Friday, June 13th, 2008

Just-Like-the-Parlor Mint Chip Ice Cream

This is what I've been having for dinner lately. I don't have an air conditioner and don't see the point much when I can dip into a carton of homemade ...

This is what I’ve been having for dinner lately. I don’t have an air conditioner and don’t see the point much when I can dip into a carton of homemade ice cream every once in a while. It does much more than cool the physical senses. It soothes and elates, bringing me back to the emotional state of being on a class trip in kindergarten, when every kid lined up at the local ice cream parlor and ordered the same thing: mint chocolate chip in a sugar cone. (Ever have a similar experience?) Some of them were following the fad, for sure, jumping on the bandwagon at that impressionable age. Though few, if any, would regret doing so.

These days the adult palate might do without the edible cup, but not the all-age/gender encompassing flavor.

“Oh, just get me mint chip,” said my aunt ten years later, settling onto a bench at a Baskin Robbins with a wave of her hand, as if it were too ridiculous to get up and contemplate any of the other 30 flavors behind the glass case.

Mint chocolate chip ice cream is an anomaly among favorite American foods. It doesn’t appear to stem from anything and it hasn’t spurned anything like it, either (well, not including my recent homage to it in cupcake form). From its lofty place in flavor preferences, it stands alone. I don’t see mint-flavored panna cotta being made, or green mint syrup being squeezed into milk and stirred with a straw by the Quik bunny. I don’t even see mint-flavored yogurt, though you wouldn’t think it would be too strange when the yogurt industry has forged cheesecake and orange creamsicle flavors in its oeuvre.

And yet, everybody loves mint chip ice cream. I know people who say they don’t like mint but like it. Would we even call the pastel shade of green “mint” if it weren’t for this ice cream flavor? I doubt it – mint leaves aren’t this color.

Dare I mention that Timothy McVeigh requested two pints of it as his last meal?

What is this all leading up to, you might be wondering by this point? That our brains have been planted with an alien chip programmed to love mint chip unconditionally, and without reason? No. That I’ve got to figure out just how to make it the right way at home.

This version, my first attempt, looked like the real thing. Tasted like the real thing. The texture (which I’ve been honing for all ice creams ever since I bought an ice cream maker more than a year ago) feels like the real thing — the best real thing that ever were, in fact. I have fallen unconditionally and with good reason in love with this ice cream flavor all over again, and it’s now mine Mine MINE for the gobbling. At home.

I’ve contemplated making the ice cream with fresh mint, much in the same way I steeped basil leaves for a basil lemon ice cream recently. But I’ve tried ice cream with fresh mint in it before and while it’s incredibly unique and fresh-tasting — like a mojito — it’s a completely different animal from the ice cream parlor classic. It tastes nothing like mint chip.

That classic mint flavor is produced with a single drop or two of peppermint extract. It’s powerful stuff, and smells strongly of toothpaste. But when mixed with sweet, rich cream, something magical happens. I can’t explain it any better. Meaty hunks of dark chocolate so cold that they crunch in your mouth push the combination to the ethereal extremes. It’s nothing complicated. There isn’t much in it that you can’t find in your kitchen already (if you have an ice cream maker). I’ll start looking for those swivel chairs in the meantime. Not that it’s necessary.

Just-Like-the-Parlor Mint Chip Ice Cream
(makes 1 quart of ice cream, about 10 servings)

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 3/4 cups whole milk
3 egg yolks
2/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 oz. good dark chocolate, finely chopped
3-4 drops green food coloring (optional)

Heat milk and cream in a saucepan on high. Turn off just before it begins to boil (this is called “scalding”). Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine the yolks and sugar and whisk well (or use a hand blender) until light yellow and fluffy. While whisking rapidly, slowly pour in a teaspoon of the hot milk mixture. Continue whisking well, slowly adding another spoonful of the milk. Continue blending in more hot milk gradually until you have added about 1/2 cup (the goal is to temper the eggs, without cooking them). Add the egg mixture to the rest of the milk mixture in the saucepan and turn heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 6 minutes or until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Do not let boil. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Then transfer to an airtight container and chill in the refrigerator until completely chilled, about 4 hours (or overnight).

Stir in the peppermint extract and optional food coloring. Have the chocolate chips cut up and ready to go, as they will be tossed into the ice cream when it’s almost finished churning. Follow your ice cream maker’s instructions to churn the custard mixture and add the chocolate chips to the mixture within the last couple minutes of its cycle. Transfer to an airtight container and freezer about 2 hours before serving to “ripen” the ice cream.

