Sunshine and warmer weather have sent your friend the Kat outdoors to play in her garden. Garden? Yes, even townhouse cats can get down ‘n dirty with lots of pots and bags of good soil!

Right outside my slider, I’ve got quite the assortment of herbs and vegetables growing, along with some catnip for the Queen and pretty flowers thrown in for good measure.

And mint–several varieties, even. As my big, brand-new apple mint plant was loaded with leaves, my thoughts immediately turned to…G E L A T O! I love stracciatella and wanted to make a fresh mint version, so I headed for the deck and got pickin’! Meet the guardian of the apple mint!

KATTY’S FRESH MINT STRACCIATELLA (CHOCOLATE CHIP GELATO)

1 ¼ cups whole milk
¼ cup heavy cream
1 cup mint leaves
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 a vanilla bean, halved the long way and scraped
¼ cup (2 oz.) dark chocolate (I ♥ Valrhona feves)
a pinch of Kosher salt

Combine milk, cream and mint in a saucepan. Scrape vanilla bean seeds with the tip of a sharp knife–add both seeds and pod to the milk mixture.

Heat on medium to  medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, till small bubbles form at edge of pan. Remove from heat. Cover and let steep for half an hour.

Strain liquid using a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on the leaves to extract all the liquid. Discard leaves and vanilla bean. You probably already knew we were done with those. :)

In a separate bowl, beat together egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk till smooth. Temper egg mixture by slowly adding to hot milk, whisking constantly.

Cook over medium-high heat and continue to whisk until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Do not let it boil!

Strain through fine-mesh sieve into clean bowl, remove pod, let cool to room temperature. Stir in salt. You can make an ice bath to speed up the process. Chill custard overnight or at least four hours.

Just before turning the chilled custard into your ice cream maker, place the custard and the dasher from your machine into the freezer for up to 10 minutes. And now, time to spin it up: process according to your ice cream machine’s directions.

While your gelato processes, melt the dark chocolate in the microwave (I use the defrost setting). When the gelato is finished, keep the machine running, then pour the melted chocolate S-L-O-W-L-Y and carefully in a fine stream. The chocolate will harden in tiny bits and streaks that make the gelato uniquely stracciatella and not just ordinary chocolate chip!

There’s no mint like fresh mint when it comes to refreshment in the form of gelato! Try it and see!

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