Chocolate Salted Almond Ice Cream

The end of the school year has always signified the beginning of summer to me. When I was younger, the school bell ringing for the final time was the first glorious moment of summer. Even as I've grown older, I still wait to hear the toll of an imaginary school bell, letting me know it's time to put down work and go outside. Sometimes I think we all need these little reminders, imaginary or not.

Though the end of the school year is still a couple of weeks away, I find myself daydreaming of summer fun. I wish I could be ten again—young and carefree, with an endless summer stretching out before me.

Summer has always meant a bright sun, green grass, fresh fruit, grilled meat, and ice cream, usually in just that order. Though I do love to eat ice cream in winter, it just tastes better under a hot summer sun. When I was living in Madison, Wisconsin, there was an ice cream shop I passed every day on my walk to and from work. The ice cream was homemade and dirt cheap, luring me in a couple times a week. The only thing more formidable than that dangerously delicious combination was a buy-one-get-one-free coupon (and no one to share it with).

One evening after work, I made the only logical decision and used my coupon, buying two ice cream cones for myself—one for each hand—and made the trek back home. It was a very warm day and, with the sun beating down on my head, the ice cream began melting faster than I anticipated it would.

The ice cream began dripping down the sides of the cones. It would have been a challenge to keep up with one cone; with two, it was impossible. The ice cream melted right off of the cones and onto my hands. As I'd lift the cones to my mouth in a futile attempt to keep up, the ice cream that had pooled in my hands started running down my arms and dripping off my elbows. A trail of melted ice cream began following me on the sidewalk (and I began to regret my irresponsible decision to order two cones at once).

I was a sticky mess. My arms were covered in syrupy, sweet cream and my face must have looked a fright. In these dark ice cream moments, I passed a young child on a bike. After seeing the state I was in (the greed and regret over my two cones evidenced clearly on my arms and in my hands), he shook his head at me, showing obvious disapproval. When I finally made it home, I needed a shower to wipe away the ice cream shame.

The moral of this story is a simple one: if you're going to use a buy-one-get-one-free coupon on yourself, get that ice cream served in a bowl.

Chocolate Salted Almond Ice Cream is delightfully rich in chocolate with chopped roasted, salted almonds scattered throughout. This ice cream is made only with whole milk (not cream), but you'd never guess it for how rich, creamy, and naughty(!) it tastes. The almonds balance out the intensity of the chocolate, keeping the palate from becoming overwhelmed. I had a hard time staying away from this ice cream, stealing spoonfuls during dessert, midnight snacks, and before breakfast.

When you dream about an ice cream as lovely as this, it's only natural to want it first thing in the morning (or is that just me?).

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Chocolate Salted Almond Ice Cream

Yields about 1 quart

3 1/2 cups whole milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
5 ounces semisweet chocolate (or about 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 to 1 cup roasted, salted almonds, chopped (adjust to your liking)

In a large saucepan, bring the milk and sugar to a simmer. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. As soon as the milk is near boiling, pour it very slowly into egg yolks, whisking furiously. Place the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan and cook on a low simmer, stirring constantly, until custard thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Spoon out about 1/2 cup of the custard and whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Pour cocoa custard back into the saucepan. Whisk in the chocolate and stir until smooth. Stir in the vanilla extract. Chill custard until cool, 1-2 hours.

Freeze mixture in ice cream maker, following the manufacturer's instructions. When the ice cream is nearly finished churning, add the roasted, salted almonds to incorporate evenly. Store the ice cream in an airtight plastic container in the freezer. Allow to freeze for at least 2-3 hours before serving.