I Scream, You Scream: Rich Chocolate Sherbet and Rocky Road Redux

I hope you rested up after National Doughnut Day yesterday, because today is National Chocolate Ice Cream Day! Come to think of it, you better pace yourself because June is packed full of sweet food holidays. Oh, and in case you missed it, National Rocky Road Ice Cream Day was on June 2, but don’t worry, with the recipe below, you can still indulge.

Dark Chocolate Sherbet with Easter Rocky Road pieces
Dark Chocolate Sherbet with Easter Rocky Road pieces

After my adventures with orange sorbet last week, I was inspired to come up with a delicious, non-dairy treat for National Chocolate Ice Cream Day. Now, this is the kind of problem solving that I enjoy: What could I make that is dairy-free, but still creamy and indulgent with a rich chocolate flavor — and is as easy and fast to make as sorbet? The answer: Dark Chocolate Sherbet made with almond milk! Even better? Dress it up with chocolate chunks, marshmallows, or even pieces of Easter Rocky Road. Don’t get me wrong — ice cream is a delicious warm-weather treat (and I am a big fan of a certain Mission-based ice cream maker, but I digress…) But what if your diet excludes dairy? You shouldn’t have to miss out on all the fun!

So, what is sherbet exactly? In the world of frozen desserts, sherbet falls between sorbet and ice cream. It’s typically made with milk and sugar (and sometimes egg), and the milk in sherbet can be dairy or plant-based. If you read last week’s post on orange sorbet, then you know that sorbet is a frozen dessert that is a combination of fruit juice or purée and sugar syrup. It’s dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan (if you don’t use honey), and low-fat. Ice cream is a frozen dessert that has a sweetened cream or custard base. It isn’t dairy-free, vegan, or low-fat — and as for gluten-free, well that depends on the brand. (Of course, if you make your own, you can decide what goes in your ice cream!) However, flavor-wise it’s more versatile than sorbet in that you can create a wider variety of flavor profiles.

Sherbet gives you the best of both worlds. The addition of milk in sherbet, whether of the dairy or plant variety, adds fat, which gives sherbet a creamier mouthfeel than sorbet, but doesn’t have the all-out richness of ice cream. (Yes, you can choose a nonfat milk for sherbet, but I recommend using a milk with some fat in it for flavor and mouthfeel.) You can also get a little more creative with your sherbet flavors, and you can add “mix ins” — pieces of chocolate, fruit, or marshmallows. In terms of process, making sherbet takes about as much time as sorbet, and you don’t have to test the sugar density of the mixture, so no egg test or refractometer is required.

A couple of notes on ingredients for the recipe below:
I use a dark, rich cocoa powder for this recipe (Cacao Barry or Valrhona), but feel free to use what you have on hand. Also, I used lightly sweetened almond milk (about 5 grams of sugars per 8 ounce serving). If your almond milk is significantly sweeter, you might want to reduce the sugar a bit.

Recipe: Dark Chocolate Sherbet
Yield: About 1 quart of sherbet

What you need:

Rubber spatula
2-quart saucepan
Fine-mesh strainer
1-quart container, preferably at least 6″ tall
Large bowl or 4-quart container for ice bath
Ice cream maker
Container for freezing sorbet, 1 quart or larger

Note that I’ve given the weight and volume measurements below, except for chocolate, which I always recommend weighing for your recipes.

18 ounces (2¼ cups) almond milk
5 ounces (½ cup + 2 tablespoons) sugar
1½ ounces glucose or light corn syrup
2 ounces (½ cup) cocoa powder
5 ounces dark chocolate, 61-70% cacao, chopped finely
1 teaspoon vanilla extractingredients

Optional: Want to dress up your sherbet?
Cut 4 pieces of Easter Rocky Road (2″ x 2″) into small pieces, approximately ¼ – ½ inch. Total: about 1 cup of small pieces.

How to:

  1. Combine almond milk, sugar, and glucose or corn syrup in a 2-quart saucepan. Heat until glucose (or corn syrup) and sugar melt, stirring occasionally.

    Combine almond milk, sugar, and glucose or corn syrup and bring to a simmer
    Combine almond milk, sugar, and glucose or corn syrup on stovetop
  2. When the almond milk is just coming to a simmer (tiny bubbles appearing around the edge of the pot), whisk in the cocoa powder.

    Whisking in the cocoa powder
    Whisking in the cocoa powder
  3. Bring to a low boil for one minute, then remove from heat and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.
    If you have an instant-read thermometer, check the temperature of the hot cocoa mixture. You want it to cool to 150165°F.
  4. Meanwhile, place chopped chocolate in a medium-sized, microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave on 50% power for 30-second increments, stirring each time, until chocolate has melted.
    You want the chocolate to be completely melted, but not too hot. If you have an instant-read thermometer, check the temperature. Ideally it should be about 110°F.
  5. Slowly and continuously pour the hot cocoa mixture from the saucepan into the center of the melted chocolate while stirring the chocolate continuously. Make sure that you’re stirring in the center of the bowl, not around the edges. You can put a wet towel or rubber jar opener under the bowl to keep it from moving.
    You’re slowly adjusting the temperature and viscosity of the melted chocolate so that it’s easier to incorporate the hot cocoa mixture. And yes, you’re essentially making a very thin ganache here. 

    Adding hot almond milk-cocoa mixure to melted chocolate
    Adding hot almond milk-cocoa mixture to melted chocolate
  6. Whisk in the vanilla extract.
  7. Strain the sherbet mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a 1-quart container.
    Straining makes sure that there are no unincorporated lumps of cocoa powder or solids from the almond milk.

    Straining the chocolate sherbet mixture
    Straining the chocolate sherbet mixture
  8. Prepare an ice bath for cooling the sherbet mixture by adding ice and water to a container large enough to hold the sherbet container.
  9. Place the sherbet mixture container into the ice bath and then chill the sherbet mixture (in the ice bath) in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours.
    The mixture will thicken as it cools. Your sherbet will churn and freeze more quickly if the mix has been chilled.

    Sherbet mix (in the metal container) in an ice bath
    Sherbet mix (in the metal container) in an ice bath
  10. After chilling the sherbet mix, prepare your ice cream maker. Pour the chocolate sherbet mixture into your ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s directions.
    Mine takes 25-30 minutes to churn. Your mileage may vary.

    Oh my... Rich chocolate sherbet churning away
    Oh my… Rich chocolate sherbet churning away
  11. While the sherbet is churning in the ice cream maker, place a 1-quart container for the sherbet in the freezer.
    You want to transfer your churned sherbet (which is partially frozen) into a chilled container to reduce melting on contact.
  12. Optional: During the last 5 minutes of processing, add Easter Rocky Road pieces to the churning chocolate sherbet.
    You might need to mix them in a bit more when you transfer the sherbet to the chilled container.
  13. Transfer the sherbet to the chilled container and freeze for 4 hours before serving.
  14. To serve, let the sherbet sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before scooping.
    The sherbet is best when it’s a bit soft and gooey. Enjoy!choc-sherbet-scoop

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