After months of dormancy, forced into stupor by winter’s deep-freeze, my herbs are the first plants in my garden to show signs of life. As soon as the ground thaws, mint, chives, sorrel and tarragon proudly emerge… tentatively at first, then vigorously. And these young shoots are never as flavorful as at this time of the year.
So infusing milk with vibrant “spring” mint to make a light gelato is truly a joy. The gelato is amazingly refreshing to the taste buds – bursting with the essence of fresh mint.
And of course, mint and chocolate being a classic (and winning!) combination, I couldn’t resist adding chocolate to this iced dessert. But here, I use unsweetened cacao nibs (roasted cacao beans that are broken into small bits) instead of chocolate chips. They bring an addictive crunch to the delightful minty gelato.
Fresh mint gelato with cacao nibs
makes 2 pints
active time: 30 min
- 3 cups whole milk
- 3 oz (85 g) fresh mint (1 large bunch)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 3/4 cup organic sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons cacao nibs (see Viviane’s tip)
- Step 1: Place 2 1/2 cups of the milk in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the mint and fast-simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat, cover pan and let stand for 15 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve, discard the mint and pour the infused milk back into the pan. Place the cornstarch and sugar in a small bowl. Add the balance of the milk, whisk until the cornstarch has dissolved and set aside. Reheat the infused milk until it reaches boiling point. Quickly add the cornstarch mixture, whisking continuously. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, whisking continuously, until the mixture thickens slightly. Transfer to a bowl to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, cover and refrigerate until well chilled – about 2 hours in the refrigerator, or 45 minutes in the freezer.
- Step 2: Once chilled, whisk the heavy cream into the base. Transfer to an ice cream or gelato maker and freeze according to the instructions of your machine. When the gelato is done, add the cacao nibs and churn a few more times until well incorporated. Transfer the gelato to a container and freeze for 2 to 3 hours before serving. (The gelato should have firmed up, but should still be a bit soft.)
- Cook’s note: The gelato will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks, but is best eaten the day it’s made. Remove from freezer and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes until slightly softened before serving.
- Don’t have cacao nibs on hand? You can use bittersweet chocolate instead. You won’t get the crunch the cacao nibs offer, but you’ll get the wonderful flavor of dark chocolate and mint. Place 2 oz (55 g) of bittersweet chocolate in a food processor and pulse until medium crumbs form. Transfer to a medium-meshed sieve to remove the finer crumbs and the chocolate dust. Add 3 tablespoons of the bittersweet chocolate pieces to the gelato, just as you would for the cacao nibs.