While you could buy your ice-cream, soften it and spread into a tray, then refreeze, homemade ice-cream is denser and therefore takes longer to melt, so gives you a longer window in which to work with it - and I reckon it also tastes yummier! I won't go into the ice-cream making process (click here to see some of my favourite recipes) but more how to make it into single-serve, chocolate covered treats.
The first time I made these I went for regular vanilla ice-cream, with dark chocolate. I used quality couverture chocolate, which should be tempered (a bit more on that soon) but actually, because you freeze these and eat them cold you'd probably be able to get away without tempering (the chocolate won't have the nice gloss and may bloom (i.e. go whitish) but it should still taste fine).
The general idea is that you make the ice-cream, churn it and then set it in something that allows you to cut it into bars to your liking. The bars from my first batch were waaaaaay too big - the ice-creams were about the same dimensions as a bought ice-cream, but then I dipped them (which makes them thicker), and the ice-cream is much richer anyway so you don't need anywhere near as much. For the second batch I went for more bite-sized portions, and they're much more sensible. If the cravings don't go away after one you can always sneak another! ;-)
To coat the bars in chocolate, first make sure your ice-cream is really cold. You should be able to turn down your freezer - ours has a thermostat in the freezer, and older models are usually set by the same thermostat as the fridge, so turning the fridge down makes the freezer colder (just move lettuce and tomatoes and anything else that might suffer from frost away from the coldest bits if you do this!). This will of course make any other ice-cream unscoopable and generally be colder than necessary, so remembering to turn it back up afterwards is good.
Tempering chocolate seems pretty fussy, and a digital thermometer is fairly essential (as well as a hairdryer!), but the actual process isn't so much hard as time-consuming. For a while in the middle you can wander off and read a book/watch telly/play on your computer though, so it's not that bad. The overall idea is to warm the chocolate enough to melt it, not past a certain temperature (the temperature itself will vary depending on whether you're using dark, milk or white chocolate), cool it to a lower temperature at which it's still liquid but crystallisation starts to occur, stir it for a bit, keeping it at that temperature, then warm it up a tiny bit to remelt it so you can do your thing. If you want to master this I strongly recommend the courses run by Jiri/George at Bohemien - he really knows his stuff!
Melting the chocolate you want to make sure it doesn't get too hot - 45 degrees C for dark chocolate, or 40 C for milk and white chocolate. Stir it for a bit and set it aside to cool - you want to bring it down to 27 degrees. At that temperature the magical happy crystallisation occurs - that's what makes the chocolate set hard and glossy. They take a wee while to seed, and stirring helps ensure they form throughout the chocolate so once you get to 27 stir for a few minutes while keeping the chocolate at that temperature (use a hairdryer on low power to bring it back up if it drops slightly). You should notice the chocolate thicken as the crystals form, and you can check if it's ready by dipping a knife in it or spreading a little bit on baking paper and seeing how quickly it sets - it shouldn't take more than five minutes to harden. If it doesn't set keep stirring until it does!
When it's ready to use, heat it up to between 32 and 34 degrees C - this should bring it back to liquid without destroying the chemical structure you've just carefully created. You can then use it for whatever you want - for example, for dipping ice-cream bars into!
Have some baking paper ready to put your dipped bars onto, then just go ahead - put one into the chocolate, then turn it over until fully coated and take it out. You could use two forks for this but I found my fingers to be the best tools - messy, but you get to lick them at the end! ;-)
I also decided to top the bars with a bit of toasted coconut - to be honest this didn't add much to the eating for me, but they look pretty! If you want to do this heat coconut in a frypan for a few minutes before you get to the dipping stage, then add it immediately on removing each bar from the chocolate bowl.
As the chocolate cools down you can rewarm it, again with a hairdryer (this allows you to control the heat more effectively, and as soon as the heat source is turned off the heating stops), to the 32-34 degree range to keep it workable.
When the bars are finished package them up and put them in the freezer. I wrapped mine in tinfoil as it does a good job of protecting against freezer burn, but an airtight container (perhaps with layers of baking paper to prevent sticking) would also work. And you're all ready to enjoy them as you please!
I thought these were delicious - they're not lasting anywhere near as long as I think they should but I'm definitely enjoying them so I guess that's all right. They're fernickety to make but I think worth the effort - ten times better than store bought and I can make whatever flavour combo I feel like (toasted coconut/white chocolate is a major winner, by the way).
Do you save ice-cream for the summer months, or enjoy it year round? Do you have a favourite bought ice-cream?
Toasted Coconut Ice-Cream Bars (Coconut Ice-Cream from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz)
1 cup dried shredded coconut (extra 1/3 cup for topping optional)1 cup milk
2 cups cream
3/4 cup sugar
Big pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise or 1 tsp vanilla paste
5 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract, or 1 tsp rum
600g good quality chocolate (white, milk or dark; it's up to you!)
In a frypan over medium heat gently stir the coconut until it turns golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a medium saucepan, warm the milk, 1 cup of cream, sugar, and salt and 1 cup of toasted coconut. Add the vanilla seeds and pod or vanilla paste to the warm milk. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
Rewarm the coconut-infused mixture. Set a mesh strainer over another medium saucepan and strain the coconut-infused liquid through the strainer into the saucepan. Press down on the coconut very firmly with a spatula to extract as much of the flavor from it as possible. Remove the vanilla bean halves (both the vanilla pod and coconut can be used for other purposes - vanilla to flavour sugar; the coconut makes good macaroons, though you may need to add extra coconut to account for the wetness)
Pour the remaining cream into a large bowl and set the mesh strainer on top. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm coconut-infused mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Mix in the vanilla or rum and stir over an ice bath until cool.
Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight, then churn in your ice cream maker. While churning, line a shallow tin (e.g. a brownie tin or square cake tin) with baking paper. When thick and creamy, spread the ice-cream into the prepared tin, cover and place in the freezer for several hours until firm.
Cut the ice-cream into bars, then place back in the freezer, turning the freezer as cold as it can go to ensure they are as firm as possible.
Place a large bowl over a saucepan with a couple of cups of simmering water in it (the water shouldn't touch the bowl). Add the chocolate and stir until melted and smooth, removing the bowl from the saucepan once the temperature reaches 40 degrees C (45 for dark chocolate).
Leave the chocolate to cool, checking periodically. When it reaches 27 degrees C, stir constantly for several minutes, until the chocolate starts to thicken. Test by dipping a knife in and waiting to see if it sets - it should harden within 5 minutes. Once the chocolate is ready rewarm it to between 32 and 34 degrees C.
Remove the ice-cream bars from the freezer and lay a sheet of baking paper down. Dip the ice-cream bars into the chocolate one by one, using forks or your fingers to ensure they are fully coated. Top immediately with additional coconut if you wish. Wrap in tinfoil or place in an airtight container and store in the freezer until ready to be eaten. These will be best eaten within two weeks of being made.