Monday, June 30, 2014

Basil Frozen Custard

My freezer is looking more like an ice cream shop by the day. In the past few weeks I have made,

Chocolate custard
Chocolate gelato
Chocolate ice milk
Vanilla Custard
Vanilla Ice Cream
Vanilla ice milk
Raspberry sherbet
Peach bourbon sorbet
Peach ice cream
Strawberry ice cream
Cherry frozen custard
Chocolate mint ice cream
Raspberry gelato

...and today, basil. I should start selling it by the scoop in front of the house. Anyway, I really feel like I've perfected my technique, and can turn out a pint of good quality ice cream without too much thought. Given that it stays hot here well into October, it was a worthwhile skill to cultivate.

I have an ungodly amount of basil growing in the garden. There's only so much pesto you can make, and though I encourage every neighbor I see to take some, it keeps growing back practically overnight. After making a tomato salad with handfuls of torn basil, mint, and chives I went looking for other ways to use the glut. I recalled having made basil ice cream once, a very long time ago and thought it was due for a revisit. If you're interested in a really rich basil ice cream, I spotted this one in the Guardian last weekend- . I wasn't looking for something quite so fancy, so I came up with a pared-down version. I do like his idea of whipping the cream, and folding it into the custard though-something to try another time.

I know you're wondering, what is the difference between frozen custard and ice cream? Where I live, in the American Midwest, it comes down to the addition of egg yolks. In other places, it literally means a pudding that has been frozen (also good, but not what I'm making here). Where gelato skips the cream in favour of egg yolks with milk, frozen custard has both milk/cream and egg yolks. It is a completely different experience than ice cream in the way it melts, the texture, and the heaviness of it. I don't have a preference between gelato/ice cream/and frozen custard which is why I often have several types in the freezer at once. It comes down to a mood thing, and how much you want to consume in a sitting.

So what was it like? Bright. Very, very bright. I'm glad I skipped the urge to add a handful of lemon balm as it would have been too much, but a drop or two of vanilla wouldn't hurt next time, and it might give the overall flavor some depth. I like basil, but I can't see sitting down to a big dish of this because it just makes me want cheese. And garlic. I do think it would be perfect with a fruit plate salad on a very hot day. I'm sure it will be eaten, but I don't think it is a good way to use up a glut of basil. I guess I'll continue freezing pesto.

You Will Need:

2 cups tightly packed basil leaves (I used Genovese, but the purple would be OK too, in fact it might be better. Strangely, that basil isn't producing like crazy. Go figure.).
1 cup milk (I used 2 % because that's what I had)
1 cup heavy cream
4 egg yolks graded large
1/2 cup sugar (you may prefer more)
A few drops of green food colouring (optional)

Heat the milk and cream to a boil. Remove from heat, pour into a bowl, and stir in the basil. Let steep several hours in the fridge, or overnight if you can. Strain, and return the mixture to the stove. In a heatproof bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until light (I just use a whisk). Heat the milk mixture to a boil, then pour a few drops into the egg mixture, whisking as you pour. Go very slowly at first, then whisk in the rest of the milk. Return it to the pan, and clip on a candy thermometer. The custard needs to cook to 175 degrees F. to be safe. If you like to live dangerously, cook it until the custard coats the back of a wooden spoon, and it does not fill back in when you drag a finger across it. Get out your finest sieve and place it over a heatproof bowl. Strain the custard through the sieve to catch any egg that might have cooked, or stray whites. Whisk in the food colouring, if using.  Immediately place the bowl in an ice bath to quickly chill the custard. When cool to the touch, place in the fridge for several hours, or overnight to set.

Make the frozen custard either in a machine, or in a metal tray in the freezer, scraping with a fork every 20 minutes to avoid the formation of ice crystals. Transfer to a container to ripen in the freezer several hours before serving.

Serve with garlic bread in a chilled glass to be all elegant-n-shit.


Eliza Brown said...

That sounds so delicious! I've got to try it!

Goody said...


I hope you like it. The first bite is strange, but then the herbal flavor settles down and it is really rich and sweet.

I figure if a 9 year old will eat it, then it probably isn't too weird.