Suggestions for improving a mint chip ice cream base: fresh mint vs. extract
I got a ton of amazing mint in my CSA last week, so I attempted mint chip ice cream, which is one of my favorite flavors. I used a David Liebovitz recipe which called for steeping the mint in hot milk/cream for an hour. I was a little wary about using fresh mint as I'd heard in the past that the more traditional mint chip flavor (and by traditional I mean mainstream consumer brands like Carvel or Breyer's) is usually achieved by using mint extract, rather than fresh mint. The base for the ice cream is now done and indeed it is a little too herbaceous for my taste. I think I prefer the more traditional (albeit less natural) flavor.
My question is, it possible to still rescue this ice cream base before I churn it? I'd read a few recipes that called for both fresh mint AND extract. So, if I add some extract in, do you think that will balance out the herbaceous quality a little? I don't necessarily hate the thing to the point of tossing it, but I also don't want to waste chocolate and the effort in putting the whole thing together if I'm not going to like it that much, so I'm hoping to just do something to improve upon the flavor in the base. Suggestions needed!
I just did some experimenting with fresh mint for ice cream, and found that I could avoid the "herbaceous" texture and flavor that you reference.
You use about 2 loosely-packed cups of fresh mint leaves for each quart of custard. In a blender whirl the mint and the heavy cream together until the mint is well chopped and distributed. Heat this mixture just to boiling, remove from the heat, let it steep for a half an hour, and then strain the cream very well (I used a fine sieve lined with a number of layers of cheesecloth) and begin your custard.
We added 3 ounces or so of Valrhona 76% Cacao reves, chopped, near the end of the churning process, and we were pretty damned pleased with the ice cream and ourselves.
It may also have something to do with they type of mint you used. I have made the David Leibowitz recipe many times and its one of our favourites, but your mint may be different. I also use more fresh mint than the recipe actually calls for and I use a French press coffee pot to strain the infused base, which extracts quite a lot of flavour from the mess.
Another suggestion: use less chocolate than the recipe requires. I use about 3 oz. instead of the 5 oz. it calls for. And I also drizzle the melted chocolate into the ice cream as it churns in the machine - toward the end of the freezing time.
First off, do try adding extract to the base, and see how you like it. Sometimes a finished (frozen) ice cream will taste a little different from the unchurned base- put a spoonful in the freezer to get the best idea.
If it's too strong, you can also make more plain ice cream base and add it to dilute the herbaceous flavor (and probably add more extract too).
Your ice cream base should last a few days, refrigerated, while you figure out what you want to do with it, and you can even freeze it unchurned if you need to (just defrost and churn when you are ready to adjust it).
Thanks. It's not so much that the mint flavor is too strong, it's just not the mint flavor I was looking for. It's grassy as opposed to...well I can't think of the adjective I would use to describe traditional mint chip ice cream, but what I made has the flavor I want more in mint iced tea than in ice cream. I did already notice a difference between the base yesterday when it was still warm and today after it chilled in the fridge overnight. I know the flavor will mellow even more in the freezer. So I am thinking between some mint extract, maybe some more heavy cream (I'm lazy to make more plain custard base, but figure I can add another half cup or so of heavy cream), the addition of chocolate chips, and the mellowing from the freezer, maybe it will be more what I was hoping for.
I did learn my lesson about my preferences for mint chip ice cream, though. While I was searching for good recipes, I had stumbled upon one on The Kitchn, which also called for fresh mint, and two commenters said when they attempted it, they didn't like the flavor from the fresh mint -- one said it tasted like weed ice cream. I know now I should have heeded their advice! Next time...
It's going to taste different when you add in the chocolate.
If I were you, I would experiment with a small batch of your mint ice cream base first, with the addition of chocolate.
If that turns out still not to your liking, then you can either dump it and start over, or make more plain ice cream base and use mint chips and combine the two.