Olivia Dish

Ice Cream Before the Freeze

In Homemade, Sweets on December 11, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Fresh mint and other herbs, gathered before the freeze

We’re expecting our first freeze of the winter tonight.  So along with the obligatory pot of soup, today I made something slightly less predictable but reasonable nonetheless –mint chocolate chip ice cream.

So here’s my reasoning: I clipped all my herbs this morning before Jack Frost could beat me to it. And though I like a Mint Julep as much as the next girl, I had more mint than I could julep and still get my work done.  Fresh mint ice cream, I’m thinking, was the only sober option.

I had my first fresh mint ice cream about 12 years ago in San Francisco and tried recreating it as soon as I got back in my own kitchen.

Over the years, I’ve played around with adapting different recipes.  And I added chocolate chips.  Then later, bourbon.

Today, with minimal fuss, I believe I nailed it.  Here’s how.

First, I skipped worrying about the magical mixture of milk and heavy cream.  I started with two and a half cups of half and half.

I should be stirring this nonstop, but stopped to take a pic

I put that in my saucier with the fresh mint (which I’d washed and given a whirl in my salad spinner), leaf, stems and all. I’m guessing I used 8 to 10 sprigs, about the same amount as your basic grocery store bunch.

On low heat, I let the mint steep in the half and half until the mint had gone dark and ugly (like a mess of collards) and the half and half had taken on the faintest green tinge.

Sometimes I skip straining, but a good idea for nabbing those weird bits of egg

I removed the mint.  In a small bowl, I beat 2 whole eggs, 6 tablespoons of sugar, and a pinch of salt together.  I tempered the eggs with a  bit of the warm half and half, then dumped the small bowl of egg mixture into saucier of half and half and returned the whole thing to my cooktop.  I whisked this over low heat for about 8 minutes (never boiling) until I had a custard.  To test the custard’s readiness, I coated the back of a spoon, then drew a line through the custard with my finger. When the line held clean and firm, I knew the custard was thick enough to cool.

I used to insist on rock salt and ice but this is so easy.

I strained the custard into a metal bowl, set inside another bowl of ice.  Once the custard was cool to the touch, I put it into the refrigerator to chill through.  Then I broke out my Cusinart ice cream machine and churned the mint ice cream, adding a teaspoon of bourbon to the custard as it started to churn.

After the ice cream was set, I scraped it into a chilled bowl and put it in the freezer.

I could use a little help to add the chocolate. So I waited. I eyed the bottle of bourbon on the counter. I made a cup of coffee.

Melted chocolate flash-freezes when you stir it into the ice cream.

Finally, my friend Whit DeSpoon dropped by and I had the extra pair of hands I needed. We melted dark chocolate chips in the microwave. He poured the warm chocolate into the ice cream while I stirred, causing the chocolate to swirl then freeze in light, crispy bits.

The ice cream went back into the freezer to recover for about 15 minutes and we were ready to go with some… mint julep chocolate flecked….I believe I’ll call it.

I’ve been phoning round to friends’ houses, making sure we rescue all the mint in town before sundown. Now that I have production perfected, why not make ice cream all night?

PS on June 18, 2010: churning a summertime batch and the ice cream seems too sweet. Re-thinking the 6 tablespoons of sugar; wishing I’d used only 5.


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