I've added a fourth meal to my days: ice cream. Yes, ice cream as a meal. Can be eaten at any time, though usually between lunch and dinner, or after dinner. Or both.
The days are so hot now that I feel like air-conditioning or going to the pool or
wearing nothing wearing less is just not doing anything to cool me down. Ice cream, though, seems to do the trick. ;)
So when our neighbour kindly gave us some home-grown fresh mint leaves, I decided to make some fresh mint ice cream, with dark chocolate strewn throughout!
Only, I don't have an ice cream machine! I've been longing for one for ages, but it's not an investment I'm able to make currently, so I read up on ice cream making without a machine. And as with everything, there's loads of advice out there on the internet about how to go about doing so! This post from The Kitchn summarises much of the information out there.
I think the mint leaves I have here a spearmint leaves. They smelt amazing and were so herby and fresh, so unlike the artificial in-your-face mint flavour that gum / toothpaste / cheap ice cream has.
To get the most out of the flavour, I blitzed them up with some milk in a blender until the pieces were extremely fine. This turned the milk a funny yellow green colour at first, but then when I heated it up with the rest of the milk and cream, the colour developed into a beautiful pastel mint! Natural food colouring! I then let it sit in the hot milk/cream mixture until cooled - a bit like steeping tea, trying to slowly and delicately draw the flavour out.
I chose this method found on The Kitchn to make my ice cream, with a bit of modification to suit my needs. It's instructions on how to freeze and churn the ice cream, rather than the ice cream mixture itself. The method basically involves using an electric mixer to smash out any ice crystals that form between bouts in the freezer, and also 'churning' the mix while freezing (as the mixture bowl is nestled in ice).
The results were not bad - my ice cream didn't turn out creamy and smooth, but it was definitely scoopable and not a solid block of ice! Though part of this may be to do with my choice of a lower-fat recipe, I think this method of making ice cream without a machine may not be suitable for a hot place like Hong Kong.
As soon as I took the ice cream mixture out of the freezer to mix and churn, it started to melt again, even though I made a nice ice bath for it! It was like one step forward, two steps back... I struggled to get it to a soft serve consistency, and then when I did, it melted into liquid again as soon the electric mixer hit it!
The resultant consistency was a compromise between ice cream and sorbet. There ice crystals in it, but only very fine crystals that actually contribute to the unbelievably cool minty freshness that this ice cream is.
I drizzled melted chocolate during the last churning to make stracciatella, because nothing goes better with mint than dark bittersweet chocolate!
Then with the last bits of leftover melted chocolate, I painted over the back of some mint leaves to make intricate chocolate leaves. Decoration that's edible, is the best type of decoration!
Try out this fresh minty ice cream to cool you down this summer, and let me know what you think. It's definitely worth the effort. Alternatively, you could chuck a bucket of ice over your head (#ALSIceBucketChallenge, anyone?)!
Homemade mint ice cream with fresh leaves and dark chocolate strands.
Makes 1 litre. Takes 1.5 hours to cook, 4 hours to chill, 4 hours to churn/freeze, 4 hours to freeze solid.
Get some of this:
- 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves (leaves only, no stalks)
- 500mL full-fat milk
- 250mL double cream
- 5 egg yolks
- 125g sugar
- 2 tablespoon rum (optional - this doesn't affect the taste, but helps develop a creamy texture)
- 100g good quality dark chocolate
Let's make ice cream!
- Rinse and pat dry the fresh mint leaves.
- Put the mint leaves into a blender with some of the milk and blitz until very fine. Add to a pot with the rest of the milk, cream and 25g of sugar. Heat gently until just simmering, stirring occasionally. Then turn off the heat, cover and let sit until cool, about an hour.
- Return the milk and cream mixture to just simmering.
- In the meantime, beat the egg yolks and rest of the the 100g of sugar until thick and pale and fluffy. This takes about 5 minutes.
- When the milk and cream mixture is ready, spoon a ladleful into the beaten egg and whisk thoroughly. This brings the eggs up to temperature with scrambling them. Then the egg mixture can be added directly to the milk/cream to make the custard.
- Heat the custard mixture over a very low heat, stirring all the time, until thickened. It is ready when the temperature reaches 75-80˚C. Another way to know is by dipping a wooden spoon into the mixture, and lifting it back out. Draw a line down the back of the spoon, if the line stays then it's ready!
- Let the custard cool and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours (or overnight). When thoroughly chilled it is ready for churning and freezing. Add the rum here if using
- Place the bowl of custard mixture inside a larger bowl of ice, then use an electric mixer to beat the mixture for 10 minutes.
- Place the bowl into the freezer for an hour, then repeat step 8. Repeat these two steps until the mixture is the consistency of soft serve ice cream. This may take 3 or 4 times!
- When the mixture is starting to freeze and no longer liquid, then make the stracciatella: Melt dark chocolate over a bain-marie. Scoop a layer of the ice cream mixture into the container you will use to store the ice cream, then drizzle lines and of chocolate over the mixture. It should freeze instantly. Then use a spatula to break up the chocolate strands and mix to distribute evenly. Add another layer of ice cream mixture, and repeat with the chocolate until all the ice cream is in the container. Freeze until solid (at least four hours).
- To make the chocolate leaves: Use the back of a teaspoon to pick up some melted chocolate and 'paint' a thick layer on the back of a mint leaf. Place chocolate-side up on some baking paper on a tray. Repeat with as many leaves as you want. Place the tray into the fridge for at least 10 minutes to set. When completely hardened, then take out and carefully peel the leaf from the chocolate. You should be left with a beautiful engraving on the chocolate!