Saturday, July 3, 2010

Recipe: Mint-Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

As I think I mentioned in this post, mint-chocolate chip ice cream was among my favorite childhood summer treats. I like my ice cream to have a little texture to it, and the crunch of the frozen chocolate is such a perfect counterpart to the cool, creamy mint. Since we frequently missed (or hid from, ahem) the Schwann's man on his weekly route, I don't remember actually having mint-chocolate chip ice cream in our freezer that often. Instead, I would order it whenever we went to dinner at Mrs. Lady's in Okoboji. It was a special treat for us to eat at Mrs. Lady's, but the most exciting part was being allowed to order ice cream cones for dessert. There was a mind-boggling variety of flavors to choose from - with particular aversion, I remember a horrifyingly pink and chewy bubble gum ice cream - but I always went for the mint chocolate chip.

Lately, I haven't found a mint chocolate chip ice cream that measures up to the refreshing treat I remember enjoying. A lot of ice creams seem heavy on the green food coloring (and peppermint extract), but miss the true essence of mint. Since the mint I planted in my herb garden is practically bursting out of the pot this summer, I decided to give my old favorite ice cream a try.

Though it's time-consuming, infusing the mint into the cream is a crucial step in getting that fresh mint flavor. You'll really taste the difference - and may never go back to the "green stuff" again!

Mint-Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Large bunch fresh mint leaves (2-3 loosely packed cups)
2 cups fresh milk
2 1/2 cups cream
2/3 cup sugar
Pinch salt
4 egg yolks 
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 oz dark chocolate

Combine all of the milk, 1 1/2 cups of the cream, and the mint leaves in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight to begin infusing the mint into the milk mixture. (The overnight soaking is optional - you can start with heating the mixture instead, but you will get a stronger flavor with the extra infusion time.)

Transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan and heat just until steaming. Do not allow to boil. Once mixture is steaming, remove from the heat and cover. Let stand for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, roughly chop the chocolate (3 oz was plenty for me, but you can add as much as you like). Once chopped, store the chocolate in the freezer until ready to use.

Uncover the milk mixture and reheat just until steaming. Cover and remove from heat again. Let stand for 30 minutes. Once it has cooled, pour the mixture through a strainer into a bowl, taking care to press all the moisture out of the mint leaves.

Reserve mint leaves and return the infused milk to the saucepan. Stir in the sugar and salt, then heat the milk again over medium heat until steaming. 

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl. When milk is reheated, remove from heat and slowly stir milk mixture into egg yolks by 1/4 cupfuls. Make sure you whisk the egg yolks constantly while adding the milk or you will have scrambled eggs on your hands! When milk and eggs are fully combined, return to saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes or until custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

While custard is cooking, combine the remaining cup of cream and the vanilla in a medium bowl. Set the bowl of cream inside a larger bowl filled with ice, and set a wire strainer over the cream. 

When custard is thickened, pour it over the strainer into the cream mixture to immediately chill it. Stir to combine cream and custard. Chop a couple of tablespoons of your reserved mint and stir it into the custard. If you want to get the traditional look of mint-chocolate chip ice cream, you can add a few drops of green food coloring.

At this point, the custard needs to be chilled. You can either refrigerate overnight (cover with plastic wrap and press the plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard), or you can stir the custard while it chills over the ice bath for about 20 minutes or until completely cool.  

Freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions, then transfer into a bowl. The ice cream will be relatively soft at this point. Remove your chopped chocolate from the freezer and stir it in with a plastic spatula, then freeze for 2-4 hours or until hard enough to scoop. 

Makes about 1 1/2 quarts of delicious, fresh mint-chocolate chip.