A Recipe From The Chef: Maida Heatter's Mexican Chocolate Sorbet

Maida's Chocolate Sorbet and Peanut Butter Cookie Dough
Maida's Chocolate Sorbet and Peanut Butter Cookie Dough

Amidst much talk this week of princesses, we have be focused on our chatting with our Queen. Maida Heatter, of course. Choosing what recipe to run has been the trickiest part. Should we run a brownie recipe? Perhaps, as Maida certainly didn't hold back on expressing her love for all things cakey/chewy/gooey in bite-sized chocolate form. A cake? Sure, as it is from whence her royal title hails. But we wanted something else, something that epitomized Maida's talent for taking everyday recipes and making them interesting -- or even just plain old good. And we wanted to make something that we imagine she still enjoys eating. Turn the page for her Mexican Chocolate Sorbet (she calls it sherbet; semantics) recipe. Turn the page.

We settled on the chocolate sorbet after Maida told us her favorite dessert was ice cream. It's not too heavy after dinner and has the perfect amount of sweetness and richness. With Maida, the ice cream must be chocolate, of course (flip through any of her cookbooks, Cookies, Cakes or otherwise, and you'll notice at least half the recipes are chocolate heavy). This sorbet recipe is in her Book Of Great Chocolate Desserts, still our favorite of her titles, and was intriguing in its simplicity. Cocoa powder, a little powdered coffee, sugar, water, a hint of spice.

The original recipe makes enough for four of our modern fancy self-churn gelato makers, so we cut it in half per Maida's instructions. Even still, we had too much to fit in our churn, so we saved it for a few days. We stirred the leftover sorbet base into an impromptu homemade vanilla custard, and our two nights of chocolate sorbet were capped off by a third of rich chocolate ice cream. Maida advised us not to experiment with recipes until we are comfortable in the kitchen, but we figure we would pass her test (we also cut down the sugar in the sorbet by ¼ cup; it was still more than sweet enough for our dark chocolate taste). Tonight, we'll be sandwiching the leftover ice cream between peanut butter cookies (Cookies, p. 182) that Maida intended for something else entirely. But we have a feeling she would approve.

Mexican Chocolate Sherbet

Adapted from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts.

Note: This will take much longer to churn than regular ice cream. You can freeze it while it is a thick slushy consistency and it will firm up nicely. Good cocoa powder is essential. We like the higher fat Dutch process and regular cocoa powders from Penzey's Spices. If all the chocolate base doesn't fit in your ice cream maker, you can spin it another day, or fold it into a vanilla custard base to make a chocolate ice cream.

Makes: About 1 1/2 quarts.

1 ¾ cups sugar

1 cup good-quality cocoa powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons dry instant coffee

5 cups water

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 tablespoon rum

1. Place the sugar, cocoa, salt, cinnamon, and instant coffee in a medium saucepan and stir to mix. Stir in the water. Place over moderate heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil. Adjust the heat so it does not boil over (watch it carefully), and let it boil, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

2. Mix in the vanilla and rum. Place in the freezer or refrigerate to chill a bit before freezing in the churn.

3. Freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions (this will take longer to freeze than a rich ice cream and will not be as solid). Serve it quickly in well-chilled glasses or bowls. Squid Ink Testing Note: Toss it in the freezer for half an hour before serving to firm the sorbet a little before serving; or freeze it overnight.

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