Lavender-Scented French Vanilla Ice Cream with Broiled Fresh Figs

This image courtesy of Mark Ferri

To me, this recipe screams “Provence!” If you’ve never cooked with dried lavender, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised; when used correctly, its gorgeous fragrance lends itself perfectly to a rich frozen custard. Make sure, however, that you use only the edible lavender (available in specialty food shops) and not the kind meant for scented pouches. When making ice cream, make sure to set up correctly to prevent the risk of curdling the custard, which can happen if it’s initially overheated. If you don’t feel like making ice cream, just serve these buttered, sugared, and broiled figs on top of a scoop of your favorite store-bought vanilla ice cream or some lightly sweetened, thick crème fraîche.

Serves1 quart ice cream; 6 servings


Total Timeunder 4 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionCooking for a date, Formal Dinner Party

Recipe CourseDessert

Dietary ConsiderationGluten-free, Kosher, Peanut Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free, Vegetarian

EquipmentElectric Mixer, Ice Cream Maker



Taste and TextureButtery, Creamy, Fruity, Herby, Sweet

Type of DishIce Cream


  • Ice cubes or crushed ice for cooling the custard
  • 2½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 large supple vanilla beans
  • 2 teaspoons dried edible lavender
  • 8 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1¼ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 fresh figs, wiped clean and quartered through the stem end
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (or use light brown sugar pushed through a medium-mesh wire sieve)


  1. Make the ice cream. Place a shallow layer of ice cubes or crushed ice on the bottom of a 6-quart bowl. Add a little water to the ice and sit a 3-quart bowl directly into the ice, pushing it down so it’s secured. Place a triple-mesh wire sieve over the smaller bowl.

  2. Pour the cream and milk into a 3-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan. Using a sharp knife, slit the vanilla beans lengthwise through the top skin only. Open the beans and, using the dull side of the knife, scrape down the length of the beans, removing their seeds. Whisk the seeds into the cream, dispersing them throughout, then whisk in the lavender. Place the pan over medium-low heat and scald the liquid, but do not let it simmer.

  3. Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks in a bowl using either an electric mixer or a whisk, while gradually adding the sugar, until the mixture is thick yet very light in texture and a pale lemon color. Lower the speed of the mixer to slow and add a ladle of the scalded cream mixture (a little at a time at first to temper the yolks). Slowly add more and more of the hot cream while mixing continuously and, when the bottom of the bowl feels hot, add the rest of the cream in a steady stream. When all of the hot liquid is added, pour the contents of the bowl back into the saucepan, off the heat. Use a rubber spatula to scrape any remaining mixture off the bottom of the bowl and into the saucepan, and place the pan over low heat. Cook the custard, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is thickened and coats the back of the spoon, about 3 minutes once the mixture becomes hot throughout. (To check the consistency of the custard, always remove the pan from the heat first, to prevent accidental curdling.)

  4. Pour the cooked custard through the sieve over the chilled bowl and discard anything that remains in the sieve or on the bottom of the pan. Stir in the vanilla and salt, and drape a clean kitchen towel or paper towel over the top of the bowl. Let the custard cool to just warm, stirring occasionally, before placing both bowls in the refrigerator to cool the custard thoroughly. (If time is an issue, add more ice to the larger bowl, going up the sides, which will speed up this initial chilling process.)

  5. To churn and store the ice cream, transfer the well-chilled custard to the bowl of an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. After churning, store the ice cream in a sealed container in the freezer.

  6. Prepare the figs. Preheat the broiler with the rack as close as possible to the heating element. Line a shallow baking sheet with aluminum foil (shiny side up) and lay the quartered figs cut sides up on the prepared sheet. Brush the cut sides of the figs with melted butter and sprinkle them with sugar. Broil the figs until they are warmed through and the sugared surface is bubbling. Use tongs to place the broiled figs on top of individual scoops of lavender ice cream, and serve right away.


Old-fashioned French Vanilla Ice Cream: Omit the lavender and keep everything else the same.

Timing is Everything

  1. The ice cream can be churned three days ahead and kept frozen.

  2. To prevent having to struggle with very hard ice cream just before serving, it’s wise to scoop out portions several hours or a day ahead, and keep the scoops on a tray lined with waxed paper in the freezer, covered with plastic wrap.

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