Transparency

My slip is showing. Well, my lack of creativity, anyway. I solicited all these ideas for using up my plethora of mint, and did I use any of them? One single one? Nope, not at all. I fell back on my own idea–mint ice cream.

Admittedly, I used twice as much mint as most recipes called for, and I steeped it in the cream for about 48 times as long, but still: not the most innovative thing I could have come up with.

Last Friday morning I cut almost all of the chocolate mint off of my plant (fear not: it’s been less than a week and it’s already almost entirely back), stripped the leaves off the stems, washed them lightly, spun them dry, crushed them slightly with my fingers, and put them into a 1-quart glass measuring cup. (A note about the washing–I didn’t really plan to wash the leaves, but who knew that mint plants were where flies went to die? At least 25% of my mint leaves went into the garbage because there was a dessicated housefly carcass stuck to the other side. No pithy comments on this situation, just: Eeew).

I covered the crushed leaves with 1 cup of heavy cream and 1 cup of milk, then brought the liquids just barely to a boil in the microwave. The boiling probably would have been a bit more controlled on the stove-top, but I was using all 3 of my working burners at the time, and didn’t want to wait.

I let the mint mixture steep for 1 hour at room temperature, the amount of time that almost every recipe calls for. At that point, I tasted the cream; it barely tasted like mint at all. As most home-churners know, cold dulls flavors. If an ice cream base isn’t shockingly intense, when frozen the flavor will barely register. (Sometimes, admittedly, this is what you want, but I felt that if I was going to use practically an entire mint plant, the ice cream should be noticeably minty). Instead of straining the mint out of the cream before I chilled it, I just covered the measuring cup with plastic wrap and slid the whole thing into the fridge.

It was over two days later when I finally got around to churning it up. By that point the mint leaves had given up almost all of their oils, and the cream was translucently white–the same white that you see in roses, when they’re really a green so pale that you can’t even identify it. I strained the mixture through a sieve (and then ended up squeezing the thickened cream from the mint leaves with my hands), added another cup of cream, and indeterminate amount of simple syrup (maybe 1/3 cup), and 1/4 cup cacao nibs.

I’d asked Teacherman if he wanted plain mint ice cream, or chocolate-mint ice cream, and he came down decidedly in favor of “plain.” He was attracted to the idea of its clean, bracing flavors, and I can’t say I wasn’t equally enthused. I did want to involve chocolate in SOME way, though, to play off of the chocolately background of the mint itself, and I thought the slight bitterness of the cacao nibs would be a nice contrast to the sweetness of the cream (and a reference to a childhood favorite: mint chocolate chip ice cream).

We poured it into the freezer bowl and churned away. The finished product was thinner than other ice creams we’ve made in the past. With air whipped in, the ice cream was even more translucent and delicately, unidentifiably green, but the flavor could knock out a full-grown man. The mint was assertive without being aggressive, and never crossed the line into the medicinal, toothpaste-i-ness of so many desserts made with fresh lime leaves. The almost unadulterated cream tamed and rounded the flavors of the mint, but never overwhelmed it, as an egg-custard base might have.

We got several substantial servings from just the one batch, and have been enjoying it, unadulterated by chocolate sauce or toppings–all week long, having our summer fun while the warm weather lasts.

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Published in: on September 25, 2007 at 8:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

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