Friday, August 01, 2008
Ice cream! When my sister and her friend Bink went to Sicily last spring, they came back raving about the basil ice cream. My sister begged me to make it, and I kept putting it off, thinking it sounded....odd. This year, I've noticed that local shops and restaurants are offering basil ice cream on their menus. So I decided to bow to my sister's wisdom when my father was in town a couple weekends ago (see "Movie Memories" post below). Served with a light drizzle of crushed strawberries in their own juice or with a scoop of chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla ice cream, basil ice cream is absolutely heavenly. Here's the recipe:
Basil Ice Cream
(adapted from Gourmet, as posted on epicurious.com)
2 cups milk (I usually mix whole milk and 2 percent; the higher the fat content, the more quickly the milk will churn and the creamier the final texture will be)
3 generous tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup sugar, divided in two
pinch of salt
4 large eggs, separated (you won't need the whites)
1 cup chilled whipping cream, whipped until barely stiff just before churning
1) In a medium-sized saucepan, bring milk, chopped basil, 1/4 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt to a boil very slowly. (Doing it too quickly can lead to curdling.)
2) Remove from heat and let the mixture steep for 30 minutes.
3) Transfer to a blender (not a food processor, which won't get the blend smooth enough) and blend until basil is finely ground and the mixture is totally smooth (about 1 minute).
4) In a large bowl, beat together the yegg yolks and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar with an electric mixer until thick and pale (about 1 minute). Slowly add the milk-basil mixture, beating until combined well.
5) Transfer to a saucepan and cook slowly over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture reaches 175 degrees F. Do not allow mixture to boil.(I use an old-fashioned meat thermometer to register the temperature, but a digital thermometer is more precise and easier to read.) This heating step ensures the safety of the eggs, but be sure to heat slowly since rapid heating and/or boiling leads to curdling.
6) When the temperature is at 175 degrees, remove from heat right away and strain the mixture through a sieve a couple times (the finer the mesh the better) into a metal bowl. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature (about 10-15 minutes) and then cover and put in the refrigerator to chill (at least 2 hours or overnight).
7) Just before you're ready to churn the ice cream, beat the whipping cream until it's barely stiff and stir it into the chilled dairy-basil mixture. Follow the directions of your ice-cream maker to churn and/or freeze the ice cream.
*Basil ice cream is surprisingly mild in flavor, so I like to serve it plain or with a very light drizzle of crushed fresh strawberries. For visual effect, you can also serve it with contrasting ice cream(s), such as vanilla, strawberry, or chocolate. Serves about four people.
Tip A: Although it's tempting, don't skip any of the cooling and chilling steps. The colder the dairy mixture, the more quickly it will churn and/or freeze and harden.
Tip B: Making ice cream is easy, but it can be time consuming. I often divide the process into two stages over two days. On day 1, I prepare the dairy mixture up through step 6 (overnight refrigeration). The next day, when I'm ready to churn the ice cream, I beat the whipping cream and carry on with step 7.