Was happy to find chocolate mint at the farmers’ market the other day. One breath and I was overtaken by the intoxicating aroma of mint and sweet chocolate. Before long, I had a gallon of milk and half a dozen eggs in my bag — the foundation for some excellent gelato. I have to say, this gelato came out just as I had imagined. A creamy texture, a strong mint flavor, and specks of dark chocolate from homemade “chocolate chips” scattered about. The chocolate lattice is a whimsical touch, and requires minimal effort. Just melt some chocolate, dip in a whisk, and shake it all around (being somewhat careful not to make a complete mess).
While it takes a bit of effort to make homemade gelato, you should be up for the challenge. As with all recipes, au naturale is the way to go — no preservatives, food coloring, artificial flavorings or stabilizers/emulsifiers — just milk, cream, eggs, sugar, and mint leaves, nothing more. You may look at these photos and think, this can’t be mint gelato, it’s not green. If your gelato is neon green, chances are food coloring and artificial mint flavors conjured up in some laboratory are the culprit.
Not sure I can technically call this gelato. The main difference between gelato and ice cream is the amount of air added during the freezing process. The more air in any frozen product, the higher the risk of ice crystal formation, and the colder and icier the mouthfeel. Ice cream can have as much as 50% (or more) added air. Gelato, depending on the flavor, will likely have no more than 15 to 20%. To compensate for the amount of added air, a larger amount of heavy cream is typically added to ice cream. Thus, gelato is typically lower in fat (and cream); this particular version of gelato has a higher milk to cream ratio (2 cups of whole milk to 1 cup of heavy cream). Nonetheless, gelato or ice cream that is made with quality ingredients will always taste best!
Mint Chip Gelato
Adapted slightly from Making Artisan Gelato by Torrance Kopfer.
Makes 1 quart
2 cups whole milk
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 cups (lightly packed) fresh mint leaves (used chocolate mint)
4 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
5 ounces dark chocolate (used 72% cacao) see below for making chocolate chips
Pour the milk into a medium-size saucepan. Add about ½ cup of the sugar, place over medium heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture registers 170°F. Remove from the heat, add the mint leaves, and stir to make sure that they’re fully submerged. Cover and let steep for 2 hours. (The longer the mint leaves steep, the stronger the mint flavor will be).
Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean, medium-size saucepan, pressing on the mint leaves to remove as much flavor as possible. Discard the mint leaves and place the steeped mixture back on the stove top over medium heat. Warm, stirring occasionally to keep the bottom from scorching, until it registers 170°F.
In a nonreactive, medium-size bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining ¼ cup of sugar until foamy and slightly thickened.
Carefully temper the egg yolks with the hot milk mixture by slowly adding about half of the hot liquid to the eggs, whisking continuously. Pour the heated egg mixture into the saucepan with the hot milk and return to the stove top. Stirring continuously with a wooden spoon or heatproof rubber spatula, cook the mixture over medium heat until it registers 185°F or is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon or spatula, taking care to make sure the mixture does not boil. Remove from the heat.
Pour the heavy cream into a clean, large stainless-steel or glass mixing bowl set over an ice bath.
Pour the heated custard through a fine-mesh sieve or strainer into the cold cream, add the vanilla extract (if using), and stir until fully incorporated. Stir occasionally until the mixture has fully cooled. This should take about ½ hour. Remove the mixing bowl from the ice bath, dry off the bottom of the bowl if necessary, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight.
When ready, pour the chilled mixture into the ice-cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s specifications. When the gelato is about 2 minutes from being done, slowly add the chocolate chips.
Remove the finished gelato from the ice-cream maker and place in a plastic container. Cover with plastic wrap by pressing the wrap gently against the top of the gelato, affix lid to container, and place in the freezer to fully harden before serving.
Note: For a stronger mint taste and a more vibrant color, reserve ½ cup of the mint leaves. Crush the reserved mint leaves and add to the custard after the first steeping.
5 ounces dark chocolate (used 72% cacao)
Chop the chocolate into small piece. Fill the bottom half of a double boiler with water, making certain the bottom of the top half doesn’t touch the water. Bring the water to a simmer. Place the chocolate in the top half, and place over the simmering water. Be careful that the water doesn’t boil or splash into the chocolate, because any moisture will cause it to seize. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and smooth.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Dip the whisk in the chocolate and shake it back and forth in all directions on the parchment paper as in the picture below. Place in the freezer to harden. When hard, break into little pieces to mix in with the gelato; leaving a fewer bigger pieces for garnish.
Note: if you do not have a double boiler, you can create your own with a saucepan and metal bowl.
A bit of edible abstract art with melted chocolate and a whisk…