Cost Calculator
(for 1 quart of ice cream)

1 1/4 cups cream (at $2.50/pint): $1.56
1 3/4 cups whole milk (at $2.29/quart): $0.60
3 egg yolks (at $3/dozen): $0.38
2/3 cup sugar: $0.25
2 oz. good dark chocolate (at $5.99/lb): $1.50
2 drops food coloring: $0.05

Total: $4.34

Health Factor


Eight brownie points: Come to think of it, fresh mint would have earned this a bit more respect in the health category. I don’t think there is very much to say for this ice cream, aside from the obvious calcium factor, the slight antioxidant factor (from the dark chocolate chips), and the fact(or) that there are no preservatives or unnatural ingredients in the homemade version whatsoever.

Green Factor


Three maple leaves: This is one of the points where I feel really sneaky for using green food coloring. (It was only innocent nostalgia…) The only thing really “green,” as in earth-friendly, about this ‘cream is that I used cage-free eggs and organic milk, though I didn’t have the time to seek out organic heavy cream while shopping in my immediate vicinity.

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14 Responses to “Just-Like-the-Parlor Mint Chip Ice Cream”

  1. Kitt says:

    Very cool! I’ll be making this for the beau, who orders mint chip every time we go to the ice cream parlor.

  2. Colloquial Cook says:

    Haha, it’s funny that you mention toothpaste, that is exactly the reason why I don’t like mint and chocolate combined together! It feels like eating chocolate right after brushing your teeth!I guess it’s one of those love it/hate it things.

  3. Mark says:

    Aliens and Mint? Interesting thinking… ;)/

    Want to learn more about this great product from my ‘neck of the woods’ (no pun intended)? Here is a great piece of info:

    http://www.ipmcenters.org/CropProfiles/docs/ormint.html

    By the way, save some for visiting guests over the weekend!

  4. Sarah says:

    Mint chocolate chip is my absolute favorite flavor. As soon as I get my ice cream maker this one is going in!

    I do have to say, I used to work at a restaurant that made mint panna cotta and it was heaven.

  5. Emiline says:

    My favorite!

  6. Just Serving Ice Cream says:

    I don’t know about aliens…but Mint Chip is my all-time favorite homemade ice cream! Both to eat and to make!

    If I’m not in the mood for experimenting with new ice cream recipes – I always default to Mint Chip ice cream!

  7. Jeena says:

    I love the picture of that wonderful chunk of chocolate. :-)

  8. Joanna says:

    Mmm I love mint chip ice cream! This version looks delicious, I’m adding it to the “make this when I get an ice cream maker” list. Though I might try a version with fresh mint first, only because I LOVE fresh mint. Even if it tastes different, it’s got to be good!

    Speaking of which… while mint chip ice cream might be sort of an anomaly in that mint hasn’t infiltrated all sorts of other desserts, I think there are quite a few mint/chocolate combos. Like Thin Mints, and Grasshoppers, and Andes mints, and peppermint patties… and I have a tin of mint hot chocolate in my cabinet… but I digress. I tend to seek out mint-flavored anything so maybe it’s just me. ;)

  9. cathy says:

    Thanks everyone!
    Mark: I never knew Oregon was the major mint grower in the states, huh. And as for saving some for “guests,” my friend Matt devoured the entire carton when I left it at his place instead of saving some for me. I guess I’m an awesome friend.
    Joanna: True about the thin mints, etc… but dairy with mint seems sort of rare.
    Sarah: I’ll have to try the panna cotta next…

  10. j says:

    So what is a good way to save egg whites and/or yolks when one or the other is called for in a recipe? I just made bread that called for 3/4 c of egg whites and threw the yolks out. Now I wish I had them because I am so going to pull out the ice cream maker now.

  11. EB says:

    Any recommendations for a particular cone?

  12. Mike says:

    This looks delicious! I made a minty ice cream recently and loved it, too.

  13. Danica says:

    I LOVE mint-flavored anything. One year, I bought 6 big bags of mint-flavored M&Ms at winterholidaytime, intending to maybe eat from two of them and sell the other four on ebay… and over the course of the year I ate every single one. omg. so good.

    I never knew anyone else who defaulted to mint chocolate chip ice cream! That has been my standby flavor since childhood. It is SO GOOD. And I agree – Andes and Thin Mints and such aside, there is far too little mint and mint-chocolate stuff out there. I have had bakeries and, most recently, Trader Joe’s tell me that it’s “seasonal.” How ridiculous! It’s COOLING – if anything it should be most celebrated in the summer.

    Also, I found a good recipe many years ago for a mint ice cream that can be made without an ice-cream maker… and I’ve still never tried it! I am unhappy to say that my current bottle of mint flavoring is peppermint AND spearmint (ugh) because Trader Joe’s was out of their organic peppermint flavor (seasonal my ass) and everywhere else had either this or incredibly expensive McCormick’s crap. But maybe it will make good mint ice cream anyway.

  14. Danica says:

    Oh and J: I’ve heard that the easiest way to save egg parts is to freeze them – even drop the yolks or whites in ice cube trays and pop them out later!

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