Even when the temperature drops subzero I regularly churn ice cream. A cold bowl, half melted, with a touch of milk poured on top, is my favorite way to end the day. Recently I was conducting an experiment with my mint ice cream. Might mint oil be better for flavoring the base than mint extract?
I brewed two batches, the one with extract was cool and refreshing, the one with mint oil seared my eyes as I leaned over to smell. I called my mother. I told her about the experiments (she is also a devotee of ice cream) and she asked where I had found mint oil.
“In the aromatherapy aisle.”
(As I type that I realize how absurd life in Brooklyn has become)
Mom gasped. “Are you using essential oil?”
“I don’t know. Am I?”
“Dan you have to be careful, those aren’t meant for consumption, they’re normally topical treatments or diffused in the air. How much did you use?” I looked back at the steaming pot of hot ice cream base, my apartment smelled so intensely of peppermint it was making me cry.
“Oh, I think a teaspoon, maybe a touch more.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty minty in here right now.”
“You usually use a drop or two! I want you to read the label and make sure it’s safe.”
“I’m sure it’s safe, I’m probably not going to eat it now that I know I’ve used the wrong ingredient anyway.”
I lied. Once I stopped crying, and once the base had cooled, I dipped a silver spoon into the pool and brought it to my lips. You know that feeling you get in your spine just before you do something you know you shouldn’t? Yep, that happened. I slipped the teaspoon of ice cream base into my mouth and was instantly greeted with an intense cooling sensation. Curious, I thought.
And then it didn’t go away.
For a day.
I dumped the batch and called mom back. She regaled me with reminiscence of Howard Johnson’s peppermint stick ice cream, her favorite as a child. “It was bright pink, and had crunchies all the way through it.”
I knew I had to make some for her. The moms visited me last week and I churned a batch of peppermint ice cream, but I wanted it to reflect the pink of her youth, not the glassy white we now associate with all things mint. Raised to look askance at food dyes, I decided to slip a few fillets of beet into the ice cream base as I cooked it over a low flame. The color bled out of the veggie slices, leaving a lovely rose tint to the cream. I scooped them out after a few minutes, fearful this ice cream would be some frankenhipster flavor like Peppermint Beet.
The ice cream lost some of its initial color as it cooled, churned, and then froze. I amended the next batch by leaving the beet pieces to steep a bit longer. Have no fear of a flavor collision, beets add a gentle sweetness, but any residual earthy flavor is masked by the intensity of peppermint extract.
And whatever you do, don’t use peppermint oil.
1 15-ounce can Coconut Milk
1 1/2 cups Rice Milk
2 tablespoons Tapioca Starch
1/2 cup Sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 slices of Raw Beet (nothing extreme, some scraps will work too)
2 tablespoons Mint Extract
In a small bowl, whisk the rice milk and tapioca starch, set aside.
Pour coconut milk into sauce pan with sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Add the beet slices and let them steep.
Whisk the rice milk mixture into the warm coconut milk mixture and continue to whisk until the liquid is slightly thickened and bubbles struggle to break the surface, about 10-15 minutes.
Let the liquid cool, put it in the fridge and chill completely before pouring into your ice cream machine and following appropriate instructions.