Fresh Mint Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

I call him Fred.  Fred and the Cat have become the best of friends.  He’s been dropping by for quite some time, but lately, something’s changed.  The Cat and Fred have started hanging out together and having long conversations … I’m not sure they understand each other too well, but whatever they talk about, it must be delightful.

I think they’re flirting to be honest.  She meows, he squawks.  She blinks slowly at him and he puffs up his chest and ruffles his feathers … it’s quite funny to watch them.

You see, Fred is a Magpie.   A rather handsome bird, but a magpie.

So I’ve made efforts to acquaint myself with Fred.  For the Cat’s sake … and because I seriously don’t get this relationship 😛   Fred has now grown accustomed to me as well.  He comes to greet me in the backyard and will eat out of my hand, rather gently, I might add.  He’s quite the gentleman, our Fred.  The three of us spent some quality time in the sunshine at lunchtime today … the Cat pretending to doze, while keeping one eye open.  Fred hopped around the lawn, picking out worms with uncanny precision (how do they know?).  I kept watch and took a quiet moment to relax in the sun.  He made efforts to get the Cat’s attention, swirling and swooping low over her.  She watched him, blinked and meowed.  He took a breather and perched on the clothesline and the fence to watch over her.

You know, as unlikely a love story as this is, it’s still a better love story than Twilight.  Isn’t it?

What has all this to do with ice cream?  Not much, except that Spring has finally arrived in our world and the days are warmer and the sun is shining.  My herb garden is all green and perfumed and I haven’t made proper ice cream in a while.  I certainly haven’t made this ice cream in years.

Chocolate and mint is another one of those flavour combinations that polarises people.  You either love it or hate it.  I love it.  The rest of my family doesn’t care for it too much.  They either don’t like chocolate (freaks) or don’t like mint (must be evil) and certainly don’t care for them together (I’m considering legal means of disowning them forever :-P).  They just don’t get the relationship between chocolate and mint.

We’re not talking peppermint essence and green food colouring here.  This is all about fresh mint leaves for a true mint flavour.  I love the contrast of peppermint with chocolate but you might prefer a slightly sweeter and milder spearmint.  Either way, this ice cream will be delicious.  Make sure you pick (or buy) fresh mint.  It should not be wilted and sorry-looking … bright healthy, perfumed leaves only, OK?

This is a traditional ice cream, based on a crème anglaise.  You can make it lighter or richer, depending on how you love your ice cream.  I like this one lighter and so have used single cream and skim milk.  I would advocate whole milk, usually, but it works fine with skim too.  The texture is light and creamy and the mint and chocolate are both fresh and intense.  If you love your ice cream really rich, you can use double cream.  It will be extra lush.  Make sure to use a good quality chocolate for this.  You can obviously add some mint flavoured dark chocolate.  I did not as I prefer to get the contrast of mint and chocolate and didn’t want to mess with the fresh mint flavour of the ice cream.  It would be a waste of effort, right?  I used the Michel Cluizel Mangaro, a lovely 65% cacao single origin chocolate.  Perfect with the mint as it has a slightly spicy and fruity flavour.

Don’t be impatient and skip the infusion step at the start.  It’s really important to getting that lovely minty fresh flavour.  I make this in small batches because it’s mine, mine, all mine by default, but you can easily double the recipe.

If you know me, you’ll know why I call him Fred 🙂

I hope you enjoy this one, Guzzla and Sydking … fellow members of the Chocolate Mint Appreciation Society 😉

Makes 1 litre (recipe can easily be scaled up)

260 grams cream*
260 grams whole milk*
1 large bunch fresh mint
4 large egg yolks
135 grams sugar
130 grams cream*
70 grams good quality dark chocolate

*You can use single (35% fat) or double (50% fat) cream, depending on how rich you want this ice cream to be.  I prefer this one with a lighter texture so I’ve used single cream in this recipe.  It allows the freshness of the mint and chocolate to shine, without being overpowered by the strong dairy flavour of heavy cream.  But each to his or her own.

The first step is to infuse the cream and milk with the mint.  There are two methods you can use for this, depending on your preference and time available.  Both result in a wonderful intense mint flavour.  I used the second method this time, although my preference is usually for an overnight infusion.

Method 1: Combine the milk and cream in a bowl.  Carefully remove the mint leaves and add to the cream mixture.  Stir well.  Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Method 2: Combine the cream and milk in a saucepan.  Carefully remove the mint leaves and add to the cream mixture.  Stir well.  Place over a low to medium heat and bring to simmering point.  Remove from the heat immediately and allow to cool.  Cover and refrigerate to infuse for at least thirty minutes.  I recommend letting the mint infuse for about 2 hours, to get a fresh intense minty flavour.

Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk until light and creamy.   Transfer the cream and mint mixture to a saucepan over a low to medium heat.  Bring to simmering point and then slowly strain the mixture into the egg yolks, whisking continuously.  This can be tricky so you might find it easier to strain the cream into a jug or container and then add it in a slow stream to the egg yolks as you whisk.

Place the custard back into the saucepan and cook over a low heat until the custard thickens slightly.  Stir continuously and do not allow the mixture to boil.  When ready it will coat the back of a wooden spoon.

Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl, placed in an ice bath.  This will cool the custard quickly.  Once cooled, add the remaining 130 grams of cream and mix well.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.  This step is important to ensure the base is well chilled before churning but also allows the fat droplets in the custard to bind to the lecithin (emulsifier) in the egg yolks.  This leads to a better fat network throughout the custard, leading to a much smoother, creamier texture.  A well chilled base also churns better and results in a lighter texture.  Ageing your custard base is well worth the wait.

When ready, use a stick blender to give the base one last whizz before churning.  It just helps ensure the fats are well emulsified in the mix.   Churn in an ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Make sure the bowl is really well chilled (keep it in the freezer for at least 24 hours or more before using).  Chop the chocolate into uneven pieces.  I chop them quite small, but it’s up to you, about how you like your chocolate chunks distributed!  Fold the chocolate through the mint ice cream.  Place into an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve.

If you do not have an ice-cream machine, place the custard into the freezer instead of the fridge.  When it’s partly frozen, remove and whisk briskly to distribute the ice crystals.  Return to the freezer and repeat 2 or 3 times until the ice-cream is well churned and ready.  At this point, fold in the chopped chocolate.  Place into an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve.

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