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Flavoring your ice creams: Extract or infusion?


CharlieDi
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Hi,

This weekend I'm making the Ben and Jerry's Mint Oreo ice cream for the first time.

Recipe says 2 teaspoon of peppermint extract and, if hesitate, that's what I'll do.

My point is, whenever is possible I prefer to use the real ingredient (infused, lyo, whatever the form) and use the extract as a booster of the flavour.

I was thinking of making a mint leaves + heavy cream infusion and later add few drops of extract.

What do you think?

How do you flavour your ice creams?

Do you find any differences in taste?

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I'm afraid I haven't conducted any reasonable A-B comparisons, so I can't contribute in that regard. However, David Lebovitz, in my go-to book The Perfect Scoop, uses just an infusion in his regular mint ice cream but only extract or oil (plus crumbled peppermint patties) in his chocolate mint recipe. And, like you, he uses both an infusion and an extract in his vanilla ice cream.

 

Regarding mint extract and oil, he says, "Different brands vary significantly in strength, which makes calculating their use in recipes a challenge. You may want to begin by adding a smaller quantity than called for in the recipe. Taste, then add more until you're satisfied."

Edited by Alex (log)

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In my experience infusions always taste better than extracts, usually drastically so.

 

Peppermint extract, for example, tastes like mouthwash. A well executed infusion of mint leaves tastes three-dimensional and delicious.

 

I infuse into a solution of milk and sugar (both from the recipe) since sugar syrup is an excellent solvent for aromatic compounds. There isn't a lot of published research on infusion times/temperatures, so I've been experimenting. Currently I heat the milk/sugars to 82°C. I'm working on ways to keep milk proteins from curdling, but if they do, it doesn't seem to hurt the final result.

 

Herbs with big, delicate leaves (mint, basil, sage, etc.) I infuse for 5 minutes, with a large quantity of leaves.

Tougher, stemmier herbs (thyme, rosemary) I infuse for 15 minutes with a smaller quantity.

 

Per 1000g mix I use the following quantities:

 

Basil 28g

Mint 36g

Sage 18g

Sorrel 18g

 

Thyme 8g

Rosemary 12g

 

This is all a work in progress, but I promise all of it will taste way better than extracts. 

Notes from the underbelly

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BTW, I think the recommendation to mix infusion and extract is just an economizing measure. 36g of min leaves, for example, is a crap-ton of leaves. It's enough to pretty much clearcut the little mint plant in my garden. So Imagine a teaspoon or 2 of extract could keep the mint use a bit more reasonable. But I don't think the flavor will be as good.

 

I made mint ice cream with extract when I worked at an ice cream shop years ago. It was very high quality peppermint extract (nothing in it but mint and alcohol) but still tasted like 100% menthol. None of the delicate, floral flavors of the mint plant.

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Peppermint extract, for example, tastes like mouthwash.

It couldn't have been better said than this.  I always loathed peppermint and all the other mints until I tasted real mint.  Then it was a love affair.  Definitely infuse the dairy. 

But don't make the mistake a friend once made:  she chopped up the mint leaves finely before infusing them.  I guess she thought it would work better.  Not needed.  She could not get all the miniscule leave bits out of the dairy and the result looked very unpleasant to say the least. 

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Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

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I don't really dislike mint ice cream made with extract. That super-mentholly flavor can be refreshing, and it's what I grew up with. It's just no match for the flavor of infused mint.

 

And I don't know why this is the case. An extract is an infusion. Maybe some of the volatile compounds are less soluble in alcohol than the menthol is. 

 

I'm surprised your friend couldn't get the mint out of the mix. I chifonade the leaves pretty finely; they all get caught by a strainer.

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I'm not sure exactly what she did, but she was certainly not advised to do it.  That was the last time we all worked together.  Some people are good for friends...but not for cooking partners.  It was a truffle making party.  And it's where I did find my confectionery partner, Barbara.

