Chocolate Chip Double Mint Ice Cream

While we make all kinds of sundaes with our homemade vanilla and cinnamon ice creams, we have yet to try making more elaborate ice cream flavors. I was looking to branch out into new ice cream territory (at least for us) this week. Rich and Calvin both voted for mint, though I have to say that isn’t my favorite ice cream flavor. But the cook can’t always cook just to please herself.

Calvin and I came up with the embellishments to this one. I had to rein him in a little bit, since he wanted to make the ice cream chocolate, and add chocolate chips and crushed peppermints. I wanted to get the mint flavor first before we started adding chocolate ice cream into the mix too.

We had leftover crushed mints from making Chocolate Peppermint Pinwheels at Christmas. I thought we could just pull those out of the cabinet and pour them into the ice cream, but when I opened the container I found them solidified into a clump the shape of the container. We had to use the food processor to break up the big chunk of candy bits, so we ended up with pink minty dust.

We were going to mix the crushed candies into the ice cream as it churned, but then I realized that would make the ice cream pink, which wasn’t really what we were going for. So we layered them in after the ice cream was done churning, which made for pockets of pink mintiness in the already minty ice cream. We were also going to use a lot more chopped chocolate, but when we started adding it, we realized less was going to be more. Now we have lots of chopped chocolate for sprinkling on top.

Rich and Calvin both decided this experiment is a keeper. Let me know what you think. And share any new ice cream flavor ideas, or your tried-and-true favorites.

Chocolate Chip Double Mint Ice Cream
from The Cook’s Life
Makes about 1½ quarts

Use the larger amount of peppermint extract for a stronger mint flavor. The optional vodka will help keep the ice cream a little softer and easier to scoop after the first day or two in the freezer. Feel free to skip it if you prefer.

2 cups half and half*
1/3 cup sugar
Dash salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ to ½ teaspoon peppermint extract
1 tablespoon vodka (optional)
½ cup chopped chocolate (I used Ghirardelli Bittersweet chips)
¼ cup crushed peppermint candy

Mix half and half, sugar, salt and extracts together in a large bowl until sugar is dissolved. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions – ours takes about 25 minutes. Add vodka, if using, during last 5 minutes of freezing.

Add the chopped chocolate right before the ice cream finishes churning, just to mix it in. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container, alternating big spoons of ice cream with heavy sprinkles of the crushed peppermint candy. When you scoop the ice cream there will be pockets of the pink candy in each scoop. Transfer to the freezer for several hours before serving.

* You can use all cream, which will make a richer ice cream. Half and half makes a creamy ice cream, with a little less fat and without the greasy mouth feel you can sometimes get with all cream.

Download the recipe here.

Cookies in a hurry

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Bars

My list for the week: bake two desserts for teacher meals at school conferences, bake bread and make soup for church supper on Ash Wednesday, attend extra choir practice and church Wednesday night, work on a freelance writing project and fit in exercise, housecleaning, laundry, errands and helping Calvin with homework.

When I need a quick dessert, cookies always come to mind because they are easy to make, require no frosting or fussing and they keep well. But I hate washing all the cookie sheets, and I don’t always have time to spend all afternoon in the kitchen. Cookie bars to the rescue!

In under an hour I had my two desserts baked and all the dishes cleaned up, including the lunch dishes that I left so I could get started on the cookies. And I had time left over to type up the recipes to give out with the cookie bars. The PTO president requested everyone include their recipes with their dessert donations as a lot of the teachers asked for recipes at the last conference night. I shamelessly added a plug for the blog on the bottom of mine. Never pass up free advertising, right?

