In late summer, when basil is abundant at the market, try making this ice cream. Basil is refreshing and soothing like mint, but it has a sweeter, rounder flavor that mellows in your mouth as you savor it.
For scientific reasons that I mentioned in the ice cream guidelines section, ice cream has the interesting quality of disguising its temperature on the tongue. If we place an ice cube in our mouths, it feels unpalatably cold; ice cream, out of the same freezer, is a pure pleasure for our senses. One of the holy grails of an ice cream flavor, to my mind, is finding those tastes that subtly enhance this characteristic. Basil may be the perfect match, lending its combination of invigorating mint-like qualities and fullbodied warmth of flavor.
- 1½ ounces basil leaves or 30 leaves
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup sugar
- 8 egg yolks
- 1 whole egg
- Pinch of salt
- ¼ cup skim milk powder
- Fine-mesh strainer
- Ice bath
- Ice cream machine
- See "Ice Cream and Sorbet Guidelines" in the Notes section, below
Infuse the cream:
Wash and dry the basil leaves. In a heavybottomed saucepan, heat the cream, milk, and ½ cup of the sugar. Once the cream begins to boil, add the basil leaves, remove the pot from the heat, and set it aside for 10 minutes.
Make the crème anglaise (see the Note on cooking a stirred custard and testing for doneness):
In a mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks, egg, salt, skim milk powder, and remaining sugar and briskly whisk for 1 minute. Using a ladle, slowly whisk some of the hot cream into the egg yolk mixture to warm it. Gradually pour the warmed egg mixture into the hot cream, whisking constantly as you pour. Cook the custard over medium heat, stirring continuously and scraping the bottom with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. Strain the custard through a fine-mesh strainer and remove the basil leaves.
Chill the crème anglaise and churn it:
Place the basil crème anglaise (ice cream base) in the ice bath to cool completely. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill a minimum of 2 hours and up to 2 days before churning it in an ice cream machine. Churn the crème anglaise in an ice cream maker according to the machine manufacturer’s instructions. The ice cream is finished once it has increased in volume and it holds the lines from the stirring mechanism and mounds like softly whipped cream. Transfer to the freezer for 4 hours to attain a scoopable consistency.
This ice cream is delicious all by itself. It also goes beautifully with the Meyer Lemon Curd Tart or the Fresh Apricot and Almond Tart.
Fig Leaf Ice Cream:
Use 3 fig tree leaves, cut into small pieces, instead of the basil.
Black Mint Ice Cream:
Use 1 ounce of black mint leaves instead of the basil.
Lemon Verbena Ice Cream:
Use 1 ounce of fresh lemon verbena leaves or 3 lemon verbena tea bags instead of the basil.
Cardamom, Cinnamon, Star Anise, Black Pepper Ice Creams:
Infuse the cream with any of these spices instead of the basil: 15 crushed cardamom pods; 2 cinnamon sticks and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon; 8 large star anise; 2 tablespoons crushed peppercorns and 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper.
Plum or Apricot Pit (Bitter Almond) Ice Cream:
Smash 15 apricot or plum pits with a mallet and remove the almond-like nut from inside. Chop up the almond-like nuts and steep them in the hot milk as you would the basil. (See the Note on plum pits and other stone fruit pits.)