We all were learning how to make truffles at the time, and the mint was to be a truffle center.  It looked like (don't read this if you are sensitive...) the face of a three year-old boy who has needed to have his nose wiped for some time.  It was repulsive.   Never quite forget it.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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Thank you all,

After all being said I'm going for the infusion using the given ratios:

 

 

Per 1000g mix I use the following quantities:

 

Basil 28g

Mint 36g

Sage 18g

Sorrel 18g

 

Thyme 8g

Rosemary 12g

 

 

And, from then on I'll go making adjustments.

 

Thank you very much :)

Edited by CharlieDi (log)
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When I make mint chip, I only use fresh mint leaves. I've never been a fan of mint extracts, never get the right flavor.

I have found that if you use a vitamix to burr the mint leaves with part of the milk/cream before heating, you'll get a lot more flavor. And it helps with a natural green color as well. It has gotten an murky brown color to it at times, but once I've tempered it with the egg yolks, it's fine.

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It has gotten an murky brown color to it at times, but once I've tempered it with the egg yolks, it's fine.

 

There are enzymes in leaves responsible for turning them brown (and possibly dulling the flavor). When you temper the mint with the yolks, you're killing the enzyme before it can do any harm. Another approach is to make sure whatever liquid you add the herbs to is hot enough from the start. I believe if you plunge the herbs into 180°F liquid, this will deactivate most browning enzymes. It may vary from herb to herb. To be absolutely sure, you can do what mixologists do and plunge the herbs into boiling water for 15 seconds. They will stay green no matter what after that.

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I have never made mint ice cream and I confess mint as an ice cream flavor is not high on my list of priorities.  However I am reading Van Leeuwen Arisan Ice Cream.  The authors give two variations of mint chip ice cream:  one made with mint extract and one made by blending fresh mint leaves into the base (p 33).

 

Myself, I am having a bowl of vanilla, churned this afternoon.

 

 

Edit:  anything to forget the okra.

Edited by JoNorvelleWalker (log)
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My favorite flavors are herbal, but mint is low on that list just since it's the most familiar. Herbs like thyme and sage and basil make incredibly delicious ice cream, and even though it's not a new idea, these flavors still surprise people. If you're lucky enough to have an herb garden these are especially rewarding to make.

 

Thyme ice cream is special for me. In 1990 I had just finished my 2 year stint at an ice cream shop in Colorado. Like every other mom 'n pop shop, we thought we made the best ice cream in the world, and weren't shy about letting you know. After leaving that job, I took a trip to Paris and got taken to dinner at Taillevent—back then it was one of the best restaurants in France and had had 3 Michelin stars longer than anyone. One of the dessert courses was thyme ice cream, made by pastry chef Gilles Bajolle. 

 

One bite, and I was like, "Oh. So I guess we didn't make the best ice cream in the world. I guess I've never had good ice cream."

 

Anyway, I don't know if that would still rank among the best I've had, but it made an impression. I think of it whenever I make a batch of my own, which is quite a few times each summer.

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Notes from the underbelly

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Was the Taillevent thyme an infusion, or were the thyme leaves blended in?

 

 

Edit:  I might also put in a mention of Leslie's wonderful bay leaf ice cream.

Edited by JoNorvelleWalker (log)

Cooking is cool.  And kitchen gear is even cooler.  -- Chad Ward

 

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It was probably an infusion, since there was no hint of green, but I'll probably never know for sure.

 

I believe infusion is a better method than blending in the leaves. Herbs are like tea; there's always going to be an ideal range of times/temperatures for getting the best flavors. If you go beyond this, you end up extracting things you don't want ... typically bitter or grassy / vegetal flavors.

 

The trouble with blending the herbs is that there's no way to separate the infusion from the rest of the ice cream making process. The herbs will infuse hot for whatever time and temperature you choose for cooking and pasteurization, and will infuse cold for as long as the mix ages. 

 

If you infuse beforehand, you have precise control over the infusion, and then can pick times and temperatures of the rest of the process based on other concerns.

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Notes from the underbelly

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Hi guys!

As said, I made my ice cream wih the infused herbs.

It was quite tasty, in fact "overtasty" my parents told me

I infused 20 gr of mint leaves on 500 ml of milk

My next challenge is controlling the color, I put few drops of liquid colorant looking for a soft green but, after adding the yolks and going through the ice cream maker, is a grey - green (and unlikely) color.

Time of fine tuning.

