and in some cases, to add a small amount of alcohol to the sorbet mix, both as a flavor enhancer and to lower the freezing point of the sorbet which also prevents a hard, icy consistency.

Sorbets were actually my initiation into the world of frozen dessert making, as I was intimidated at the time by the custards required for ice cream. I began with simple combinations of pureed fruits, sugar, and alcohol, and my initial successes included a raspberry sorbet so much more delicious than any I'd ever had before that I couldn't help but continue in my explorations. Soon, I'd obtained a copy of David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop, and a electric ice cream machine.

It was in that book that I spotted a recipe for chocolate sorbet, which struck me as a novel concept. It would be less caloric than chocolate ice cream due to the lack of cream and milk (though still not healthy by any stretch of the imagination), and I would be able to avoid learning how to make a custard base for a little longer. I made my first batch, and I was completely unprepared for how intense it was. Without the dairy to mellow the chocolate flavors, the sorbet was somehow more chocolatey than chocolate itself. It is, quite possibly, the most chocolatey dessert I've ever consumed in my life, and I've eaten a lot of chocolate in my 25 years.

I made this particular batch for a variety of reasons. Primarily, I'm playing hostess this weekend to my college friend, Joy, who is in town for a convention. I wanted to have a homemade treat on hand to offer her, but I couldn't get myself excited about anything in my baking repertoire. Instead, the recent scant increase in temperatures and lengthening hours of sunlight had brought thoughts of summer delicacies to my mind. I settled on chocolate sorbet after a conversation with Justin, in which he expressed his skepticism over the idea of chocolate sorbet, and I knew it was time to spread the gospel of this unusual dessert. Both Justin and Joy were easily converted by the unmitigated deliciousness that is this chocolate sorbet, and if you have an ice cream maker, I promise you will be too. Nothing will satisfy a chocolate craving like this can. Just trust me...

Chocolate Sorbet

adapted from The Perfect Scoop

2 1/4 c. water
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. unsweetened, Dutch-process cocoa powder

Pinch of salt

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups water, sugar, cocoa powder, and pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Let it boil, continuing to whisk, for 45 seconds.
Remove from heat and stir in the chopped chocolate until it's melted, then stir in the vanilla extract and remaining 3/4 c. of water. Pour mixture into a glass bowl and blend with an immersion blender for one minute. Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

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