Nosh: Lavender Ice Cream

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A while ago I offered to watch an ice cream maker for a friend while he and his (now) fiancee spent some time overseas, because I am a humanitarian.  I give, people.  I give.  And I wanted to see if I would enjoy the process of ice cream making or if I’d think, meh, and would have wasted $80 buying my own machine that I’d never have used after its maiden churning.

I was hard-pressed to return said friend his property when he came home.  Homemade ice cream?  In my house?  Yes!  The only thing that’s even marginally part way kind of a drag about my ice cream maker is that you need to plan your ice cream making accordingly and freeze the churning sleeve overnight.  The simple remedy is to leave the sleeve permanently in your freezer so you can be ready for any ice cream emergencies, but hey, it’s up to you what you want to do.  If you even want to get a maker.  You could always churn it by hand, I suppose, though as far as that goes I am no help at all.

So I was out in my back yard the other day and I realized, we have a lovely crop of lavender.  It returned from last year which sort of surprised me; even though I know it’s a perennial, the ways off all growing things always catch me unawares.  Especially when they do what they ought, since I never get plants to behave.  Thrive.  Not die.  Anyway.  While I’m happy to attract bees and give them some nommy pollen to nosh on, the question still remains…what does one do with a surprise lavender crop?

Surprise!

Though I did just come across a recipe for lavender marshmallows; I swoon at the thought.  My options are ever-expanding.

I decided the time was right for me to make lavender ice cream.  I didn’t change anything in the recipe I used except for this: because my lavender buds were fresh, not dried, I doubled the amount I used.  Why is that, you ask?  Because fresh herbs are full of water so their flavor is less concentrated.  As a general rule, if you use any fresh herb in any recipe that calls for it dried, you should at the very least double the amount you’re using (though I’ve seen plenty of sites that say the ratio is actually three to one, and so I should have tripled the amount, but I’ve always doubled and been happy with the results, and I digress).

Of course, that means four tablespoons of lavender, which sounds like a lot of buds…

Four tablespoons lavender buds, coming right up.

…CORRECTION…

…which IS a lot of buds.  But your hands smell fantastic when you’re done, so really, is it that big of a deal?  And you’re going to strain them anyway, so you won’t have weird flowery bits between your teeth while you’re trying to enjoy dessert.  Relax.  Just see where this takes you before you judge.

Here’s everything you need.  Nothing scary.  No eye of newt or horn of toad.

A little cream, some honey, some half-and-half.

Ok, well, all this and about an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and some eggs.  Crazy how so few things can taste oh so good.  So the first thing you’re going to do–to make it oh so good–is start your lavender cream cooking.  Add the cream, half-and-half, honey and lavender into a pot and bring it just to a boil, but as soon as it starts to boil pull it off the heat, don’t let it continue to cook.  Once it’s off the heat, you let it steep.

Lavender cream in process.

There it is.  Steeping away, like a tea.  Let this sit for a half an hour while the cream coaxes all the lavendery deliciousness from the flowers.  Then strain it, clean the pot and return the cream to a low heat.  You’ll want it to heat up a bit before the next step, but you don’t need to boil it.

So you have your nice strained cream…

Strained, warmed cream.

…and two eggs, whipped with the salt.

Eggs, whipped and ready for action.

Hmmm…cream…eggs…cream?  Eggs?  I see the beginnings of a custard..!

Indeed.

Take your hot milk and add it to the eggs.  NOTE: Do NOT add the eggs to the hot cream, and do NOT dump the cream in all at once.  Add the cream into the eggs in a slow, steady, stream, whipping it with the eggs while you do.  This tempers the eggs, raising their temperature incrementally so the proteins don’t realize how hot they’re going to get and tighten up, sort of like the proverbial frog in the slow-cooking pan of water.  If you don’t think you need to temper and just dump, you’ll have a pot full of scrambled eggs, and “Who wants egg ice cream?” doesn’t hold the same sort of allure for me.  Or anyone.  Ever.

Once your cream and eggs are mixed and smooth, return the whole thing to heat and cook it until it thickens up and reaches a temperature of about 175°.  Don’t let it boil, you just want it to get thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and leave a clear stripe when you run your finger through it.

From hereon out it gets super-easy.  Cover your custard and stick it in the back of the fridge for at least three hours, and as long as overnight.  (Mine was in for three or four hours and it came out just fine.)  After that?  Into the (frozen sleeve-ed, promptly assembled) ice cream maker!

You’re going to take it from this…

Custard, locked and loaded.

…to this…

We have achieved ice cream status.

…in about twenty-five minutes.  It’s certainly thick enough to eat at this point but it’s still kind of soft, so if you don’t want it to melt right away in your bowl, exercise a little bit of patience and stash it in the freezer.  No, not in the churning sleeve, in a storage container.  Be sensible.

Floral lavender goes beautifully with the bitterness of dark chocolate, so feel free to serve it that way, or with a salted caramel sauce.  But me, I acted the purist and just had a bowl of beautiful, fragrant, refreshing, unfestooned ice cream.  And oh my stars and garters, but it was gooood!

Spoons at the ready, people.

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6 responses »

  1. How incredibly wonderful that must have smelled while you were making it! Fresh lavender (like rosemary–need any? mine is thriving), one of the most glorious scents in the universe.

    Nom.

  2. We made lavender shortbread cookies for the Colorado soiree. It was a sweet surprise. This ice cream sounds like something we’ll enjoy. (BTW the cold corn salad was e-x-c-e-l-l-e-n-t. As a side + topping a chicken salad + the veggies on a grilled chicken fajita. It made a lot of corn salad!)

    • Mmmmm, fajita. Yeah, the first time we made that corn salad we halved it and it was still a lot for the two of us…but we managed. Glad you enjoyed it! And if you like lavender shortbread like I like lavender shortbread, then this ice cream should be right up your alley. :) Yay!

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