Thanks for your advice :D  

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I always look for mint ice cream to be white. Green just screams food coloring.

 

Maybe if you're blending the herbs in you'll get some color. Then it would make sense to fix the enzymes first with heat. But as I mentioned earlier, it's much easier to get good results with an infusion that lets you remove the leaves at the right time.

Edited by paulraphael (log)

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  • 7 years later...
On 7/23/2015 at 6:48 PM, paulraphael said:

I infuse into a solution of milk and sugar (both from the recipe) since sugar syrup is an excellent solvent for aromatic compounds. There isn't a lot of published research on infusion times/temperatures, so I've been experimenting. Currently I heat the milk/sugars to 82°C. I'm working on ways to keep milk proteins from curdling, but if they do, it doesn't seem to hurt the final result.

 

Herbs with big, delicate leaves (mint, basil, sage, etc.) I infuse for 5 minutes, with a large quantity of leaves.

Tougher, stemmier herbs (thyme, rosemary) I infuse for 15 minutes with a smaller quantity.

 

Per 1000g mix I use the following quantities:

 

Basil 28g

Mint 36g

Sage 18g

Sorrel 18g

 

Thyme 8g

Rosemary 12g

 

This is all a work in progress, but I promise all of it will taste way better than extracts. 

 

Is this still your preferred amounts of herbs and infusion times? I'm specifically looking to try thyme and basil with the ChefSteps Creme Fraiche recipe, since thyme and basil is supposed to work well with cloudberries.

 

I'm a bit surprised that you recommend infusion for sorrel though. I thought juicing or something like this was the only way to capture the bright and vibrant flavours of fresh sorrel leaves:

 

 

Or is it a different sorrel?

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On 1/23/2023 at 2:16 PM, sverreef said:

 

Is this still your preferred amounts of herbs and infusion times? I'm specifically looking to try thyme and basil with the ChefSteps Creme Fraiche recipe, since thyme and basil is supposed to work well with cloudberries.

 

I'm a bit surprised that you recommend infusion for sorrel though. I thought juicing or something like this was the only way to capture the bright and vibrant flavours of fresh sorrel leaves:

 

Or is it a different sorrel?

Same Sorrel. She's doing something really clever by taking advantage of the Paco Jet. By grinding up the herbs after they're frozen solid, she's not allowing the enzymes to go to work and brown leaves (and wreck the flavors). The enzymes are inactive at those low temperatures. It's a similar idea to what Dave Arnold does with his nitro muddling technique for cocktails

 

My approach to herbs in ice cream is always changing. I'm a little surprised by how adamant my earlier posts are in this thread; some of these herb flavors—especially mint—are the most challenging to get right in my experience. Mint is just so incredibly delicate. Lauren Eldridge's approach should work with mint, but only with a Paco Jet or equivalent. 

 

Next week I'm actually visiting a consulting client on-site to help him work out a process for fresh mint flavor. He's opening a liquid nitrogen ice cream shop, so we're hoping to work out a process that takes advantage of the LN2. Probably will share some elements of the Dave Arnold and Lauren Eldridge methods. 

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Thanks for sharing your insight, @paulraphael. Sorrel has always been a favourite of mine, but I've never actually tasted it as a prepared element in a dish, just as a snack in the wild, as a garnish or as an element in a salad, so I'm really excited to try it in an ice cream this spring.

 

Hopefully, the creami is powerful enough to make a smooth texture using the Eldridge method. If not, could melting, straining and refreezing after the initial frozen processing be a viable option?

 

Thyme will be my next project, and your guidelines will be of great help. Do you recommend using sous vide to keep the temperature constant during infusion?

 

But first I have to make a double batch of the Creme Fraiche and elderflower ice cream I've been raving about in the Ninja Creami topic for a family dinner on Saturday. Reading this topic, I realize that I've used the wrong terminology though. The flavouring agent I have used is definitely an elderflower/water infusion, not an elderflower extract... :)

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15 hours ago, sverreef said:

Hopefully, the creami is powerful enough to make a smooth texture using the Eldridge method. If not, could melting, straining and refreezing after the initial frozen processing be a viable option?

