Growing up, my family regularly vacationed in the very area that we now live in, a group of islands in the Pacific Northwest. The summers before my 4th, 6th, and 9th birthdays were spent camping, kayaking, playing on the beach, and taking the ferry boat over to other harbors. When we ventured over to the island that I now live on, I remember being forced to walk an entire mile (half of which, my mother kindly reminds me, was spent in a stroller) in the blazing sun to the public library, taking actual showers (rather than standing under a bag of heated water in a hidden grove of trees in our camp site), and walking out onto the docks to gaze at all the impressive ships. Best of all though, was the ice cream cart. The ice cream cart, located mere feet from the ocean, always promised a cool, creamy treat at the end of a fun-filled day.
While I always opted for my favorite flavor, rainbow sherbet, I remember my dad consistently choosing mint chocolate chip. Although I loved the trio of flavors that my sherbet provided, sometimes I found myself wishing I’d gone with the mint chip. There’s something about the cool, fresh flavor of mint ice cream studded with decadent chocolate chips that has always held a special place in my heart. Although the mint-chocolate combo is divine, my favorite of the two components (being the mint ice cream and chocolate chips) has always been the mint. For many years I actually found myself wishing that it was easier to find plain old mint ice cream. No chocolate chips, just smooth, sweet, uninterrupted mint. Unfortunately in a chocolate-obsessed world, such an ice cream doesn’t seem to exist. However, sometime ago I discovered an alternative to mint chocolate chip ice cream that made me forget all about wishing for plain old mint: Mint Cookie Crunch.
Dreyer’s Mint Cookie Crunch is mint ice cream swirled with chocolate cookie crumbles. Much like a mint version of cookies and cream, another favorite of mine, this ice cream quickly became a new favorite. The less-intense chocolate flavor of the cookie crumbs seems to meld more nicely with the mint ice cream, not to mention the slight, pleasant crunch that the chocolate crumbs provide in contrast to the creamy ice cream. To sum it up, yum.
The last day of June brought with it a heat wave that thrust our mild climate into temperatures in the high 80s. I’m sure this is far from impressive to those of you in parts of the country where it tops 100 degrees at the peak of the day, but to our unaccustomed little neck of the woods, anything above 75 is quite drastic. Suddenly it felt like summer for a change, and plans for swimming, beach-going, and barbecuing were in full swing. I had plans to do a little baking last week, but the idea of turning on the oven was less than appealing. Instead I turned to the classic hot-weather necessity–ice cream!
Be warned that this recipe is for real, rich, custard-based, ultra-creamy ice cream that cuts no corners when it comes to ingredients. We’re talking whole milk, heavy cream, and white sugar. You know, all the stuff that your taste buds love but that your skimpy summer clothes–and arteries–loathe. However, my motto has always been everything in moderation, and once in a while it’s okay to go whole-hog and just make the darn ice cream! Let me tell you right now, it’s worth it.
Being the real deal, this ice cream is made with a custard base. That may sound difficult, or time-consuming, or like way too much work, but it’s not! I promise. Nothing even comes to a boil, so there’s no worry about scorching or hardening or curdling or anything as long as you pay attention and stir. A candy thermometer is nice but not necessary–I like to use one just to make sure the mixture has reached a high enough temperature to kill any traces of salmonella in the egg yolks, but I’m a bit paranoid about stuff like that. Not paranoid enough to keep my fingers out of a bowl of cookie dough, but just enough to fret about whether or not my ice cream custard is 100% bacteria-free. It’s a fine line.
Anyway, the entire ice cream base takes less than 10 minutes to make, and the rest is all chilling/freezing time! Easy-peasy. Though I highly recommend the Mint Cookie Crunch, this recipe is a perfect base for any type of ice cream you may fancy…throw in a scraped vanilla bean and ditch the peppermint extract for old-fashioned vanilla ice cream, stir in some strawberry puree at the end (again, minus the mint) for strawberry ice cream, or have fun experimenting with different flavors and extracts. With a bowl full of cream and sugar, it’s hard to go wrong.
Summer just wouldn’t be summer without a cool scoop of ice cream now and then. Dig out your ice cream maker and churn up a batch of this spectacular Mint Cookie Crunch to enjoy on the next sweltering day. Or on a cool night. Or anything in between. I mean, is there really a wrong time for ice cream? I think not.
Mint Cookie Crunch Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart
2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 & 1/2 cups whole milk*
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
1 & 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4-5 drops green food coloring, if desired
1 & 1/4 cup crushed Oreos, cream filling removed (about 15 cookies)
Stir together the whole milk, sugar, and 1 cup heavy cream in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Mixture should be warm but not boiling.
Meanwhile, pour the remaining cup of cream into a large bowl. Place a mesh strainer on top and set the bowl aside.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks for about 2 minutes or until they are lightened in color. Whisk in 1 cup of the warm milk mixture, then gradually add in the rest, whisking constantly. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium heat.
Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until it thickens and coats the back of the spoon. A candy thermometer should reach at least 170 degrees. Then pour the custard through the mesh strainer and stir it into the cream. Continue stirring the mixture until it has slightly cooled.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to cool completely, at least 2 hours. Then pour the custard into an ice cream maker and churn according to the ice cream maker’s directions (usually about 30 minutes). Ice cream will be soft. Alternately spoon the ice cream and the crushed Oreos into a quart-sized container, beginning and ending with the ice cream. Freeze for at least 4 hours or until firm, then serve.
*For a lower-fat option, you can substitute some or all of the whole milk for 2%. Just note that the ice cream will be less creamy and a bit harder to scoop.
(Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)