Thoughts about ice cream:
Memories from my childhood come to me like pockets of hot steam in a hand pie. They are distinct, clear, and separate. I don’t have a flow of what happened when, or what happened after. It’s more like in the middle of the day, of doing something else, a memory will come and it’s as clear as the day it happened. I only get a glimpse sometimes. I don’t know why memories of my childhood are like this, I don’t have a memory or brain condition (that I know of). I’m just not great at keeping chronological events from getting muddled.
When I do remember, I can’t shake those memories for days. This time, it was ice cream.
We were camping. The smell of pine all around. I was sitting on top of the hand crank ice cream maker while my brothers and cousins took turns cranking. The crunch of the rock salt was a roar, all the laughter and talking was sailing above it, and everyone was standing around waiting for it, even the adults.
Ice cream really has a special place in my heart. It was almost a nightly tradition, a contest, an expression of creativity and a family bonding act. But this was nothing like the tube of Neapolitan that got pulled out of the freezer for friday movie night. This ice cream was special, everyone getting a small soft mound in their paper cups. This ice cream tasted richer, stronger, and lasted longer on my tongue.
When I tasted that hand cranked ice cream, I think I began to understand what a reward for hard work could be. Doing something by hand can result in a really, really good thing.
Today I might not use a hand crank ice cream maker, but everything about this ice cream is worth the wait. Creamy, minty, with just the right amount of salt. The chocolate candies are like Andes mints all grown up. The fresh mint is perfect, and the rich eggy ice cream base is something to get lost in.
You know, though all this remembering, I can’t get over how my dad lugged that clunky hand crank ice cream maker to the middle of the woods, giving up valuable trunk space. It’s proof that I’m his daughter. Now that I think of it, it’s a perfectly practical thing to take camping.
Salted Chocolate Mint Ice Cream
Makes about 4 cups.
A few notes about this recipe:
This recipe is adapted from Kathy Casey’s book, Kathy Casey’s Northwest Table, a charming book about the great northwest; including Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Southern Alaska. I highly recommend it.
The second thing I wanted to tell you is that I used an ice cream maker attachment to my Professional Kitchenaid Mixer. I store the ice cream bowl in the freezer so that it’s at the ready for any emergency ice cream making. If yours is stored elsewhere, you’ll need to freeze it over night to achieve the desired results–that being, ice cream that is actually frozen.
The recipe for the salted mint chocolates you’ll make for this provides you with lots of extra candies. You’ll find them useful for a midnight snack. Adding the entire pan might be over kill (if there is such a thing), so about 1 cup for the ice cream is excellent. The candies can be made ahead of time (up to a month, I’d say) and stored, already chopped, in the freezer in a plastic bag. The ice cream base can also be made up to a day ahead of time.
When making the ice cream base, tempering the egg yolks is extremely important. It is crucial that you do not get impatient (just think of those hand crank days). Slow and easy is the key to a silky smooth ice cream. Sometimes employing a helper to whisk or pour is just the ticket to relieve the pressure from your shoulders. If you do get small lumps, you’ll strain the ice cream later, so it’s not quite the end of the world.
First: make the candies.
Chocolate Mint Candies:
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped or chips
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
Directions for the candies:
Put metal sheet pan with sides (like a jelly roll pan) in the fridge or in a cool part of the house (even a basement or garage depending on the time of year).
Melt the chocolate, butter, and salt in a double broiler. When the chocolate is mostly melted, add the peppermint extract. Remove the pan from the heat and sift the confectioners sugar over the bowl of melted chocolate, then whisk until well blended. Pour into the cooled sheet pan and spread it out until it is mostly even thickness (it might not cover the entire pan).
Let it cool in the fridge or put it in the freezer until hardened. If it is a warm day or your kitchen is warm, the freezer is your best bet. This chocolate candy melts very easily.
Leave the chocolate candy tray in the freezer until chilled. Just before preparing the ice cream maker, remove the pan from the freezer and give it a decent smack down on your counter top. It should break into pieces. Chop each chunk into rough pieces or perfect squares, whatever gives you the most delight. Store in the freezer until you are about 5 minutes before the end of churning the ice cream.
For the Ice Cream:
4 cups heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups packed mint sprigs, plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
6 egg yolks
1 cup chopped mint candies, in jagged pieces is fine
Directions for the ice cream:
In a heavy bottomed medium sauce pan, combine the cream and sugar. Tear the mint sprigs to lightly bruise them, and add them into the cream mixture. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Once at a simmer, turn off the heat, but leave the pot on the burner.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Using a ladle, slowly take 1/4 cup-1/3 cup hot liquid and, while whisking with your other hand, stream the hot liquid into the egg yolks. Yes, I’m suggesting that you do two things at once with each hand, and while I realize this might be ridiculous, you might surprise yourself. However, if you find this impossible, simply lower the amount of hot cream to a few tablespoons, spooning this into the egg yolks and then whisking the cream into the yolks. The idea is to do it slowly and gradually.
When you’ve brought the yolks up to almost near the temperature of the hot cream mixture, you can be much quicker about it, switching actually to slowly streaming the eggs into the hot cream, whisking vigorously.
Remove from the burner and set somewhere cooler, to let it come back down to room temperature. This mixture will form a skin on the top if not occasionally whisked or stirred as it cools, so just stop by every once in awhile and give it some love in the form of a stir. When cooled, place in the fridge in a covered bowl and refrigerate for two hours. You want it very cold when you stir it into the ice cream maker.
After at least two hours, take the mixture out and strain it into a new bowl, using a fine mesh strainer. Discard the recovered mint leaves. Stir the chopped mint into the chilled ice cream base.
Prepare your ice cream maker.
Pour the ice cream into the maker, according to the manufacturers instructions. Mine calls for the ice cream maker to running on low while I pour in the base, which gives the churning a running start. Churn for 20-30 minutes, adding in the chopped salted chocolate candies during the last five minutes.
Scrape the ice cream into a freezer safe container and store in the freezer until ready to serve. You could just eat it, out the ice cream maker, with a long spoon and a stupid grin on your face. That’s precisely what I did. Eat this outside, preferably in the presence of pine trees.