I haven't been following the creami thread, is there concern that it doesn't grind as fine as a Paco?

 

15 hours ago, sverreef said:

Thyme will be my next project, and your guidelines will be of great help. Do you recommend using sous vide to keep the temperature constant during infusion?

Maybe. I haven't experimented enough yet. Thyme is a burly herb compared with things like mint and basil; I've found that it infuses nicely on the stove when you cook ice cream the old fashioned way. My curiosity with sous vide is about 1) is there an ideal extraction temperature to get the best flavors, and is it close enough to the ideal cooking temperatures for dairy proteins? and 2) can you capture more vibrant flavors by infusing in a sealed bag?

 

The sealed bag aspect is often the most interesting. You can retain so many delicate aromas when you use sv for things like seafood and vegetable stocks. But sometimes you can get more than you bargain for (garlic!)

 

As far as temperatures, I've been reading all the food science papers I can find, and there's very little guidance on temperature vs. flavor for herbs. You could fill a library with papers on this topic regarding teas and coffees. One of these summers I'll have to do a whole lot of tedious experiments.

15 hours ago, sverreef said:

 

But first I have to make a double batch of the Creme Fraiche and elderflower ice cream I've been raving about in the Ninja Creami topic for a family dinner on Saturday. Reading this topic, I realize that I've used the wrong terminology though. The flavouring agent I have used is definitely an elderflower/water infusion, not an elderflower extract... :)

Please post your results!

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16 hours ago, sverreef said:

Hopefully, the creami is powerful enough to make a smooth texture using the Eldridge method. If not, could melting, straining and refreezing after the initial frozen processing be a viable option?

 

I tend to think the Creami would do a good job with a soft herb like sorrel.   In the video, I think she said something about processing it with the Paco more than once so that might be a possibility with the Creami with the caveat that each cycle is going to warm the stuff up.  With the Creami, you might get a very thin layer on the bottom or occasionally on the sides that escaped the blades.  I had microplaned lemon zest in a mix.  It was detectable only in that bottom layer.  Using a silicone spatula to scrape the bottom and sides prior to a re-spin will take care of that.  I'm sure your idea to thaw , strain and refreeze would work, too. 

 

I'm going to make some lemon verbena sherbet and plan to strain it before freezing but might make a small portion with some leaves, just to see what happens. 

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1 hour ago, paulraphael said:

Please post your results!

 

https://forums.egullet.org/topic/163060-pacojet-competitor-the-ninja-creami/?do=findComment&comment=2373949

 

1 hour ago, paulraphael said:

I haven't been following the creami thread, is there concern that it doesn't grind as fine as a Paco?

 

I have no idea, sice Ninja doesn't seem to have published specs on the Creami's rpms. Judging by visual comparisons I've seen, the Creami is probably slower though, but in most cases, that can be fixed by a respin or two.

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On 1/25/2023 at 4:41 PM, paulraphael said:

Please post your results!

 

PXL_20230131_184445315.thumb.jpg.08d4a7b242472e424ebd702379165cdf.jpg

 

Last week's batch of elderflower ice cream. Flavour was fantastic once again, but texture was slightly icy even after two spins in the Creami. I think I might have fucked up the locust bean gum hydration in this batch, because the milk/creme fraiche fat separated in the Creami beaker. Or maybe that was a result of the warm milk curdling when I added the elderflower infusion (I picked one with added lemon from the freezer by mistake). The mix was perfectly smooth after the blending step however...

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39 minutes ago, sverreef said:

 

PXL_20230131_184445315.thumb.jpg.08d4a7b242472e424ebd702379165cdf.jpg

 

Last week's batch of elderflower ice cream. Flavour was fantastic once again, but texture was slightly icy even after two spins in the Creami. I think I might have fucked up the locust bean gum hydration in this batch, because the milk/creme fraiche fat separated in the Creami beaker. Or maybe that was a result of the warm milk curdling when I added the elderflower infusion (I picked one with added lemon from the freezer by mistake). The mix was perfectly smooth after the blending step however...

Sounds like an emulsifier problem more than a stabilizer problem. Still kind of surprising it would separate in the freezer. Did you cook all the ingredients when hydrating the LBG?

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