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Chocolate-Cherry Tartufos

This image courtesy of Mark Ferri

If you want to serve a dessert that will make different types of people happy, a great choice is ice cream. Here, two different types of ice cream are molded into individual cups, separated by a thin layer of toasted almonds mixed with chopped glacéed cherries. Then, after being unmolded, the whole thing is drenched in a cherry-scented chocolate ganache. Be careful not to ladle on the ganache when it’s even the least bit warm, or it will literally fall off the ice cream as it slides down the sides. Since this ganache is very fluid, it can stay at room temperature for a long time before getting too thick to pour, glaceed cherries are chewy, like those you’d use in fruit cake. If unavailable, use chopped maraschinos. Be sure to see the end of the recipe for an easy tartufo loaf variation.

NotesTiming is Everything

• The tartufos can be assembled fully one week ahead and kept frozen, well covered.

Here’s the Scoop: On Toasting Nuts

If your toasted nuts are scorched on the bottom, it’s because either your oven is too hot or your pan is too dark, which makes it extra heat-retentive. Skinless nuts (whether whole, sliced, or chopped), like almonds, pine nuts, and macadamias, should be toasted gently in a moderate, 350°F. oven on a shallow heavy aluminum baking sheet in a single layer. Don’t mix different types of nuts on one baking sheet. Usually, blanched (skinned) nuts will take between 9 and 12 minutes. To avoid scorching nuts, let your nose be your guide. The first savory waft of toasting nuts is usually the best indication that they’re almost done. Shake the pan occasionally while toasting to redistribute the nuts and prevent them from being overexposed to heat on any one side.

Toasting nuts with skins is a bit trickier. Because of their skins, unblanched almonds, walnuts, and pecans are more likely to taste bitter if left in the oven too long. So for these nuts, heat them just long enough to release their aroma, 6 to 7 minutes, at 350°F. After this, quickly remove them from their baking sheet to stop the cooking process. Another great way to get terrific flavor from nuts with skins is to pan-toast them over medium heat in a little melted unsalted butter until their color deepens, about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. (Use the ratio of 1 tablespoon butter for every cup of nuts.) Immediately remove them to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any excess butter. Store leftovers in the refrigerator, since the inclusion of butter makes these toasted nuts perishable.

8 generous servings

CostSplurge

Total Timehalf-day

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionFormal Dinner Party

Recipe Coursedessert

Dietary Considerationhalal, high-calcium, kosher, peanut free, soy free, vegetarian

Mealdinner

Moodfestive

Taste and Texturechocolatey, creamy, fruity, nutty, rich, sweet

Type of Dishdessert

Ingredients

  • Vegetable shortening for greasing
  • 1½ quarts best-quality cherry vanilla ice cream
  • 1 quart best-quality chocolate chocolate chip ice cream
  • 1 generous cup deeply toasted blanched almonds, finely chopped
  • About 3 tablespoons chopped glacéed cherries
  • 36 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons natural-flavored cherry extract (if unavailable, use 1 teaspoon pure almond extract)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Make the interiors. Use a paper towel to coat the inside of eight 8-ounce baking ramekins or custard cups with shortening. Tear off a large sheet of plastic wrap and fold it over to double it. Make a fist with your working hand and drape the plastic over your fist, covering it completely. Insert your fist into the cup all the way to the bottom. Release the plastic from your hand and push it up against the bottom and sides of the dish, helping it adhere to the shortening. Allow any excess plastic to hang over the edge (make sure you have lots of excess doubled plastic visible, which you’ll need later to unmold the contents). Wrap the excess plastic around and under the cups for easy handling. Clear a shelf in your freezer. Line a large shallow baking sheet or tray with waxed paper, and place it in the freezer to chill.

  2. Remove only the cherry vanilla ice cream from the freezer so it can reach a spreadable, but not soupy, consistency. Working with one mold at a time, use a small icing spatula or a spoon to spread a generous layer of ice cream about ½ inch thick on the bottom and up the sides of the plastic-lined cups. Place each mold in the freezer while you continue with the rest. Let the first layer of ice cream firm up for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the chocolate ice cream from the freezer to soften. When it is spreadable, sprinkle the chopped almonds liberally over the first layer of ice cream, along with a few pieces of chopped cherries. (Reserve some of the nuts for the garnish.) Use the spatula to fill the cups with the chocolate ice cream, smoothing the tops. Freeze the cups for at least 2 hours or up to a few days, covered with waxed paper.

  3. Make the ganache. Melt the two types of chocolate together either in the top of a large double boiler over barely simmering water while stirring constantly, or in the microwave on medium power for about 4 minutes, occasionally stopping to stir, until perfectly smooth. Stir in the corn syrup. Heat the cream in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Slowly pour the cream into the bowl of chocolate, still over barely simmering water, while stirring constantly. When perfectly smooth, remove from the heat. Whisk in the cherry and vanilla extracts, then push the ganache through a medium-mesh sieve directly into another bowl using a rubber spatula. Set the bowl aside to cool for about 20 minutes.

