It’s “to die for”!
Jeanne and I had the assignment of making desserts for our dinner club — the theme: “to die for: what would you want for your last meal?” Allowing for the fact that if I knew it was my last meal I probably wouldn’t be hungry, my hands-down favourite for a last meal would be mint chocolate chip ice cream. That’s in theory, at least, because it’s been so long since I’ve had really good mint chocolate chip ice cream!
I don’t mean something that’s bright green, and tastes and smells like toothpaste. I don’t mean something that has the concentrated sickly smell of commercial mint jelly. I don’t mean something that has the overpowering aroma of mint tea. Oh, and it’s not peppermint or spearmint — gum, candy or otherwise. Smell a mint leaf. It’s a gentle tickling smell — somewhat elusive, yet it’s wild, it’s country, it’s outdoors. When you catch a hint of mint on a cabernet sauvignon, it’s that same sensation. Does everything come back to wine?
So with Jeanne’s help, I decided to make my own ice cream. With modern equipment the process of making ice cream is straightforward. But It turns out that there is one big problem: we couldn’t find any commercial source for true mint extract or flavouring. We had to make our own.
Creating a mint infusion
We’d enjoy any feedback or tips from people who have experience with infusing herbs in alcohol, but what we did was very simple. We finely chopped one bunch of mint, and let it sit in 4 ounces of vodka for a week. Simple. Apart from the fact that the mint leaves browned over this time, making the liquid a browny-green colour, we were pretty pleased with the tasty result. Simply strain the leaves before using the infusion.
Making the ice cream
We’d actually never made ice cream, so we had a few decisions to make. First, we decided to go with an attachment to our Kitchen Aid mixer. It turned out to be a good decision: we didn’t want another appliance, and since you can store the bowl in your freezer, waiting for its next use, it takes up no valuable counter or cupboard space.
We tried several recipes for base ice cream, but essentially it’s cream, eggs, and sugar. The recipes we found used two different creams (a mix of 10% and 35% butterfat), but in the last version we just used 18% butterfat cream. More butterfat might be better, but there are limits! Here is our modified basic recipe.
- 1 litre of 18% table cream
- 8 egg yolks
- 3/4 c. sugar (more if you like it sweeter)
- 1/8 t. salt
- 2 t. vanilla
- 1-2 t. peppermint extract (not necessary, but gives a little extra bite)
- 1/4 c. mint infusion
- 100 g. chocolate (more if desired) coursely chopped
- fresh mint leaves, finely chopped (1/3 to 1/2 bunch)
In a medium saucepan, heat half of the cream over medium heat until very hot. Stir often and do not let it boil. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, mix egg yolks and sugar at low speed until well blended and slightly thickened. Slowly add the heated cream, and continue mixing until fully integrated. Return this mixture to the saucepan, and reheat until steaming and small bubbles form around the edge. Again, stir often and do not let it boil.
Pour the heated mixture into a large bowl suitable for storing in the fridge. Add the remainder of the cream, the salt, vanilla, peppermint extract, and the strained mint infusion. Stir until well blended. Add a little vanilla or peppermint if you feel you need to, but these proportions are the ones we’ve settled on. Cover and store in the fridge overnight (or at least for 6 to 8 hours). If you are using an ice cream maker with its own temperature control, you might not need to cool down the liquid in this way.
At this point follow the directions given by your ice cream maker. In our case we use the chilled ice cream bowl with the ice cream paddle, running at the lowest speed for at least 20 minutes. The liquid will expand as it cools, and I continue the beating until it begins to overflow the bowl. About three quarters of the way along add the chocolate and chopped fresh mint leaves.
With our process the mixture is very soft when finished, and needs to be put in a freezer-safe container for another 4 hours or so. Makes 8-12 servings. Enjoy!