Backyard Mint Bons Bons

In the past 24 hours I've made protein and omega 3 packed nut power bars, dehydrated 10 pounds of ripe peaches, prepped cannelini beans for a spread with rosemary, made 2 quarts of green smoothie, repurposed leftover grilled zucchini in a rice paper wrap with a homemade spicy peanut sauce garnished with basil, radishes and carrots from the garden, and made 12 pints of one of my favorite "pickles", curried yellow squash and zucchini.  Last week a friend and I canned 60 pounds of tart yellow plums into one of my favorite honey sweetened jams and compotes.  But I don't want to talk about any of that.  We're trying to eat healthier here at the homestead, so the sourdough baking has been put on pause and mornings are filled with the whir of the Vitamix pureeing its way through a bushel of beet greens, spinach, kale, or carrot tops.  I feel great but just can't get all that excited about green smoothies, despite having all the ingredients fresh from the garden.  But I can get excited about bon bons.  Specifically, mint ice cream bon bons, dipped in a homemade dark chocolate 'magic shell'.  No kale, no vitamix involved.  A little bit of sugar, cream, mint, a chocolate shell, and a lot of guilt. When guests come over, the sugar comes out.  I've flipped through recipes for healthier things like chia seed pudding, frozen yogurt (which for the record, I did make an espresso version of but declined to serve to guests), or, my nemesis, a simple bowl of fruit.  I'll be honest, I like my dessert laden with sugar and garnished with one of a myriad of beautiful fats: butter, cream, coconut oil.  Lemon curd on coconut shortbread for example, topped with freshly whipped cream and anise hyssop scented blueberries.  Fruit and cheese ?  Nooooooooo!  That's an appetizer, meant to get my tastebuds perked up for the sugar fest after the main course.

Backyard Mint
Backyard Mint

Just fruit?  I wish I could.  Our friends had us over for a lovely dinner on Saturday and mentioned they were grilling peaches for dessert.  I panicked. Plain?  JUST grilled peaches?  I was calmed immensely when the bowl offered to me had a hearty slab of Lopez Creamery vanilla ice cream melting around the grill marked peach (which also had been dipped in brown sugar at the last minute by a step-in chef).  It was insanely delicious, the sugars having caramelized and then doused with melted cream.  But without the ice cream?  Or the bit of chocolate garnish on the side?  Unless we're talking breakfast or tossing it with goat cheese in a salad, it's just not dessert.

For the record, in a moment of weakness, I did actually revamp my mother's delicious Chocolate Zucchini Cake into a not-quite-as-good version sweetened only with agave and honey and packed with whole wheat and oat flour.  But then I couldn't resist topping it off with store bought chocolate chips.  And all I wanted to do was smash a hunk of honey ice cream on it and drizzle it with caramel.  I've learned to stick with bon bons.  At least I'm being authentic.

She's all frosted over
She's all frosted over

I made these bon bons with a mild mint ice cream made with the abundance of spearmint I have growing around the yard, but you could substitute any herb.  The magic shell was terribly easy, so much so that I want to make a triple batch and keep it on hand for spontaneous bon bon dipping.  I didn't, for fear of daily bon bon dipping, but you should.  I'll look thinner.  It keeps great in the refrigerator - just allow it to come to room temperature and liquify before you go a-dipping.  Do yourself a favor, green smoothie diet or not, and make these.  They are the perfect antidote to a hot summer day, and easy to make, especially if you take a shortcut and use store bought ice cream.  Bon bon appetit !

Backyard Mint Bon Bons

  Backyard Mint Ice Cream

Adapted from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home

Makes a little more than 1 quart

2 cups whole milk

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups heavy cream

2/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Large handful of fresh mint, leaves roughly torn to release its oils

Mix a few tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch and set aside.  Whisk the cream cheese with the salt in a large bowl.

Combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar, and corn syrup and bring to a rolling boil over medium heat.  Boil for a few minutes.  Remove from heat and whisk in cornstarch milk mixture.  Return to heat and boil for 1 minute, or until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat.

Gradually pour the hot milk mixture over the cream cheese mixture and whisk until smooth.  Add the mint.  Allow to cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate, preferably overnight, but at least until the mixture is ice cold.  Strain out mint.  Churn according to ice cream maker's instructions.  Freeze until firm, about 4 hours.

 Dark Chocolate Bon Bon Shell

Makes a little more than 12 ounces

12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped roughly

1/3 cup coconut oil

The brilliant thing about this shell is its simplicity.  Just two ingredients and you can experiment with whatever type of chocolate you like.  The secret is the coconut oil, which hardens below 76 degrees, but liquifies at a warm room temperature.

Melt the chocolate with the coconut oil in a double broiler or in a metal bowl set over a gently simmering pan of water over medium low heat.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Putting it together

This is the only tricky part.  I'd advise warming your ice cream scoop in a warm water to ease the scooping.  Have ready a small handful of toothpicks and a chilled baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Make sure your ice cream is super firm.

With a warm scooper, form balls of ice cream and place them on the chilled parchment lined baking sheet.  Insert a toothpick into each ball.  This will give you something to hold onto while dipping.  Place the sheet in the coldest part of your freezer and allow the balls to chills for at least 20 minutes, or until very hard.  In the meantime, pour your chocolate shell into a deep bowl for easy dipping.

Remove balls from freezer (I recommend doing this in batches so they stay very frozen), and dip, one by one, holding with the toothpick, into the chocolate.  Replace on the chilled sheet and freeze until ready to serve.  Don't forget to remove the toothpicks -- once the shell has set, if desired, you can dot the hole with more chocolate if it bothers you.  You can eat these straight up, or they're gorgeous with any fruit compote or fresh berries.