Sunday, July 18, 2010
National Ice Cream Day & Mint Chip Ice Cream
I scream, you scream, we all scream for...
Today is National Ice Cream Day, and it's time to celebrate! I love ice cream. I mean I really, really love ice cream. Really, really, really, really, really, really absitively-posilutely love it. Here are a few examples to prove my point:
Example #1: Our crowded kitchen cabinets contain three types of bowls designed for one purpose only - eating ice cream.
Example #2: Freshman year of college, my favorite Friday night activity was chatting about life's mysteries over a bowl of pistachio Häagen Dazs with the Jesuit priest that lived across the hall. Now, the chats were awesome, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't stick around the dorm some Friday nights just for a taste of that contraband goodness from the Jesuits' well-stocked freezer. Weird, or wonderful? I'd say the latter.
Example #3: When it came time to choose a topic for my valedictorian speech at the end of high school, what did I pick? The lifelong friendships we'd made over the last four years? Nope. The great adventure of life upon which we were about to embark? Nah. Gratitude towards our parents and teachers? Academic and moral excellence?! World peace?!?! Cliché, my dear friends, all too cliché for my tastes. I chose something I could really talk about - ICE CREAM.
I stood up in front of hundreds of people, not to mention my peers, and talked to them about ice cream.
Now THAT'S serious love, or at least a healthy obsession.
And no, you can't read the speech, because it's long been lost in the deep dark depths of hard drive disaster. Believe me - I've looked. What was my 18-year old mind thinking?!
Today, my love for ice cream is as strong as ever (hence the last two blog posts here and here). While my thighs keep reminding me I'd be better off spending Friday nights with a lower calorie friend, I still turn to ice cream when I feel lonely, nostalgic for simpler times, or spectacularly happy. For me, it's the best shoulder to cry on, the ultimate indulgence, and the greatest form of culinary celebration.
My favorite flavor? Mint Chocolate Chip, hands down. Always has been, always will be. Who's with me?
David Lebowitz's recipe uses mint leaves, not extract, to give this classic its intensely fresh flavor and barely-there green hue. I'm a big fan of the florescent ice cream shop stuff (ah, good ol' Baskin Robbins), but this all-natural taste and look could grow on me. My taste buds can be slow learners, though - I might have to eat a whole bunch of it to find out. Darn.
Mint Chip Ice Cream
Adapted from David Lebowitz's The Perfect Scoop, via his website
Makes about 1 quart (1l)
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
pinch of salt
2 cups packed (80 gr) fresh mint leaves
5 large egg yolks
5 ounces (140 gr) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1. Gently rinse mint leaves and pat dry with a clean tea towel.
2. In a medium saucepan, warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup heavy cream, salt, and mint over medium heat.
3. When the mixture begins to steam, remove from heat, cover, and let stand for an hour to infuse the mint flavor.
4. Set a large strainer (or colander) over a large bowl. Pour the mixture through the strainer, then firmly press down on mint with a spatula to extract as much mint flavor and color as possible. (You can also use your hands to do this, making sure the mint isn't too hot to safely handle.) Once the flavor is squeezed out, discard the mint. Transfer the mixture back into the saucepan. Rinse your large bowl and strainer if you don't have any more on hand.
5. Pour the remaining 1 cup heavy cream into a large bowl and set a strainer (not a colander) over the top. In a separate large bowl, prepare an ice bath.
6. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, then reheat the infused milk mixture over medium heat until warm to the touch. Slowly pour about a cup of the warm milk mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly (this tempers the egg yolks so they don't curdle). Scrape the warmed yolks into the saucepan.
7. Cook the custard, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. If using an instant read thermometer, it should read around 170ºF (77ºC).
8. Immediately strain the custard into the cream, then stir the mixture over the ice bath until cool. Cover and thoroughly chill, preferably overnight.
9. When ready to churn the ice cream, place a storage container in the freezer. Pour mixture into ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions.
10. While the ice cream is churning, melt the chocolate in a small bowl over a pot of simmering water, or in a microwave in 20 second intervals, stirring until smooth.
11. When the ice cream in the machine is ready, scribble some of the chocolate into the container, then add a layer of the just-churned ice cream to the container. Scribble melted chocolate over the top of the ice cream, then quickly stir it in, breaking up the chocolate into irregular pieces. Continue layering the ice cream, scribbling more chocolate and stirring as you go. When finished, cover and freeze until firm (about 3 hours, or overnight).
Note: Using an exact quantity of mint leaves isn't imperative for this recipe, nor is the type of mint used. I ended up buying three small bunches of mint from two different markets, each with a slightly different color and scent. I pulled the best leaves from each bunch to measure approximately two packed cups (though I've never been sure of how packed "packed cups" are supposed to be.)