  4. When the ganache is perfectly cool but still pourable, uncover the tartufos and spoon a generous tablespoon of the ganache over the top of the ice cream, and use the small spatula to cover the top evenly. As the ganache gets cold, it will become more difficult to move around, so spread quickly. Scrape off any excess ganache as you spread, placing it on the edge of an empty bowl. Freeze the tartufos, uncovered, for 30 minutes, then cover the tops loosely with plastic wrap and freeze them for at least 2 hours or up to overnight. If finishing the tartufos today, leave the ganache at room temperature. If planning to continue tomorrow, store the remaining ganache in the refrigerator, well covered. To use the remaining ganache, let it come close to room temperature, then reheat the ganache briefly to thin it to a pourable consistency. Let it sit, however, until completely cool.

  5. Work as close as possible to the freezer while finishing the tartufos. Place an empty bowl on a flat work surface along with the reserved chopped almonds, a 3- to 4-ounce ladle, and two long metal spatulas (one wide and the other thin). Line a plate with a piece of waxed paper. Keep the tartufos in the freezer while working with one at a time. Pull the molded ice cream out of its cup, using the overhang of plastic wrap (hold on to the cup with a hot, damp kitchen towel). Invert the ice cream onto the plate and peel off the plastic wrap. Place the tartufo, ganache side down, on the prepared tray in the freezer. Continue until all the tartufos are unmolded and on their tray.

  6. One by one, position a tartufo, chocolate-base down, at the end of the long, wide spatula held over the empty bowl. Fill the ladle generously with the ganache and pour it over the top of the ice cream, allowing any excess to fall down over the sides, using the narrow spatula to quickly help spread the ganache evenly on the sides and also to clean up the bottom edges. If there are empty pockets, ladle on more ganache and spread gently until smooth. Sprinkle the wet chocolate tops with some of the chopped almonds, and carefully slide the tartufo off the spatula and onto its original spot on the tray that sits in the freezer, uncovered. Continue with the remaining tartufos, wiping off both spatulas after drenching each one in the ganache. (If, when applying the ganache, the ice cream ever starts to melt, let the excess chocolate fall into the bowl beneath and, when the dripping stops, put the tartufo back in the freezer to firm up. Once firm, ladle on more of the ganache until you’re satisfied with the coverage.)

  7. Freeze the tartufos, uncovered, for 2 hours, then cover them with plastic wrap and keep them frozen for up to one week before serving. (The ganache will accommodate 10 to 12 tartufos, but you’ll need more ice cream and ramekins to make more than 8. Store any leftover ganache in the refrigerator for up to a week, and rewarm it for a quick topping for either ice cream or a thick slice of plain pound cake, topped with sliced strawberries.)

  8. To serve, remove the tartufos from the freezer and cut them, using a sharp serrated knife, into quarters, wiping off the blade after each cut. Place three to four quarters on each individual dessert plate. Serve right away.

  9. An Easy Tartufo Loaf

  10. If you don’t have a lot of time, or 8-ounce cups, just make one big tartufo shaped into a loaf. To do this, coat the inside of a 9 × 5-inch loaf pan with shortening and line it with doubled plastic wrap, leaving an overhang as described in the original recipe. Be sure to reach all four corners. Spread the bottom and sides of the plastic-coated interior with a thick layer of softened cherry vanilla ice cream and sprinkle the ice cream first with chopped almonds and then with chopped glacéed cherries. Freeze until firm, covered loosely with plastic wrap. When firm and the chocolate ice cream has been allowed to soften, use it to fill the vacant center space in the loaf, coming up to about ¼ inch from the top. Freeze the loaf until very firm on a tray lined with waxed paper.

  11. Prepare the ganache as directed in the recipe, reducing the ingredient amounts by half. When the ganache is perfectly cool but still pourable, spread the top (which will become the bottom) of the loaf with the ganache, covering it completely and flush with the top of the pan. Freeze the loaf until the chocolate is very firm, about 8 hours. Rewarm the remaining ganache briefly and allow it to become cool and thick but still fluid. Straddle a large wire rack over an empty bowl placed on your work surface, close to the freezer. Remove the loaf from the freezer and, using the overhang of plastic, unmold and invert the loaf, ganache side down, onto the wire rack. Peel off the plastic and ladle the ganache over the ice cream, coating it generously and completely. Sprinkle the top with some chopped toasted almonds and immediately place the tartufo loaf onto its tray and back into the freezer, uncovered. When the ganache is completely set, cover the loaf with plastic wrap and leave it there until you’re ready to cut it into individual slices and serve.

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