I don’t miss a lot about college. But one thing that I was introduced to in college (do you hear me, fellow Wellesley alums?) was peppermint stick pie, a peppermint ice cream pie that was served at “Holiday Dinner”– who knows what it’s called now… probably Holiday Dinner is now not inclusive enough, so it’s just called Winter Festival or End of Semester Dinner, or something like that.
While I am not a big eater of candy canes, the use of peppermint around Christmas is appealing (okay, I know I am a hypocrite, as many of you who are friends of mine on Facebook know of my vendetta against all things Pumpkin Spice), so I have to say that I appreciate a good peppermint ice cream at the holidays. We also had leftover Thin Mints in the freezer that we had purchased from a sweet little Girl Scout in the summer. I’ve been waiting to find a great use for these cookies, and this was definitely a great mix-in for the peppermint ice cream.
It’s also a great way to get out your holiday frustration.
I didn’t want chunks of the candy cane to compete with the pieces of cookie, so I food-processed them to a pretty fine powder. If you do want chunks of candy in your ice cream, make sure the pieces don’t get too small when you put them in the food processor, or use a hammer or a mortar and pestle to have more control over how small the pieces get.
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp peppermint extract, or to taste (see below)
4 oz candy canes or starlight discs, chopped
4.5 oz (approx 15 cookies) Thin Mints, in chunks
Warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup of the cream, and salt in a medium saucepan. Pour the remaining cup of cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top, and float the whole bowl in a larger bowl with an ice water bath. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk/sugar/cream/salt mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan.
Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Stir until cool over the ice bath.
Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When the ice cream is nearly finished churning, add the chopped peppermint candy.
Once the ice cream is finished churning, fold in the Thin Mints. If you don’t have Thin Mints available (since this would require you plotting since summertime to make ice cream in December), I think that Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Jo-Jo’s would make a great substitute.
After you fold in the cookies, place the churned ice cream in a shallow container in the freezer to harden for another half-day or so. And then… devour. This would be great on top of a warm brownie, if you’re looking for an extra-decadent holiday dessert.
Here’s the situation with the ratio of candy canes to peppermint extract. We were lazy and purchased a package of organic candy canes from Whole Foods (we were already there buying other groceries). They don’t contain corn syrup or artificial food coloring, which is fantastic, but they are less minty than regular candy canes. We used 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract with our less minty candy canes, which turned out perfectly. Be cautious of peppermint extract; it is very strong and has a distinct medicinal flavor, so use it sparingly. If you do use regular candy canes, I would go with 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract and add in more little by little if you want it really minty. Just keep in mind that when you taste the custard, take into account the added minty-ness that will come from the addition of the candy canes, but also that the mint flavor will also enhance a bit as the custard cools in the fridge prior to churning.