Chocolate Sorbet with Espresso and Chinese Five Spice

by Sally on September 13, 2011 · 5 comments

in Dessert

chocolate sorbetWhen a cookbook automatically opens to a certain page, you know that recipe is often made and well loved. Such is page 120 in my copy of The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz . I’ve adapted his recipe for chocolate sorbet by adding espresso powder and Chinese Five Spice for a fantastic, frozen, chocolately treat.

Chocolate “Ice Cream”

I’ve made this recipe at least ten times in the last few months, always to rave reviews and clean–licked bowls. It’s my go-to chocolate “ice cream” recipe now. With a simple ingredient list and good quality chocolate in the pantry (always), this sorbet can be made when the craving strikes. It’s easy to make because there is no tricky custard base to prepare. Just bittersweet chocolate, cocoa powder, sugar (organic cane or coconut crystals), water, vanilla and my extras of espresso powder and spices.

Technically a sorbet is made without dairy, so no milk or cream as with ice cream or gelato.  If you use bittersweet chocolate its dairy free, a real treat for people with dairy sensitivities. In fact I made it for a friend who is dairy allergic and he was thrilled! And while nothing with chocolate is really low fat, with no cream or egg yolks in the recipe I feel less guilty enjoying chocolate sorbet.

I first encountered chocolate sorbet while apprenticing in a restaurant kitchen. The pastry station made a rich tasting chocolate “ice cream” I was surprised to find was really a sorbet. Although I love to make homemade ice cream, I never tried to recreate it at home…until I discovered this recipe. We were totally surprised at the deep, pure bittersweet chocolate flavor and smooth texture.

The base takes just a minute to come together, followed by a chill down in an ice bath and chilling in the refrigerator until cold. Finally, process in your ice cream maker and allow it to firm up in the freezer.

Tips on Making the Base

One note about cooking the base. Be sure to use a large pan, at least 5 quarts for a single batch.When you combine the water, cocoa and sugar you bring it to a boil for 45 seconds. When it boils, the chocolate base bubbles fiercely and rises quickly in the pan. Keep whisking. You do not want it to boil over. If it starts to get away from you, remove the pan from the heat briefly, keep whisking, and it will calm down. With a large enough pan you should not have a problem.


Ingredient Tips

This is a recipe that calls for high quality bittersweet chocolate. Our favorite happens to be Scharffen Berger 70% cacaoI order five pound bags of petite baking squares from Chocosphere, a wonderful resource for chocolate. You can also purchase blocks of chocolate or buttons.

Because you are blending the cocoa powder with a liquid (water), Dutch process cocoa powder (versus natural) is best. It’s processed to make it blend more easily with liquids. For cocoa powder, I use Penzeys high butterfat Dutch process cocoa powder. Other high quality Dutch cocoa powders are available on Chocosphere from Valrhona and Guittard.

In terms of my flavor additions, Chinese Five Spice is a blend of cinnamon, star anise, anise seed, ginger and clove. Experimenting with it years ago I found it has a great affinity for chocolate. When making anything chocolate, I often add a little five spice. Adding espresso powder accents the rich flavor of chocolate with no coffee flavor. It’s available in most grocery stores and online as well.

A note on sugar: To reduce the sugar, I am now using half regular organic sugar with some stevia. I am using a liquid stevia and am experimenting with the number of drops to try and make it as sweet as using all sugar. If you are looking to reduce sugar in your diet, and we all should be, try using stevia.

Tool Tips

A note on tools: if you don’t have a digital kitchen scale, I highly recommend you get one. It’s a tool I could not live without. Weighing your ingredients when weights are provided is always more accurate and often easier. For this recipe you need 6 ounces (170 grams) of chocolate. Rather than guess, weigh it.

You will need an ice cream maker. (update – see the  link below for how to make ice cream without a machine!) They come at all price points. I bought the Lello 4080 Musso Mussino. It was an investment, yes, but I love it. My last model lasted for fifteen years and a friend still has it and uses it. For less expensive models, see the helpful review from The Kitchn.

