Not Another Chocolate Ice Cream: The Story of our Cacao Nib Soft Serve

15 Jul 2016

Cafes Features Food + Drink Summer Uncategorized

Nutty, malty, rounded: how a childhood dream became a whole new flavour of ice cream…

“No-one has ever done this before,” says Andrew Bremer, category manager. “There are endless chocolate ice creams, and people have sprinkled cacao nibs into ice cream, but no-one has infused them directly into the cream. It’s something innovative, something unique.”

He’s talking about our new Ice Cream of the Gods, soft-served in that swirled shape that takes us all back to our childhoods: the perfect marriage of nostalgia with our cacao expertise for a deliciously different taste.

“I grew up around ice cream, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Angus enthuses. “We’re always striving to be original, so we wanted to try something different with it. Of course, we had to work out how to do it first!”

In the beginning
“We bought an ice cream machine and just got stuck in so we could learn what worked and what didn’t,” says James Drake, head of food and beverages. “We were in the kitchen at Rabot. There were no recipes for what we wanted to do, so David Demaison, our new product developer for cafés, just started trying things: crushing nibs, blending nibs… We had to start from scratch and experiment.”

“We tried cacao nibs from all over the world,” Andrew adds. “Mellow, leathery Ecuadorian cacao nibs, fruity Vietnamese cacao nibs – and we settled on 100% Saint Lucian from our Island Growers Programme. They have the roundest, nuttiest flavour and were just perfect for this.”

The first successful attempt: crushing the cacao nibs into a fine powder and blending that with the ice cream, leaving it with tiny black flecks – like vanilla seeds – and an intriguing crunchy texture.

“That was the first version we all liked, but it’s very different from what we ended up with,” recalls Andrew. “It was a good starting point, but we wanted to make our ice cream more luxurious, so we decided to aim for something smooth, silky and slightly thicker than the soft serve we remember having as children.”

Crunchy versus smooth
To make our cacao nib ice cream silky-smooth we were going to have to lose the cacao nibs. You can see our predicament. But culinary genius David was just getting started.

“He came up with the idea to soak the nibs in the cream, infusing it with the taste of them, and then sieve them out so the ice cream would have a totally smooth finish,” James explains. “He started off soaking them for a couple of hours, then overnight. 24 hours turned out to be perfect.”

“The cream changes to a subtle taupe colour as the nibs infuse,” adds Angus. “To glance at it you might think it was vanilla, but then you try it and realise it really is something else.”

The taste test
So how does it taste? Isn’t it just really complicated chocolate ice cream?

“Very creamy, subtle cocoa flavour, not too rich and very moreish,” says just one of the many visitors to our stand at the London Coffee Festival who rated our ice cream 4 or more out of 5. So you could say it went down well!

“I would describe it as nutty, malty and rounded,” says Andrew, and the rest of the team agrees. The consensus is that it’s unlike anything they’ve tasted before – a true original.

But we didn’t only name it Ice Cream of the Gods for its heavenly flavour notes: the name is intrinsically linked to the recipe. Theobroma cacao – those nibs we worked so hard to infuse it with – literally translates as ‘cacao, food of the gods’. And who are we to argue?

Try our Ice Cream of the Gods
Our Ice Cream of the Gods is now being served at Rabot 1745, London, as well as Cambridge, Liverpool and Manchester Arndale cafés, with a choice of toppings including salted caramel sauce, raspberry pieces, hazelnut nibs and 70% classic chocolat shavings.

Invent your own heavenly dessert
Got a recipe for an inventive cocoa dish that’s in the league of our Ice Cream of the Gods? Enter our Create Your Chocolate Masterpiece competition and yours could be our next success story…

Baker extraordinaire? Discover how to reinvent a classic in Centre of Attention: Remastering the Chocolate Lava Cake.

Mixologist in the making? Take inspiration from our innovative Cacao Bellini in A True Original.

Ready and raring to submit your entry? Download your entry form and fill it in, then either scan it and email it to us or print and post it back.