So apparently July is National Ice Cream Month, a fact that everyone except yours truly seemed to be aware of. This is one thing I can’t blame on “baby brain” because I honestly did not know that this “National” holiday month even existed. On top of ice cream getting a whole month of national recognition, there’s even a specific day that the celebration reaches it’s fever pitch.
That day, my friends, is today.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I like ice cream and all, but I never deemed it worthy of a month long celebration. You’d think that now, being pregnant, I’d be all about the frozen confection. But alas, no. My hubby has actually been the one craving the ice cream. He’s so supportive.
Yes, I like ice cream, but better than ice cream, I like a culinary challenge. So when my friend, Laura, told me a tale of this homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream that was made with fresh mint, I was intrigued. She described a delectable frozen treat that sounded so creamy, fresh and magical, it made my mouth water, and I’m not even a fan of mint chocolate chip. Maybe it has something to do with that unnatural green color and mouthwash-y taste that the store-bought varieties have.
Although I’m not a fan of M.C.C, my hubby is. So in my quest to make him “the best he’s ever eaten” of the dishes he loves, I set out to the garden to gather some fresh, organic mint. Now although I’ve made ice cream in the past, I’ve never made a “cooked” ice cream before. Ok, before you get visions of taking two scoops of Rocky Road to a sauté pan and ending up with a puddle of goo, let me explain “cooked”. Basically, a cooked ice cream is heating up your dairy mixture (cream, milk, half & half etc.) with sugar and then very slowly combining it with beaten eggs that have been tempered (if you’ve ever made a custard or crème anglaise, you’ll be familiar with this). Tempering is the process of very slowly adding small amounts of the hot dairy mixture while briskly whisking until the eggs reach the temperature of the dairy mixture so as no to curdle the eggs. I mean, who want’s scrambled eggs in their ice cream? Not this girl.
Then the mixture gets cooled, churned and frozen. It’s actually a pretty easy process and the results are amazing. You end up with a rich creamy product and since you are making it yourself, you get to control what goes in. This means, you can use organic dairy that doesn’t contain hormones or antibiotics, organic fruits, herbs and other ingredients and get also away with using less sugar. Plus you don’t have all those nasty additives that most commercially produced ice creams have. I always say, if you can’t pronounce it, then maybe your shouldn’t be eating it in the first place.
But I digress.
Here’s my recipe for that ice cream. I guess the proof that it’s successful is that I actually dig it. Using the fresh mint gives the ice cream a very refreshing taste that in no way looks or tastes artificial. I’m also including the modifications to make the vanilla version, which I have to say, really kicks ass. Pair a couple of scoops of that with some Virgil’s Micro Brewed All Natural Root Beer and you are in Ice Cream Float Nirvana.
You can also take the base vanilla and get creative! I’m gonna try creating an heirloom tomato and candied basil and a Mexican hot chocolate-both of which have been rolling obsessively around my little cheffy brain for a few weeks. I’ll keep ya posted. In the meantime, enjoy this recipe and if you decide to get creative and Badass your own ice cream flavor, shoot me a note and pic and I may feature it on the blog!
Crazy-Good Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream (makes a large batch-roughly 3/4-1 gallon-ish. You can always cut the recipe in half, but I doubt you’d want to…)
Here’s what you need:
12 large egg yolks beaten with 2 TBS sugar
4.5 cups 1/2 & 1/2
1 PT heavy whipping cream
1.5 cups sugar
1/2 TBS each fresh spearmint mint leaves, preferably organic, finely minced (this is about 4 small-medium sprigs of each variety-if you cannot find spearmint, you can use all peppermint)
2 TBS pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips or shaved/broken dark chocolate pieces
You’ll also need:
A large heavy saucepan
A whisk or an immersion blender
A medium sized bowl ( I use a large 4 cup measuring cup for easy pouring later)
A food thermometer
2 Large bowls
And here’s what you do:
In the saucepan, combine the 1/2 & 1/2, cream, minced mint and sugar and whisk until the sugar starts to dissolve. Put mixture on medium high heat and heat until just before it starts to simmer, whisking regularly (this should take about 4-7 minutes, depending on your stove) As the mint heats up, it may start to give off a tan looking substance-don’t worry, this is just the oils steeping out and it won’t affect the look of your ice cream.
In the medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and 2 TBS sugar until light yellow and frothy. If you have an immersion blender (or stick blender) use it-it’s the best way to go, as it will incorporate more air into the mixture, resulting in a lighter, fluffier ice cream. When the dairy mixture is ready, slowly add small amounts (like 1/8 of a cup) to the egg mixture, while whisking or blending constantly. You don’t want to add too much of the hot dairy too quickly or you will basically cook the eggs, and will end up with lumpy, egg ice cream. Yuck. Remember, slow and steady wins the race and you’ll be rewarded for your patience! When you’ve incorporated enough of the hot dairy mixture so that the egg mixture is steaming, you can start to slowly stream the egg mixture into the pot with remaining dairy mixture, again, whisking or blending constantly. Slowly bring the mixture up to 170 degrees F, while whisking or blending constantly. This should take about 2-3 minutes.
Fill one of the large bowls 1/3 way with ice and a bit of water and set the other large bowl on top of it. Carefully pour. (or ladle) the ice cream mixture into the top bowl. Let the mixture cool to room temperature or below, gently whisking regularly to disperse the heat. When mixture is cooled, add the vanilla extract and stir until combined. Place the mixture in the fridge and chill till it reaches at least 40 degrees F (this may take a few hours-if you have a large enough freezer, you could chill it more quickly nut be sure to stir the mixture regularly or it will start to freeze)
Now to add the chocolate and churn, baby, churn! When the ice cream is cooled, churn according to your machine or attachment’s directions. Pay particular attention to the maximum amount of liquid mixture that your device can handle. If you need to churn two batches, then divide the mixture evenly, add 1/2 of the chocolate and churn. If your machine is big enough to handle the whole batch, then go for it and add all the chocolate. If you have a smaller or bowl attachment to an existing mixer or other appliance, then adjust the amount of ice cream mixture and chocolate accordingly. When the ice cream has been churned, you can either eat it as soft serve or freeze in a tightly covered plastic container until firm.
If you want to make the vanilla version of this, lose the mint and add a total of 4 TBS of vanilla extract to the mixture after it reaches room temp or add 1 vanilla bean, scraped to the dairy mixture before you start the heating process and 1-2 TBS of vanilla extract after the mixture cools, making sure to remove the husk of the vanilla bean before freezing.
Well, in spite of it being National Ice Cream Day, the weather here is kinda cool and overcast today. Not what you’d think of as “ice cream weather” but, hey, who cares? When you’ve got delicious homemade ice cream and the people you love around to share it, you seem to get a warm and fuzzy feeling inside that even the hot July sun can’t imitate 😉
Until next time…
Have Fun… and Be Fearless!