Frosty Festive Treat
In my family, there is an emerging holiday tradition that takes place between Christmas and New Year’s: a homemade ice cream contest between each segment of our immediate family. My three brothers and their respective families along with my parents and then D and myself all form teams to come up with an original ice cream flavor, which we then all make on the same day and have judged for bragging rights. Trust me, bragging rights are a far better prize than any other, although there’s talk of getting a gold-painted ice cream scoop for a traveling trophy.
This year was the first I participated as I usually had to leave for other engagements by the time the contest took place. I mulled over my flavor options for quite a few weeks. It’s not an easy task to come up with a winning scoop in this family of expert ice cream makers. One of those cartoon light bulbs went off when I hit upon the idea of Peppermint Dark Chocolate Ice Cream. It was seasonal, unique, and I already had a superb creamy rich chocolate recipe in my arsenal.
The day of the contest, last Friday, was chaotic with four teams (one brother bailed at the last minute) hard at work while simultaneously egging each other on with competitive jabs and threats of sabotage. Really, it was a blast. Each ice cream was made with gallons of fresh whole cows milk lugged across the 100 yards from the dairy barn to the house. And for my recipe, I used some amazing local brown eggs with yolks the color of deep golden late summer sunshine.
Four generations crowded into the kitchen for the official judging. A panel of three judges – my aunt, uncle and cousin – were tasked with determining the ice cream with the best taste and texture. They didn’t know who had made what flavor so it was about as fair as it could get within a highly competitive family. The other three flavors were Chocolate Covered Strawberry, Chocolate Cashew, and French Vanilla with Chocolate Chips. All tough and worthy contenders, to be sure.
Oh, and yes, I won.
Since the flurry of activity that was associated with the contest did not lend itself to any sophisticated food styling for a photo shoot, I came home and made a second batch of this winning concoction so you could get a better idea of its merits. Dark, rich, ridiculously creamy, and quite minty, this ice cream is a perfect frosty treat for the remainder of the holiday season.
Now, you might notice in the photos that the scoops look a tad bit grainy (and a little melted since I was taking photos in a window flooded with hot sunshine and the heat from a radiator right below it). I have to advise you not to make the same decision I did when churning this second batch. I was in the grocery store, looking for heavy cream and couldn’t find any. I though to myself, “Well, I’ll just use the light cream as I’ve already had too much fat this holiday.”
Bad idea. Very bad. This batch, while just as flavorful, was not nearly as smooth and creamy as the first. Stick to the original recipe, folks. No cutting corners and calories. It only makes a quart anyway so you can’t overindulge too terribly much. Besides, like me, I’m sure you’re headed back to the gym with new fervor in a few days anyway. The full fat version is so worth the extra mile on the treadmill!
Peppermint Dark Chocolate Ice Cream
A Straight from the Farm Original
3/4 C. sugar
1 C. milk
1/4 t. salt
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 C. unsweetened cocoa powder
3 egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped very finely
1 T. peppermint extract
2 C. heavy cream
1/2 C. crushed candy canes or peppermint candies
Combine sugar, milk, salt, scraped vanilla bean and pods and 3 tablespoon of crushed candy cane in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the mixture begins to steam and simmer and candy bits are melted. Remove the vanilla pods. Stir in the cocoa powder, being sure to incorporate any lumps with brisk whisking.
Place the egg yolks into a small bowl. Gradually stir in about 1/2 cup of the hot liquid to temper the eggs and return everything to the saucepan. Heat until thickened, but do not boil. Remove from the heat, and stir in the chopped chocolate until chocolate is melted. Pour into a chilled bowl and refrigerate for about two hours until cold.
Combine the extract with the heavy cream. Whip it until it forms soft peaks and gently stir into the chocolate mixture. Pour into an ice cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. During the last minute of churning, add the remainder of the crushed candy.
Place ice cream in a tupperware container and put in the freezer to firm up for at least an hour.
(makes 1 quart)