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Busy weeks and self-promotion aside, these are great recipes when you want a fast dessert, with a minimum of fuss or dishes to wash. The chocolate chip bars are our adapted version of Nestle Tollhouse Cookies, pressed in a sheet pan. Rich, Calvin and I tirelessly and unselfishly tested and tasted, tweaking until we came up with our adaptations: extra vanilla, a little extra flour to keep them tall and soft despite using all butter, and white whole wheat flour. Trust me, the white whole wheat is the secret ingredient that makes these cookies special. Even my father-in-law, who adamantly protests whole grain anything, loves these cookies. Of course, I usually don’t bother to mention that there is any whole wheat in them when he is around.

The Oatmeal Raisin Bars are my mother’s oatmeal cookie recipe pressed in a pan. Not sure where Mom got the recipe, but it might have been off the Quaker Oats box. The only adaptation I made was to add a couple of tablespoons of flour to keep the cookies from spreading too far on the pans when we use all butter. Feel free to leave the raisins out, if you or your kids don’t care for them.

Chocolate Chip Bars, ready to eat

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
Adapted from the Nestle Tollhouse recipe
4-5 dozen, depending on size

 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup white whole wheat flour*
1 ½ cups, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups chocolate chips, semisweet or 60% dark
Extra flour for shaping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12 by 17 inch baking sheet or two 9 by 13 pans and set aside. If you only have one 9 by 13 pan, you can bake half the dough at a time.

Beat butter, sugars and vanilla at medium high speed of a mixer until fluffy. Scrape down bowl with a rubber spatula and add eggs. Beat until well combined. Scrape down bowl again and add white whole wheat flour, the all-purpose flour, baking soda and salt and beat at low speed until mixed. Stir in chocolate chips.

Scrape dough into prepared pan(s) and sprinkle top lightly with flour. Using your hands, press the dough to the edges of the pan(s), adding sprinkles of flour if the dough is sticky. Make sure the dough is an even thickness all they way across.

Bake 10-15 minutes, or until set in the middle and lightly browned. Cool in pan on racks until just warm before cutting into small squares. Store in airtight container for several days, or freeze for longer storage.

3-6 dozen, depending on size

Scoop dough onto ungreased cookie sheets by teaspoon, tablespoon or 2 tablespoons. Flatten larger cookies slightly before baking. Bake 7-8 minutes for smaller cookies, 9-11 minutes for medium and 11-13 minutes for larger cookies. Remove cookies from oven when they are lightly browned, but still slightly soft in the middle. Let cool on sheets for a few minutes and then remove to racks to cool.

*White whole wheat flour can be found in the baking aisle, next to the other flours. Store any unused flour in a zip-top bag in the freezer to keep it fresh for up to a year. You can use all-purpose flour in place of the white whole wheat, but it adds another flavor dimension to the cookies.

Download Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar recipe here.

Oatmeal Raisin Bars

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Bars
4-6 dozen, depending on size

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups, plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups oats (old-fashioned or quick)
1 cup raisins (optional)
Flour for shaping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 12 by 17 inch baking sheet or two 9 by 13 inch pans. If you only have one 9 by 13 pan, you can bake half the dough at a time.

Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla at medium high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down bowl with a rubber spatula and add eggs. Beat until well combined. Scrape down bowl again and add flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Beat at low speed until mixed. Add oats and raisins (if using) and mix on low speed until combined.

Scrape dough into pans(s) and sprinkle top lightly with flour. Press dough evenly to the edges of the pan, adding sprinkles of flour if the dough sticks to your hands. Be sure not to make the edges thinner than the middle, or they will get too brown.

Bake 12-15 minutes, or until lightly browned and almost set in the middle. Cool at least 20 minutes in the pan on a rack before cutting into small squares. Let cool completely before removing squares from pan. Store in an airtight container for several days, or freeze for longer storage.

4-6 dozen, depending on size

Drop dough by teaspoons or tablespoons onto lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake 7-8 minutes for small cookies or 10-12 minutes for larger cookies, until almost set. If you like chewier cookies, remove from oven when middles are still very soft, but not raw. Cool on pans for 5-10 minutes before removing to racks to cool thoroughly before storing.

Download Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Bar recipe here.