Many people have heard of Ghirardelli Chocolate but few realize that there was a chocolate factory in San Francisco run by the Ghirardelli family for over a century. The old factory transferred the chocolate-making business to another location, but the building that housed it remains today, now known as Ghirardelli Square. Full of stores and boutiques, little remains to remind us of its heritage, but there is one shop that holds true to its beginnings, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop!
Always a treat when we were children, The Chocolate Shop is a little like walking into Willy Wonka’s magical factory. Candy bars and treats are everywhere you look, with brightly colored wrappings to tantalize you. But for most people it is the jaw-dropping ice cream sundaes that take your breath away. Towering above the rims of their containers, they dare you to try to consume them. I seldom could do them justice, but I always tried my best to conquer my sundae!
My favorite sundae is called “The Emperor Norton” named after a colorful character in San Francisco’s past. It is piles of vanilla ice cream with sliced bananas, drenched with hot fudge sauce and topped with pillows of whipped cream. A sprinkle of chopped nuts and a cherry finish it off. It’s like a banana split for purists – those who want the flavors of vanilla and chocolate to shine!
Right at the end of the Powell Street Cable Car line, it is the perfect destination for holiday shoppers. Every December, friends of mine and I would drive over to The City (yes, on the West Coast San Francisco is known as The City), hop on a cable car and sing Christmas carols all the way from one side of San Francisco to the other. This is Cable Car Caroling! Happy and hungry, we would pile into the Chocolate Factory and eat our way through copious amounts of ice cream, whipped cream, and nuts before climbing aboard another cable car to ride back across the hills. It is one of my most cherished memories and uniquely San Franciscan.
Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area was an exceptional opportunity for many reasons. Obviously being close to one of the world’s greatest cities was monumental, but the area itself is a unique blending of many cultures. I grew up trying different types of foods, meeting people who didn’t look like me and spoke other languages, and understanding that everyone, no matter how odd they seemed to me, were part of our country. San Francisco is a true melting pot of cultures. We grew up in an environment of tolerance and acceptance. I wish everyone could have these influences in their childhoods. I think the world would be a more peaceful place if we all learned at an early age to embrace the differences of others and ate more Hot Fudge Sundaes!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
After infusing the flavor of vanilla, do not throw the vanilla bean pod away. Rinse it with cold water and pat dry on a paper towel. Leave to dry overnight. Then you can store the pod in your jar of sugar to give it a lovely vanilla essence. For a stronger flavor, place the bean with a couple cups of sugar in a food processor and grind it into the sugar. Store this in an airtight container to use in recipes calling for both sugar and vanilla or just for a treat in your coffee!
Kitchen Skill: Infusing Flavors
Why: To extract flavor from an added ingredient to liquids
How: Infusing is done with hot liquids, the heat aids in the transfer of flavors. In this case, bringing your cream and milk to just below a simmer (scalding) and adding the vanilla bean. The longer you leave the bean in the mixture, the stronger the flavor.
- Combine the melted chocolate, cocoa powder, and water in a saucepan over low heat and stir gently until fully combined, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt to the mixture and simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick and very smooth, 5 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the vanilla extract. Use the sauce at once, or stir it occasionally as it cools to room temperature.
- To store the fudge sauce, transfer it to a clean bowl or jar, cover tightly, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Reheat the sauce over low heat or in the microwave before serving.
- Yield: about 2 cups
- David Lebovitz has written an excellent article on corn syrup and its uses. For those trying to avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup or corn products, it is well worth reading.
- Fill a medium-sized bowl 1/3 full with ice water. Set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and salt.
- In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan combine the cream and milk. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape out the insides of the bean, and add the entire bean, including the scraped seeds, to the cream-milk mixture. Scald the cream mixture over medium-high heat (just below a simmer). Slowly whisk it into the reserved egg mixture, tempering the eggs. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes.
- Pour the mixture back into the mixing bowl. Float the bowl in the bowl of ice water. Stir occasionally until cool, and then strain. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours or until completely cold. Freeze as directed in your ice cream manufacturer’s instructions.
- Yield: about 1-1/2 quarts ice cream
- This recipe makes a good vanilla ice cream and can also be used as a base for many other flavors. Ice creams are an essential and delicious contribution to desserts, whether served by themselves or as an accompaniment. When serving ice cream with other desserts make sure the ice cream is a necessary part of the overall composition, or the total preparation can be too rich.
- ALMOND ICE CREAM: Off the heat, infuse 1-1/2 cups toasted, coarsely chopped natural almonds in the hot cream mixture for 30 minutes. Strain the nuts from the cream before freezing, and discard them. Freeze the ice cream and then fold in 1-1/2 cups of new toasted and coarsely chopped natural almonds. (It may seem like a waste to throw away the nuts and add new ones after freezing the ice cream, but the infused nuts will be soggy in the ice cream.)
- CAPPUCCINO ICE CREAM: Add 3 tbsp of ground espresso or strong coffee grounds to the cream mixture before scalding; strain before continuing.
- CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM: Whisk 6 oz of finely chopped bittersweet chocolate into the hot cream mixture before cooking it on top of the stove.
- AHEAD-OF-TIME NOTES: Ice creams can be made 1 to 2 days before they are frozen. Ice cream can be frozen several days in advance of when you plan to serve it. (If you make it in advance just make sure there is enough left when you need it!)