Mint Chip Ice Cream in the Quest for the Best

Image ©Graeter’s 2009

The other night, Cullen decided it was time for a treat. I had been hurting all day from the kid’s positioning, and we’d been pretty busy out of necessity. We went to Kroger for some lazy supper items, and splurged on a pint of Graeter’s mint chip ice cream. If you’re unfamiliar with Graeter’s, they’re one of the oldest family-run ice cream manufacturers in the States, and they’ve been making ice cream via their French pot method since 1870. All their ice cream is made in two-gallon batches, and hand-packed in containers to ship directly to their scoop shops, grocery stores, or the consumer. I grew up on Graeter’s, but I hadn’t had it since I was small, and couldn’t ever justify the price tag in store.

Boy, was I glad we spent that little extra for some damn good ice cream. It was so worth it.

However good a pint of Graeter’s is, I still can’t justify the price tag every time we make a trip to the grocery. Cullen mentioned making a batch of mint chip at home, and a mild obsession was created. It appears that I don’t nest, so instead I suppose I cook.

I wanted to make the best batch of ice cream I could – I wanted to rival Graeter’s in my finished product. I did a little research on Graeter’s and the French pot method of making ice cream. I looked at reviews on ice cream makers – I have a KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker as well as a Cuisinart Automatic 1-Quart Ice Cream Maker – in order to figure out which one created less overrun, or incorporated air, in the mixture. (Turns out the Cuisinart is win.) And though Graeter’s method is fairly straightforward and explained online, their formula is (understandably) kept  off the Internet, with only the hints that they use the purest ingredients in their ice cream; so I went careening through the archives to find some reliable recipes that I could use for the ultimate batch of mint chip ice cream. I came up with two finalists: David Lebovitz’s Mint Chip Ice Cream, for the recipe; and America’s Test Kitchen Vanilla Ice Cream, for part of the technique.

Ultimately, while there were a few minor things I would change, this ice cream turned out to be the best ice cream I have made to date. It was definitely a labor of love, but worth every minute. As long as I continue to have access to dozens of farm fresh eggs, homemade ice cream is going to be happily available for the forseeable future.

Mint Chip Ice Cream
yields 1 quart (approx.)

recipe adapted from David Lebovitz’s Mint Chip Ice Cream

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split
2-3 teaspoons pure mint extract
5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup dark chocolate, melted

Heat milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Scrape seeds of vanilla bean into mixture, and add empty pod. When mixture begins to steam, remove from heat, cover, and let steep for an hour.

Pour cream into medium-sized bowl, set into a larger bowl filled with ice water, and place a fine strainer over the cream. In another bowl (or measuring cup), gently beat egg yolks and temper with milk mixture. Add tempered yolks to milk and cook over low heat, stirring constantly. When custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove from heat and strain into chilled cream. Stir over ice until thoroughly combined and cool, then stir in mint extract. Cover with plastic wrap (so plastic touches custard surface to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate at least four hours to overnight.

One hour before you plan to process your ice cream, put custard in the freezer in order to create a “super-chilled” base. Turn on your ice cream maker and pour custard into cylinder while it’s turning. Toward the end of processing, slowly pour the melted chocolate into the ice cream to create the chocolate chips. To ripen to a harder consistency, pack into an airtight container and freeze at least two hours before serving.

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