Next time you get a craving for chocolate, try this deep, rich, spiced chocolate sorbet. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, here is your excuse to buy one! You won’t be disappointed.

Chocolate Sorbet with Espresso and Chinese Five Spice

This recipe is adapted from David Lebovitz’s marvelous ice cream book, The Perfect Scoop. I add espresso powder and Chinese Five Spice for a surprising twist and great flavor. The original recipe makes a quart. I often make a batch and a half because it goes too quickly. You’ll need an ice cream maker and a digital scale for tools.

Yield: 1 quart


  • 2 ¼ (555 ml) cups water, divided use (1½ C/375 ml and ¾ C/180 ml)
  • 1 cup (200 g) organic cane sugar (or cut it down and add stevia)
  • ¾ cup (75 g) unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 ounces (170 g) high quality bittersweet chocolate (I use 70%), chopped small
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I use double vanilla)
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • ½ teaspoon Chinese Five Spice


  1. First prepare an ice bath, either in a large bowl or an extra sink. Fill a large bowl about half full of ice and cold water and set aside. Or, if you have a double sink, plug and fill it with ice and cold water as your ice bath. Measure out all ingredients, chop your chocolate and set aside. The cooking goes quickly.
  2. In a large saucepan (5 quarts), whisk together 1½ cups (375 ml) of water, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Be sure to use a large pan. This mixture boils up and expands rapidly while cooking. If it starts to get away from you, move the pan off the heat for a few seconds whisking quickly to get it under control, then return to the heat. If you use a large enough pan you should not have an issue. Boil and whisk for 45 seconds, then turn off the heat and move pan to a cool burner.
  3. Immediately stir in the chocolate, then the vanilla, espresso and five spice. Whisk until smooth. Stir in the balance of the water (3/4 cup). Pour into a stainless steel bowl and place in the ice water bath. Stir occasionally until completely cool, then cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least an hour. The colder the better.
  4. Pour chocolate base into your ice cream maker and process according to manufacturers directions. It will be soft when finished. Freeze for several hours to firm up, then serve.

Helpful links on ingredient resources and tools:

An amazing source for chocolate! Here is the link for Chocosphere

Penzey’s sells a rich, high butterfat Dutch process cocoa powder.

Yes, it was a big splurge, but here is the ice cream maker I use. It’s an investment, but my old one went 15 years and a friend is still using it! Lello 4080 Musso Lussino.

Here is another option for a less expensive ice cream maker by Cuisinart

No ice cream maker? No problem! Here are six ways you can make ice cream without a machine, from The Kitchn

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This post contains links to Affiliate Programs, where I may receive a small commission for any purchases.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 susan September 13, 2011 at 5:55 pm

wow – that is such a great combo, Sally! I love the idea of adding Chinese Five Spice and would have never, never have thought of it. Sounds fantastic and I am sure everyone around you enjoyed it. When we get together, I would love to talk ALOT about coconut sugar! Let’s make our field trip plans!


2 Sally September 13, 2011 at 6:17 pm

New Englanders are famous for eating ice cream all year long. I don’t put my machine away for the winter! and you can be sure I will be making this for my next party. Actually, I may just be making this for myself. The five-spice powder is a nice touch!


3 Laura @ GotChocolate September 17, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Can I dive into that bowl of Chocolate sorbet??? Hmmm…


4 Karen October 29, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Sally, can you hold the base until you want to make the ice cream, or should you just make it, then freeze? How long does it keep? Can you double instead of just 1 and 1/2 it?
Loved this last night!!! Can you suggest a little garnish for it, shopped nuts? a syrup? any sort of flourish?


5 Sally October 29, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Karen, yes you can make the base and refrigerate it for a few hours, even a day, then put it into the ice cream maker. The colder it is, the faster it freezes and turns into sorbet. This weekend I did a 2 1/2x batch which filled a 9.3 cup OXO container to the brim. For garnish, don’t even worry about it. Not needed! The intense chocolate flavor with the spice and espresso speaks for itself. Simplicity is good in this case. Any more questions email me! So glad you enjoyed it.


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