I hosted an ice cream and movie party after picking up David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop from the library. Some flavors, like green pea ice cream, were a little out there (but then again, even Le Berthillon sells foie gras ice cream). Gianduja seemed like a safer choice since everyone likes hazelnut and chocolate. Plus, I learned a really cool tip for making the chocolate stracciatella - tiny chocolate shards that permeate the creamy ice cream so you get a little bit of (alarmingly addictive) crunch with every bite. But more on that later.
I wasn't really planning on making strawberry ice cream until I came back with a 5 lb flat of strawberries from Costco. Yes, I realize they weren't fraise du bois, but they smelled pretty good and I couldn't resist the bargain. I used a old-school recipe from Alice Waters The Art of Simple Food, but tweaked it a little by marinating the strawberries with balsamic vinegar and some home-grown basil leaves. I couldn't really taste the basil, but the balsamic vinegar definitely enhanced the fruitiness of the strawberries.
Heat 3/4 cup half-and-half and 1/2 cup of sugar over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. While hot, whisk a little of the hot liquid into the egg yolks to temper them, then whisk the yolks into the rest of the hot liquid. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Strain, and add 3/4 cup heavy cream. Cover and chill.
Slice 1 1/2 pint strawberries, stir in 1/4 cup of sugar (plus vinegar and/or basil to taste). Let the berries marinate until the sugar is melted and the berries turn glossy. Puree the strawberries (I like my ice cream smooth, you can mash it for a chunkier texture), then add it to the cold custard. It makes a really mesmerizing pattern when you begin to stir in the strawberry puree.
Flavor with a pinch of salt and a few drops of vanilla extract and kirsch (optional, but I do love the smell of kirsch). Chill thoroughly, then churn in ice cream maker following manufacturer's instructions.
Toast 1 1/2 cup of hazelnuts. Rub to remove their skin, then finely chop with the kitchen tool of your choice. Warm 1 cup whole milk with 1 cup of cream, 3/4 cup sugar, and 1/4 tsp salt. Add chopped hazelnuts to warmed mixture, then cover and let steep for 1 hour. Strain and discard the hazelnuts. You will be rewarded with a richly aromatic elixir that's quite nice to drink, especially with a shot of kahlua and some ice cubes...
Ahem. If you still want to make ice cream, chop 4 ounces milk chocolate. Heat 1 cup of cream, then pour it over the milk chocolate. Stir until homogeneous.
Whisk together 5 egg yolks. Rewarm the hazelnut infusion, then slowly pour it into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Pour the warmed egg yolk and cream mixture back into the pan and cook until it thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Strain the hazelnut custard and add it to the milk chocolate mixture. Add 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract and cool over an ice bath. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator, then churn in ice cream maker following manufacturer's instructions.
Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about the stracciatella.
Melt 5 ounces dark chocolate, then drizzle it slowly into the ice cream machine while the ice cream is almost finished churning. The churning motion will break up the rapidly solidifying chocolate stream into tiny shards. I was skeptical when I first read about it, but it really works!