Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ice Cream Challenge #2: Real Mint Chip

Here's my second installment of the ice cream challenge I've set for myself (well, actually that Aaron set for me, mostly for his benefit). This recipe comes from the wonderful David Lebovitz, former pastry chef at Chez Panisse in Berkely, California. If you haven't checked out his blog, I highly suggest that you do. He shares a wealth of knowledge from working many years in professional kitchens. I absolutely love his recipe for real mint chip ice cream. If the only thing you associate with mint ice cream is the bright green artificially-colored store-bought stuff, then this recipe will change your distorted view forever.

This ice cream is made by steeping fresh mint leaves in a mixture of hot milk and cream. This allows the mint to infuse itself in the creamy mixture and produce a natural pastel-green color in the final product. This ice cream is extremely delicate and slightly herbaceous. Nothing you buy in a store will ever come close. 

I always liked mint ice cream as a kid, but (call me crazy) was always turned off by the chunks of chocolate. Maybe the quality of the chocolate wasn't that good, but I always felt it either overpowered or got in the way of the creamy minty base. Lebovits' technique of swirling the melted chocolate in layers over the ice cream, and then breaking it up with a spoon, creates perfect little bits of chocolate that easily melt in your mouth and don't distract from the delicate minty flavor. Perfection in every bite, not to mention delightfully refreshing. 


Recipe courtesy David Lebovitz, davidlebovitz.com, as adapted from The Perfect Scoop

1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
¾ cups sugar 
Pinch of sea salt
2 cups packed fresh mint leaves (about 2 bunches of mint)
5 large egg yolks
4 to 5 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped

In a medium sized saucepan, over medium heat, warm the milk, 1 cup of heavy cream, sugar, salt and mint. Once the mixture is hot and steaming, remove from heat and cover. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour to infuse the mint flavor.

Remove the mint by pouring the mixture through a strainer, pressing the mint with a spatula or spoon to extract as much mint flavor and color as possible (you can also use your hand to squeeze the mint). Discard the mint.

Over low heat, re-warm the infused milk. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, then very slowly pour 1 cup of the warm mint mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly. Scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan. 

Cook the custard over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. If using a thermometer, it should read about 170 degrees F. 

Pour the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream into a large mixing bowl, and place a strainer over the top. Pour the custard through the strainer into the cream, and then stir the mixture over an ice bath until cool. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard and place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. 

While the ice cream is freezing, melt the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Place 2 storage containers in the freezer. When the ice cream has finished freezing, drizzle some of the chocolate all over the inside of the container (you can use a spoon, or for more control, transfer the melted chocolate to a plastic squeeze bottle or pastry bag). Add a layer of ice cream to the container, drizzle with more chocolate, and then quickly stir it in to break up the chocolate. Continue layering the ice cream with more chocolate and stirring as you go (use as much or as little chocolate as you'd like). When finished, cover and freeze the ice cream until firm.

Yield: About 1¼ qts.

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