I happen to enjoy creamy frozen desserts the most in the winter time. I'm guessing most people would prefer huge scoops of ice cream during the hot summer months, but not me. I seem to find it more refreshing when the outside temp matches that of the inside of my freezer. Not wanting to let food go to waste, I started this after-Christmas tradition of making mint-flavored gelato a few years ago as a way to use up extra candy canes. This year, I also happened to have a lot of egg yolks left over from making royal icing for the gingerbread house. Perfect timing!
My favorite things about this recipe are that (1) all of the mint flavor is derived from the candy cane itself, and (2) the red candy cane stripes dissolve into a pretty pink-hued custard. This year I added a couple of spearmint candy canes, which appear as lovely green splotches amid the pink. Adding the crushed candy to the custard while still hot ensures that the candy will melt into the mixture, imparting both flavor and color. If you like a bit of crunch to your gelato, reserve a portion of the crushed candy canes to mix in during the last few churns of the ice cream machine.
Candy Cane Gelato
adapted from The Ultimate Frozen Dessert Book
7 large egg yolks, at room temperature
⅔ cup sugar
2½ cups whole milk
⅔ cup heavy cream
¼ tsp sea salt
1 cup crushed candy canes, divided
1. Beat eggs yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed, until thick and lemon colored (about 2 minutes). Set aside.
2. Heat milk and cream in a medium saucepan set over medium heat until small bubbles appear around the edges of the pan. Do not let this boil.
3. Whisk about ⅓ of the heated milk and cream into the egg yolk mixture, then whisk this combined mixture back into the pan with the remaining milk and cream. Reduce heat to low. Cook slowly stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens a bit and appears smooth, like a very wet custard, and can coat the back of a wooden spoon (about 5 minutes). Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a heat-proof, air-tight container. Stir in the salt and about ⅔ cup of the crushed candy canes. Allow to cool completely, then stir in the remaining candy cane pieces. Cover and refrigerate until very cold (~8 hours).
4. Freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.