Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mystery Mint Chip Ice Cream

I do weird things with food when I'm bored... although, some would argue I do weird things with food all the time.  Just earlier today I (regrettably) found myself slathering almond butter on a spoonful of peanut butter chocolate ice cream.  It was 107 degrees outside, and the only edible thing in my freezer was a meager spoonful of ice cream, so I'm not sure why I felt the need to smother that final, cold, precious bite with sticky warm goo.  It must be my insatiable quest for adventure and experimentation!

The lack of ice cream in my freezer on a day when I so desperately needed ice cream inspired me to action- as did the article I had just read in this month's Bon Appetit about infusing cocktails with herbs.  Our garden is full of herbs!  I could infuse my ice cream with herbs!  Unfortunately, due to a laissez-faire gardening regime, our herb patch has grown into a monstrous thicket.  The labels marking the once-neat rows of herbs have long-since been engulfed by vines, fronds, and giant spider webs.  I managed to recognize the basil, rosemary, and curry plants by sight (and smell!), but I doubted anyone in my household would embrace savory ice cream, and never curried ice cream (except my bf who puts curry in everything! I don't want to encourage that haha).

However, I vaguely remembered my mom mentioning that she had planted some different types of mint in lieu of the usual peppermint.  Something about chocolate mint or pineapple mint...? Bingo!  What better treat on a hot day than a cool scoop of mint chip?

I traipsed through the herb jungle, dodging gigantic arachnids, ducking spiky stalks, and squinting through the leaves in search of labels, to no avail.  None of the plants remotely resembled any mint I'd ever seen.  I crushed a few stems between my fingers to see if I could detect a whiff of sharp, minty perfume, but the surrounding foliage failed to produce that familiar fresh scent.  One towering plant, however, did smell rather nice.  It wasn't too earthy, like rosemary, or too peppery, like basil, and it didn't overpower my nose like the curry.  I plucked a fuzzy leaf and inhaled... it had a mild, sweet scent... And did I detect a hint of mint?  Sure, why not? 
                  Mint? Poison Oak? Let's eat it and find out!

I figured if the plant was in the herb patch, it probably wasn't toxic, whatever it was (I've since learned that at least one species of mint, the pennyroyal, IS toxic if ingested, but what dingbat would plant a toxic variety of mint in an edible garden?  Hm.... maybe the same type of dingbat who infuses ice cream with random leaves she discovers sprouting up between her tomato bushes...).  And so, mystery mint chip was born!  The curious herb had such a delicate aroma that I nixed bittersweet chips in favor of the milder flavor of white chocolate.  I wanted this bashful plant to have a leading role in my concoction! (although I wasn't above a drizzle of homemade dark chocolate sauce on my own finished scoop).

The resulting ice cream definitely had a robust minty kick, tempered by the buttery shards of white chocolate folded into the custard.  Based on a Google-image search of different mint varieties (and the fact that I haven't yet sickened and died), I think I may have used chocolate-mint after all.  Phew!

3 cups of fresh mint leaves, rinsed and packed (I used chocolate-mint, I think...)
1 c. whole milk
2 c. heavy cream
2/3 c. sugar
pinch of salt
6 egg yolks
two chocolate bars (I used two 3.5oz bars of Lindt white chocolate)

Put the chocolate bars in the fridge so they remain cold, unless you're lucky enough to have air conditioning.  In a medium saucepan, combine the mint, milk, and one cup of the cream.  Heat the mixture over medium heat until the cream is scalded (bubbles will begin to form at the edges of the pan).  Do not let the cream-mixture boil.  Remove the pan from heat, cover, and steep for 30 minutes.

Reheat the mixture until the cream is scalded again, remove from heat, cover, and steep an additional 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, whisk the six yolks together in a small bowl, and set aside.

Strain the mint out of the cream mixture, and return the cream to the saucepan.  Use a spatula or fork to press any remaining cream out of the mint and into the pan. 

Add the sugar, and stir over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Remove from heat.  Using a ladle or big spoon, drizzle the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking the yolks constantly to prevent curdling.  Continue ladling cream into the yolks (tempering) until they are hot, but not cooked.  Return the yolky cream (pre-custard!) to the saucepan.  Stirring constantly, cook the custard over low heat until it thickens enough to coat the spatula.  Be very careful not to let the custard get to hot or disaster will befall you in the form of curdled custard.  As soon as it starts to thicken, take it off the heat!  You can always put it back if it's not thick enough.  The process will take between 5 and 10 minutes.

When you're custard has thickened, pour it through a sieve into a separate bowl, and stir in the remaining cup of heavy whipping cream.  Stick the whole shebang in the fridge until thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours (or if you're impatient and you have a big empty freezer, you can put it in the freezer to speed things up.  Stir it every five minutes or so until cold).

While the custard chills, use a big sharp knife to shave the chocolate bars.  The goal is to make chocolate shards that will melt in your mouth, instead of big chunks that will freeze into gravel and ruin the consistency of your hard earned treat.  Just slide the knife firmly against the edge of the chocolate bar, and little shavings should just pop off!

When the custard is completely cold, pour it into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.  Add the chocolate in the last ten minutes of freeze-time. I do not recommend adding almond butter.

1 comment:

  1. The mysterious leaves were definitely not poison oak...I loved this ice cream and I had no bad reactions. ;)