Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I Hope He Screams For Ice Cream

I remember when I was eight or nine years old going with my neighbor to pick up a mint-chocolate chip ice cream cake at a local ice cream parlor. The cake was for her son's birthday party that afternoon, and I remember how happy he was with the cake since he was in the minority of kids who didn't really like icing.

His birthday is tomorrow, and while he's twice as old as he was then, there are some things that don't change (though it really hasn't been all that long): don't bother him during a Cubs game, and it is always a safe bet to offer him ice cream. While I'm not sure if mint-chocolate chip ice cream is still his favorite, it's a good bet.

Of course, though, I couldn't stop at just mint-chocolate chip ice cream. That would be too boring of a gift, and probably no tastier, or even less so, than that from the ice cream parlor nearby.
Poring through a stack of books, I was determined to find THE recipe. After placing torn pieces of paper in quite a few pages and looking over them once again, ruling out those with fresh mint (too much of a risk it could turn out bitter) or a dozen eggs (I wasn't planning on making meringues any time soon - though I guess I could have used it as an excuse to make marshmallows), I chose the mint-chip variation of a cheesecake ice cream recipe. It looked easy to make, and one I was willing to actually follow. Plus, now I can make a label with the word "cake", which makes it so much more fitting for a birthday.

Mint Chip Cheesecake Ice Cream
adapted from Cheesecake Ice Cream by Bruce Weinstein in The Ice Cream Book
makes about 3 cups

1 cup sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 graham cracker sheets, crumbled
3 1/2 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate, or 1/2 cup chocolate chips (or both, for texture)

Beat the sugar and the cream cheese together until smooth and creamy. Beat in the egg and peppermint extract. Set aside.

Meanwhile bring the milk to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan. Slowly beat the hot milk into the cheese mixture and pour entire mixture back into pan. Place over low heat and whisk constantly until thickens slightly, about 10 minutes, making sure not to let the mixture come to a boil. (For those who are ready to probe it with a thermometer, the temperature to cook custards to is 170F or 77C. Just don't let it go over 180F or 79C.) Remove from heat and pour through a strainer into a large, clean bowl. Let cool slightly and stir in heavy cream. Cover and refrigerate until cold, about 4 hours or overnight.

While the custard is chilling, if making chocolate chunks (optional, you could use chocolate chips instead), melt the chocolate and pour on waxed paper in an even layer. Let cool and break into pieces.

Stir the chilled custard and freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. If your ice cream maker allows for things to be poured in during the freezing process, add the graham crackers and chocolate during the last few minutes of freezing, or after the ice cream is semifrozen.

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