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How to make the perfect chocolate sorbet – recipe | Ice cream and sorbet

Cchocolate sorbet may seem like a contradiction in terms; chocolate is such a classic combination with dairy that parting feels like cruelty. In fact, I like all types of ice cream, but in this case the absence of extra fat allows the chocolate to take center stage, making for a purer, more intense cocoa hit. When chocolate ice cream is best licked from the bottom of a dripping cone on a sunny afternoon by the sea, chocolate sorbet belongs in an elegant quenelle at the end of dinner – two different, but equally delicious, delights. You don’t see it often in stores (thankfully), thankfully it’s very easy to make, assuming you have an ice cream maker (sorry).

David Lebovitz's chocolate sorbet.
David Lebovitz’s chocolate sorbet contains a 3:1 chocolate:cocoa mix. Miniatures of Felicity.

The chocolate

The main difference between the recipes I try is in the way they achieve their chocolate flavor. Some, like the highly recommended sorbet from David Lebovitz’s Perfect Scoop, use three times as much chocolate as cocoa powder; some, like the one in Hannah Kaminsky’s Book, Vegan Desserts, use almost twice as much cocoa as chocolate; and others use either just chocolate (Linda Tubby’s Ices Italia) or just cocoa (The River Cafe).

Chocolate contains natural cocoa powder, mixed with cocoa butter, while cocoa powder also contains a small amount of cocoa butter – which one you choose depends on what kind of sorbet you are looking for. Lebovitz and Tubby’s have a sweet, crowd-pleasing richness, while the more cocoa-heavy examples have a simpler but more powerful flavor. If you’re looking for a vegan alternative to chocolate ice cream (and don’t want to replace an alternative dairy), I recommend Lebovitz’s excellent recipe, but if you want something distinctly different, light in texture and heavy on flavour, I think that cocoa is the right choice.

However, one of the hardest things about ice cream is getting the right texture – Lebovitz uses a blender to homogenize the mixture before freezing, while Morfudd Richards and the River Cafe pass the sorbet mix through a sieve to remove any lumps. With regard to cocoa in particular, it’s also important not only to let it bloom in boiling water for the best flavor possible, but to give it time to “cook out” as the River Cafe recipe clearly states. to a powdery, chalky consistency in the final product. Also don’t ignore Lebovitz’s tip to use the largest pan you have because, as I found to my expense, it cooks really enthusiastically.

the sugars

River Cafe's chocolate sorbet.
The River Cafe version gets its chocolate flavor from cocoa alone.

I say sugars because while everyone uses caster sugar as standard, some use it in unusual ways – especially important here, because, as Max Falkowitz points out on Serious Eats, “sugar doesn’t just sweeten sorbet — it’s responsible for sorbet’s structure”, it lowers the freezing point of the water in which it is dissolved. Richards uses a partially inverted bouillon syrup in her book Lola’s Ice Creams & Sundaes, which sounds complicated but is in fact just a sugar syrup with a little tartar and liquid glucose, which aids the formation of large ice or sucrose crystals for a smoother end result. It also adds body and lowers the freezing point, making the sorbet easier to scoop – but, crucially, it doesn’t taste as good with cocoa as alcohol, which is your other option to keep your sorbet from turning to stone in the freezer† Richards suggests vodka and the River Cafe brandy, in unnervingly generous amounts. I like the scoopability and the flavor combination, but I’m going to reduce the amount so there’s just a hint of booze next to the bittersweet cocoa. If you’d rather avoid it altogether, give corn syrup a try.

Martha Rose Shulman in the New York Times adds honey as well as sugar, but my testers and I can’t taste it in the finished sorbet, and it doesn’t seem to have helped soften it. Kaminsky, meanwhile, bases her sorbet on a caramel rather than a simple sugar syrup, which gives it a pleasing fudge-like complexity that is proving popular with testers — like a very mature frozen. Rolo

The extras

Interestingly, many restaurants (including another version of the River Cafe) have dairy products, mostly milk and sometimes protein, in their sorbet recipes – I decide not to try any of these, as I think most people expect their sorbets to be dairy-free, but I suppose it adds body, and is no doubt as delicious as all chocolate ice creams seem to be.

Although I chose to stick with the classic vanilla, chocolate goes so well with other flavors that you can get really creative with the basic recipe below. Shulman adds peppermint essence and infuses a mint tea bag into the mixture, as a tribute to a dessert at one of her favorite Parisian restaurants, Au Trou Gascony, which, as she puts it, gives “the suspense and depth of any dark chocolate dessert…with a light, refreshing quality,” and Linda Tubby uses a sprinkling of chili chocolate to add a subtle warmth to her sorbet. add. If you’ve got a yen to experiment — maybe with orange zest or ground cardamom or coffee — feel free, but keep in mind that flavors tarnish with freezing, so you may want to add a little more than is room temperature.

The perfect sorbet from Felicity Cloake.
Scooptastic: Felicity Cloake’s prototype perfect chocolate sorbet.

the churning

A big part of the fun of this recipe, in my opinion, is the silky texture, so I think you really need an ice cream maker for this, sorry. (And if you want to give it a try with the still freezing methodplease let me know how it works.)

Perfect chocolate sorbet

Preparation 5 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
Cool and chill 2 hours+
churn About 20 minutes
makes 600ml

100 g cocoa powder
175 g sugar
½ tsp salt
750ml water
30 ml brandy or golden rum
1 tsp vanilla extract

Felicity Cloake's Chocolate Sorbet 01a Place the cocoa, sugar, salt and water in a tall saucepan (it will bubble so the type of pan matters), stir, then place over medium heat and bring to a boil, whisking, until smooth mass.  Let it bubble for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn't stick and burn.

Place the cocoa, sugar, salt and water in a high saucepan (it will bubble, so pan type matters), stir to combine, then set over medium heat and bring to a boil, whisking, until smooth. Let it bubble for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick and burn.

Felicity Cloake's Chocolate Sorbet 02a Stir in the alcohol, remove the pan from the heat and add the vanilla extract.  Allow the mixture to cool slightly, pass through a fine sieve, allow to cool completely, then allow to cool for at least two hours.

Stir in the alcohol, remove the pan from the heat and add the vanilla extract. Allow the mixture to cool slightly, pass through a fine sieve, allow to cool completely, then allow to cool for at least two hours.

Felicity Cloake's Chocolate Sorbet 03b Once chilled, beat again until smooth, then spin in an ice cream maker until smooth and frozen - depending on your machine, you may need to freeze it for a few more hours before using, or you can serve straight away.  Once frozen, store in a sealed container in the freezer and remove at least 15 minutes before serving to give it a chance to soften.

Once cooled, whip again until smooth, then turn in an ice cream maker until smooth and frozen – depending on your machine, you may need to freeze it for a few more hours before using, or you may be able to serve it right away. Once frozen, store in a sealed container in the freezer and remove at least 15 minutes before serving to give it a chance to soften.

Chocolate sorbet from Felicity Cloake.
Done! Chocolate sorbet from Felicity Cloake.
  • Chocolate sorbet: the more serious cousin of chocolate ice cream, or the duller? What’s your favorite pairing with it (poached pears are actually a delicious match), and if you’ve eaten a truly memorable one, tell us where!

  • British readers: click to buy these ingredients from Ocado

  • Felicity Cloake’s new book, Red Sauce Brown Sauce: A British Breakfast Odyssey, is being published by HarperCollins for £16.99. To order a copy for £14.78, go to Guardianbookshop.com