Chocolate beet ice cream

Beets taste like dirt. And I mean that in the best way possible. They taste like the earth, with a hearty minerality that reminds me of... well... dirt.

Now I know that you're probably looking at this recipe and wondering what on earth I am thinking. But bear with me. This recipe is a little kooky, yes, but also delicious. There are plenty of recipes that pair beets and chocolate floating around, many of which I've had on my must-bake-soon list for who knows how long. Ultimately, I decided to forgo the baked route, in favour of ice cream -- after all, it's "spring" (in name, if not in weather here in Toronto).

Come the summer, when beets are plentiful at the farmer's market, and you're busy roasting them and pickling them and topping them with goat cheese, set one aside for a different, sweeter purpose.

Don't be put off if you're not as head-over-heels in love with beets as I am; their impact here is softened by the more familiar taste of chocolate. And yet, the chocolate does not overpower. What's left is an invitingly pink ice cream with a hint of something unknown, something special. If you didn't know there were beets involved, you would likely be left searching for what that something special is.

I like a little mystery in my food. So take my word for it, and add some savoury to your sweets.

chocolate beet ice cream

1 medium-sized beet, greens removed, and scrubbed clean
1 tsp butter
1 cup half-and-half, divided
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
3 tbsp cocoa, sifted

Pre-heat oven to 375ºF.

Place the butter on top of the beet and wrap loosely in tin foil. Roast for 45-60 minutes, until easily pierced through with a sharp knife. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, fill a large bowl half-way with ice and cold water, to create an ice water bath.

When cool enough to handle, peel and roughly chop the beet. Place in a blender or food processor with 1/2 cup of the half-and-half. Blend until mixture resembles a beet smoothie (yum!). Squeeze the mixture through cheesecloth to catch and errant bits, until you are left with 1/2 cup of delightfully pink "juice." 

Pour the beet "juice" mixture into a bowl that will sit comfortably within the ice-water bath. Add egg yolks and remaining half-and-half. Whisk well and set aside.

In a saucepan over medium heat, mix heavy cream and sugar. When mixture is hot and just starting to bubble at the edges, remove from heat and add the chocolate and cocoa. Let the chocolate sit undisturbed for a moment, to precipitate the melting, then whisk until smooth.

Add the chocolate mixture to the beet mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Return mixture to the saucepan. Rinse and dry the now-empty bowl, and set a sieve inside it.

Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the custard reaches 170ºF. If you do not have a thermometer, heat until the mixture is thickened, and coats the back of your spoon or spatula rather than simply running off.

Pour the thickened custard through the sieve and into the bowl. Set the bowl in the ice water bath, and leave until cool. When custard is completely cooled, churn in ice cream maker according to its directions. When done, scrape into a freezer-safe container and freeze for several hours.