I’ve wanted to buy an ice cream maker for almost a year now, and I finally bought one last Friday for the low price of $20! (Thanks to David Lebovitz for the tip about the sale at Amazon – apparently they sold out of them really quickly, so I’m glad I was able to get my hands on one.)
One of my favorite flavors of ice cream is (and always has been) mint chip, but these days I just can’t eat it if it’s green and the mint flavor is distinctly artificial. All-natural mint ice cream (made with real mint) is the way to go, and it’s even better with chunks of good quality chocolate in it.
Remember my mini-essay from a short while back about high-quality ingredients? Well, ice cream is another one of those things that really shines when you use the best ingredients available. I think one of the most important things is to use cream that has not been ultra-pasteurized. Local creameries generally only gently pasteurize their products, as they won’t be traveling very far and are very likely to be consumed within a week of bottling. Commercial brands, on the other hand, need to ultra-pasteurize their products, as they will be consumed long after they have been packaged, and they will be traveling long distances and may be subject to fluctuations in temperature that could encourage bacterial growth, so it’s necessary to ensure that there is not even one single organism left alive – but this process also destroys that wonderful milky flavor that is nowadays only present in products from local dairy farmers.
For the chocolate chips, I chopped up a bar of 58.5% chocolate from El Rey (my brand of choice, it’s from Venezuela but unfortunately it’s hard to come by lately because of recent trade problems), which had a wonderful slightly fruity flavor that went great with the mint. I recommend a chocolate that is between 55% and 70% cacao – milk chocolate (which is usually around 40%) is too light and I think that anything beyond 70% would be too rich for the delicate fresh mint flavor.
The ice cream came out awesome – the mint flavor was unlike anything I’ve tasted in store-bought ice creams, and the texture was so silky. I think I am now officially addicted to homemade ice cream. It’s a good thing I started working out a few months ago because my ice cream maker is totally my new best friend.
Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
(makes 1 pint)
(makes 1 pint)
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves
½ cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate chunks (about ½ cup)
Tear the mint leaves into small pieces and put them into a small saucepan. Add the milk and ¼ cup of the cream. Cover the pot and heat the mixture over medium heat until small bubbles form around the edges. Remove the pot from the heat and let it steep for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. Strain the minty milk into a bowl, making sure to press firmly on the mint leaves to extract as much liquid as possible. Set the milk aside.
Put the egg yolks into a bowl and add half of the sugar. Whisk well until the mixture is pale yellow and thick.
Rinse out the saucepan and put the remaining ¾ cup of cream and the remaining sugar into it. Set the saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a bare simmer, stirring occasionally.
When the cream is hot, remove the pan from the heat. Use a measuring cup to scoop out ½ cup of the cream and slowly drizzle it into the egg yolk mixture while whisking constantly. Pour the egg yolk mixture and the minty milk into the saucepan and return it to the stove (it should still be on medium heat).
Use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture until it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon – this will take about 4-5 minutes. Pour the cooked custard into a bowl and let it cool to room temperature (you can speed this up by placing the bowl over an ice bath). Pour the cooled custard into an airtight container and refrigerate overnight.
The following day, pour the custard into an ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s directions. When the ice cream is done, pour in the chocolate chunks and churn for another 30 seconds to incorporate them into the ice cream. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and freeze for at least 4 hours.