So, I haven’t decked the halls. I don’t have my Christmas shopping done. I haven’t baked a single Christmas cookie. I would be making a D- in Christmas right now, except for one thing: I’ve made a mean batch of Peppermint Bark Gelato.
Peppermint bark is the Dolly Parton of Christmas candy. It’s lovely, it packs a punch, and it’s trashy in the best way. You melt some white chocolate, stir in some crushed peppermints, and pour the mixture onto some parchment paper. Voila! So simple. But you wind up with these shards of creamy white chocolate and crunchy-punchy peppermint that are irresistible.
Christmas on a plate.
This year, I wanted to do something different with my peppermint bark, so I made this gelato. It’s a Sicilian-style ice cream, made with cornstarch instead of eggs, so it’s much lower in fat than most ice creams, and the flavor of the white chocolate really shines through.
How can a little cornstarch replace all of those eggs? In Mark Bittman’s article about cornstarch ice cream, Harold McGee, of Curious Cook, explained that, like eggs, cornstarch keeps ice cream from getting grainy. It absorbs water and slows down the formation of ice crystals. So you get a creamy ice cream with much less fat.
What makes this a gelato? Gelato is an Italian ice cream that contains less fat than regular ice cream. You get intense flavors, but the trade-off is that the gelato doesn’t hold its quality for as long in the freezer. It’s meant to be eaten within a few days. That’s why gelato is made in small batches and gelato shops have such interesting gourmet flavors. Small batches mean more opportunities for experimentation.
Gelato is also meant to be served softer than ice cream. Even when you let it harden in the freezer for hours, it tends to melt fairly quickly, so you wouldn’t plan on putting a scoop of gelato on a warm piece of pie. The best way to enjoy it is straight from the ice cream maker.
‘Tis the season, Baby! Now, to deck these halls …
Peppermint Bark Gelato
Rebecca Crump (EzraPoundCake.com)
Inspired by David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”
Makes about 3 cups
- 4 ounces white chocolate chips
- 2 cups whole milk (you can use any milk, half-and-half or cream, but results will vary)
- 1/3 cup sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 cup peppermint candies, crushed
- Measure the white chocolate chips into a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup milk with the cornstarch until it’s smooth. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining 1 3/4 cups milk with the sugar and salt. When the mixture starts to boil, add the cornstarch slurry and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Remove the mixture from the heat, and pour it through a fine-mesh sieve onto the white chocolate chips. Set aside for 2 minutes, and then stir the melted chips into the milk mixture.
- Set the bowl into a larger bowl full of ice water to cool. Stir it frequently to keep it from forming a skin on top.
- Once the mixture has cooled, cover the surface with plastic wrap or wax paper, and place it in the refrigerator to chill overnight.
- Transfer the chilled mixture to your ice cream maker, and freeze it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Scrape the frozen gelato into an airtight container, and gently stir in the peppermint candies. Serve immediately, or place the gelato into the freezer for at least 3 hours to harden. Let it soften for a few minutes before serving.