Ice cream on the 50 foot diet
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.
As a wee one, my favorite flavor of ice cream was Mint Chocolate Chip. When we’d go to the Baskin Robbins at the mall, I’d always order one scoop in a cup. Later I grew out of this phase, through a Jamocha Almond Fudge stage, into a Very Berry Strawberry period. Papa, a prodigious maker of ice cream in my younger years, never tried his hand at Mint Chocolate Chip, that I can remember. He was more of a creamy raspberry kind of guy. Or Papaya-Mango. Or Jalepeno. Or Flood, complete with gummy worms and chocolate twigs. Or Squash. Don’t ask. Or do, but that would be a whole ‘nother story.
Ice cream holds a very deal place in my heart, and in my stomach. I believe it has its own long-term lease on part of my spare tire as well, but let’s not talk about that and say we did. Ice cream started out as the bonding food with Papa, but it was also the first food I that really explored, ranged, tiptoed out into ever-so-slightly unfamiliar territory. As a first year grad student, I decided there was no better use for my Wednesday nights than to make ice-cream to bring to Thursday social hour. A roommate had an ice cream maker and some eensy cambros for freezer storage, and I promptly squatted on them and begin taking requests. Sour Cherry for the Russian ABD, Lychee for the assistant prof from Hong Kong, Ginger for… the mentor from Western NY? I experimented with base ingredients, learned that too much fat makes a greasy ice cream, and vented my frustrations with waxy American chocolate.
After that roommate moved on and took the ice cream maker with, I mourned. So did my department.
Fast-forward to 2011, and some sweet generous soul gives me & my partner Russell an ice cream maker. I wanted to christen the machine, but though I do love me some good vanilla ice cream, I craved something a little more… adventurous. I’m living in Berkeley CA, in the center of DIY food obsession (or so we like to think), buying my sort-of-groceries from the woman who coined the word locavore. It’s May, plants are growing everywhere, but the only edibles in my yard are kale, and nasturtiums. Frankly, I’m just not there yet, on the savory ice cream front. In my neighbor’s yard, however, mint roams freely. Well, seeds roamed, and now plants dot the grass. I managed to obtain my neighbor’s permission to do a small harvest, found a recipe for Mint-Chocolate Chip Ice Cream using the Real Stuff, and set forth to test run the 50-foot locavore dessert. All the other dairy is from the store, so that’s HUGE stretch of the concept, but … work with me.
Mint Chocolate Chip Ice-Cream
Here’s where you follow along at home. Or not. Whatevs. I used David Lebovitz’ recipe, with some glances at thekitchn’s. Now, I did make a few “adaptations”, shall we say, if that’s what you call it when you have sort-of suitable ingredients at home and don’t want to go out and buy more. I’d had Russell get some cream and half & half before I settled on a recipe, and so when faced with buying milk from the store, or swapping fat proportions and making do with cream and half & half instead of milk and cream, take a guess what I did. Hint: I tend towards lazy.
I harvested the mint in two batches, weighing the first and guessing how much I’d need to grab in the second go to bring me up to the right weight of plucked leaves. In the end, to get 80 grams of leaves, it took 110 grams of pre-plucked stems.
Ingredients & Directions
Makes between 1 and 2 quarts
- 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
2 cups (500 ml) half & half
pinch of salt
2 cups packed (80 gm) fresh mint leaves
5 large egg yolks
For the chocolate chips:
- 5 ounces (140 gr) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped or in chip form
Make sure your ice cream maker is ready to use (rock salt & ice at hand, or canister in the freezer for 24+ hours, whatever your situation). Also pop the eventual storage container into the freezer. Trust me, you’ll be grateful later.
Pull your eggs out of the fridge and separate the yolks from the whites. Do something else with the whites. It’s really none of my business what. Let the yolks come to room temperature while you do the next steps.
Measure .5 cup cream, 1.5 cups half & half, the sugar, and the salt into a 2-3 qt saucepan. Add the mint, and heat over medium to low heat. The mint will fill most of the pan (if your leaves are large like mine were) – don’t worry, it’ll cook down.
Let the mixture get up to steaming, but not boiling, stirring regularly (obsessive stirring not needed quite yet). By the time you can see steam rising off the liquid, the sugar should be dissolved and the mint cooked down. Pull the mixture from the heat, cover it, and let it stand for 1-2 hours.
Pour the liquid + mint mixture through a strainer into an empty container, pressing down with your spoon to extract as much liquid as possible from the leaves. You can take a step further and really wring the flavor out of the herbs with your bare hands, depending on your mood that afternoon.
You’re going to need the remaining .5 cup of cream and .5 cup of half & half as soon as the custard is done, so get that ready now by pouring them into a medium-sized bowl. Now, return the now mint-flavored liquid to the saucepan and warm it up again. While this is warming, whisk the egg yolks together in a small bowl. When the milk is warm, temper the egg yolks. (Temper = pour a small quantity (I did a ladleful) of the hot milk into the yolks while stirring furiously. This cooks the yolks gradually enough that you don’t produce scrambled eggs in the next step.)
Once you’ve tempered the egg yolks, pour them into the saucepan of warming minty cream, and cook the whole thing gently. This is your custard. Now’s your chance to stir it obsessively and watch for thickening. I probably pulled mine a sconce too early, but hey, c’est la vie (la vie!). I did curdle an ice cream base once through over-cooked, and ended up processing it in the machine anyway. It worked out fine. When the custard coats the back of a spoon opaquely, it’s good to go. Pull it off the heat, pour it through a strainer into a bowl, then place that bowl over/in an ice-bath and stir it until it’s room temperature or cool to the touch. This stops the custard from cooking further from residual heat
Put the finished base in the fridge and let it cool completely. Process the custard in your ice-cream machine. If you’re using a model with a freezer bowl (like me), it’ll take ~25 minutes and will look like soft-serve when it’s done. While it’s churning, put the chocolate in a microwaveable container (a Pyrex liquid measuring cup works great) and nuke it gradually until it’s melted. You can also melt the old-fashioned way in a metal bowl over a pan of simmering water. I mean, a double-boiler.
When the ice cream is churned, and the chocolate is soft and dribble-y, layer! Take the chilled container out of the freezer (see, aren’t you glad you did it a few hours ago?), dribble the melted chocolate across the bottom of it, spread some just-frozen ice cream over it, dribble more chocolate on it, then stir it up. The chocolate will harden into choppy little trails broken up by your stirring. Continue this process until both mint cream and chocolate are used up. Now put your container back in the freezer and wait overnight for it to firm up.
Eat for breakfast the next day.