Even after living twenty years in northern Vermont, there seems to be something inherently unjust about a June morning temperature of 42 degrees.
It’s not that I yearn for the hot, humid mid-Atlantic summers of my youth. But the heat provided a balance to the year, a reason to sweat and shed extraneous clothing and be at least occasionally slothful under the bright sun, and at the end of the day as the sky darkened, to come together as a family out on the porch to enjoy the cooler air, to complain about the heat and eat ice cream.
We ate a great deal of ice cream. Many evenings, my father would drive the three miles to the nearest little store for a gallon of Breyers; Butter Pecan and Cherry Vanilla were our favorites. He’d peel down the cardboard container, cut off slices for mom, my brother, and me, then take the remaining half for himself. He worked hard, and his metabolism was a force of nature.
My mother prepared homemade ice cream as well. Given that summer is upon us, if indicated mostly by the calendar, I’ve turned to her cookbooks for inspiration. Because she made it so often, there’s of course no recipe for the supremely light concoction she whipped up from egg whites, cream, and sugar. The Chantilly Meringuée is based on Julia Child’s recipe, which she describes, quite accurately, as “Elegant Ice Cream.” I’ve paired it with a Chocolate Marquise, which my mother did document, and serves as a rich and fitting foil for the vanilla ice cream while making use of the leftover yolks.
Neither recipe is difficult, though it’s best to be familiar with the steps before you start and have everything at hand. Once the yolks and whites are off the heat, you’ll want to carry on promptly. I’ve offered approximate temperatures to reach when cooking the egg mixtures, in the 160s -- at the high end of recipes, I’ve consulted -- in hopes to provide a bit more safety, stability, and longevity in the freezer. Experienced meringue and zabaglione makers may use their judgment.
My mother made this with an uncooked French meringue; Julia Child’s recipe calls for Italian. Eager to avoid raw eggs and also create a more foolproof dessert, if, at the expense of a bit of volume, I opted for a Swiss meringue. While not as delicate as my mother’s version, this is not too many whisks away from schiumone, a Sicilian frozen vanilla mousse.
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 2 to 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 6 egg whites
- 2 cups of sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Whip cream until soft peaks form. Beat in vanilla extract to taste. Set aside.
Place egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt into the top of a double boiler, or into a metal bowl that will work well over a saucepan to create a double boiler. Have water simmering over medium heat. Using a hand mixer set on medium speed, beat the mixture together then place over the heat. Keep beating until the mixture becomes beautifully glossy and smooth, and an instant or candy thermometer approaches 165 degrees – about 7 minutes. The texture of the mixture will begin to change and stiffen as you reach this temperature. Remove from heat and keep beating until the mixture is cool to the touch, about 5 minutes (the bowl will remain warm).
Working quickly, spoon about one-third of the whipped cream into the egg whites and beat in. Then fold in the remaining egg whites gently but thoroughly with a spatula. (For variation, fold in up to 1 cup of slightly sweetened sliced strawberries, chopped almonds, or bits of dark chocolate along with the egg whites.)
Place in a freezer-friendly container, cover tightly, and freeze for at least 3 or 4 hours before serving; overnight is best. Well covered, the Chantilly Meringuée should keep in the freezer for up to ten days.
My mother’s recipe calls for nothing more than bittersweet chocolate, cream, and a few tablespoons of light corn syrup, resulting in essentially a whipped frozen ganache. I’ve incorporated egg yolks in a nod toward semifreddo. I’d suggest high-quality baking chocolate; some chips sold for incorporating in cookies will prove disappointing. Opt for bittersweet if you’re of that ilk; it’s too dark for my taste.
- 12 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate
- 2 cups whipping cream, divided
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Prepare a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan by lining it completely with several layers of plastic wrap. Set aside.
Chop the chocolate into bits if necessary and place in a medium-sized bowl. Heat 1 cup of the cream, stirring constantly, just to the boil, and pour over the chocolate. Stir in and allow the chocolate to melt for a few minutes. Whisk well to combine. Set aside. Should you choose to heat the chocolate-cream mixture in a microwave, be sure to use the least amount of time necessary and stir thoroughly and promptly. It’s easy to scald chocolate, which will ruin the flavor. A side note: melting and stirring took longer than I expected and required placing the bowl over simmering water for a few moments; briefly, I thought the chocolate had seized. Don’t lose heart; I carried on and was rewarded in time with a shiny, thick mixture.
In a small bowl, beat the remaining cup of cream until soft peaks form. Beat in the vanilla. Set aside.
Set the yolks and sugar into the top of a double boiler or a metal bowl in which you can again recreate a double boiler over a saucepan. With the water simmering over medium heat, beat the eggs and sugar with a hand mixer until mixture increases in volume, turns a beautiful pale yellow, and reaches roughly 160 degrees on an instant-read or candy thermometer. (As with the whites, the texture will change as you near this temperature, which is likely to vary about the bowl as you test.)
Remove from heat and continue beating until the yolk mixture is cool to the touch, about 5 minutes. Add the chocolate mixture and beat or fold in gently. Fold in the whipped cream. Pour into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Cover with plastic wrap, then with aluminum foil for extra protection, and place in the freezer. Freeze for at least 3 to 4 hours; overnight is best.
To serve, remove the top layers of plastic and foil. You can tip the marquise onto a flat platter and remove the plastic for presentation and slicing. Or if serving only a few portions, lift out of the tin, place onto the platter, and peel down the plastic wrap from the sides. Cut into slices approximately 3/4 inch thick. Serve with a generous scoop of the Chantilly Meringuée.
For variation, serve slices of the marquise with dollops of crème fraiche, or either dessert with lightly sweetened sliced strawberries or a liquor-enriched cherry sauce. Well covered, the marquise should keep in the freezer up to a week.