I found this recipe for one of the world’s easiest but most delicious desserts in a rather fabulous book, by chef and “culinary philosopher” Gioacchino Scognamiglio, called Il Chichibio: Ovvero Poesia Della Cucina, which translates as “The Gallant: or the Poetry of Cooking” (and Chichibio, I should also tell you, was a rakish Venetian cook in Boccaccio’s Decameron). At Scognamiglio’s instigation, I went to great lengths to acquire a bottle of Elisir San Marzano, which has a peculiarly Italian, chocolate-coffee-herbal hit. Feel free to use coffee liqueur or rum or, better still, a mixture of the two in its place. This is a no-churn affair. You mix everything together, wodge it into a loaf pan, freeze, and you’re done. I like this with a few raspberries to tumble around and a chocolate sauce to Jackson Pollock over it.
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate (min. 62% cocoa solids)
- 1 tablespoon Elisir San Marzano, or coffee liqueur and/or rum
- 4 ounces store–bought meringue cookies
To serve (optional)
- 1 batch chocolate sauce (see below)
- 8 ounces raspberries
- 1 x 1-pound loaf pan (8 x 4 x 3 inches or similar capacity)
1. Line your loaf pan with plastic wrap, making sure you have enough overhang to cover the top later.
2. Whip the cream until thick but still soft.
3. Chop the chocolate very finely so that you have a pile of dark splinters, and fold them into the cream, along with the liqueur.
4. Now, using brute force, crumble the meringue cookies and fold these in, too.
5. Pack this mixture into the prepared loaf pan, pressing it down with a spatula as you go, and bring the plastic wrap up and over to seal the top, then get out more plastic wrap to wrap around the whole pan. Freeze until solid, which should take around 8 hours, or overnight.
6. To serve, unwrap the outer layer of plastic wrap, then unpeel the top and use these bits of long overhanging wrap to lift out the ice-cream brick. Unwrap and unmold it onto a board and cut the frozen meringue cake into slabs to serve. I like to zigzag a little chocolate sauce (see opposite) over each slice, and sprinkle a few raspberries alongside on each plate.
For the Chocolate Sauce
Makes approx. 1 1/4 cups
This is a useful blueprint for a chocolate sauce; it is gloopily thick, but intentionally so. If pouring over an ice cream, you want to leave this until only subtly warm; if to accompany panna cotta, then leave it to cool to room temperature. In either case, whisk well before bringing to the table. If you feel that the sauce has become too solid, then stand the pitcher in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes, whisking frequently, before pouring. Or I whisk in a small shot—about 2 tablespoons—of hot espresso to make it a little more fluid.
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2/3 cup (5 ounces) bittersweet chocolate (min. 62% cocoa solids), finely chopped or in chips made for melting
- 2 tablespoons Elisir San Marzano, or coffee liqueur and/or rum
1. Pour the cream into a saucepan and add the tiny bits of chocolate. Put over a gentle heat and whisk as the chocolate melts, taking the pan off the heat once the chocolate is almost all melted. If the mixture gets too hot, the chocolate will seize, whereas it will happily continue melting in the warm cream off the heat.
2. Add the liqueur, still off the heat, and whisk again to amalgamate the sauce completely. Pour into a pitcher, whisking every now and again until it cools to the desired temperature.