Before he was the guy that broke my heart and stole my cat – he was my best friend.
We met the first day of culinary school. We were total opposites. He was a cook, deeply cliched: smoking, cursing, drinking, tattoos, a cynic, and a bad attitude. Me? A small town baker with a wide-eyed enthusiasm and trust for the good in people. My nickname was Sunshine.
As different as we were, I’d never met someone I got along with so naturally, so easily. We just clicked. Sometimes it was like we could read each other’s minds.
Once in pastry class (my favorite and his least favorite, of course) we were challenged, as a pair, to make a unique ice cream flavor to present to our instructor. I suggested basil, having tried it before and been completely smitten with herbed sweets. As we tested and retested, argued and agreed, we struggled to figure out how to infuse more basil flavor into our ice cream base.
Then it hit us! Like a scene from a movie, we both turned to each other and said in unison “We’ll steep the stems in the milk!!!” It was brilliant!
From then on, anytime we were on the same page or in agreement (which felt like nearly always) we’d say, “We’ll steep the stems in the milk!”
Unfortunately, after two plus excellent years, he decided he wanted to steep his stem in someone else’s milk (anyone else’s milk) and he dumped me the morning we were supposed to look at apartments together. — Some best friend, huh?
Since then my memories of him have soured; but, I have to give him credit for assisting in the creation of this delicious ice cream. It is sweet but herbaceous. It is somehow rich and creamy but also quite light. You can eat it by the bowlful but it is also really great on top of warm blackberry cobbler.
I hope you’ll make this easy and delicious ice cream with your best friend…and that they’ll appreciate a unique sweetness versus looking for the next flavor of the month…
Okay folks – gather your ingredients. Can you believe how FEW ingredients go into ice cream? The only special equipment you will need is a chinois or strainer and an ice cream spinner.
Rinse your basil thoroughly. Props to my cousin Jamie for hand modeling.
Before we can steep the stems in the milk we need to blanch our basil leaves. This is to ensure they stay bright green. Submerge your basil (leaves and stems) into boiling water for 15-30 seconds. Remove and plunge into ice water. Remove from ice water and dry very well. You don’t want any water to get into your ice cream – it will cause ice crystals. Set basil aside.
Place half the sugar and your dairy into a large pot over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
The moment of glory – steeping the stems in the milk. Place basil leaves and stems into the warm milk and sugar mixture. Turn heat off and let sit for 30 minutes.
After the stems have steeped, transfer the liquid to a blender and blend to one smooth consistency. Return mixture to pot over medium-low heat.
Get ready to temper your eggs. Whisk together the egg yolks and the other half of sugar.
While whisking, slowly add a ladle of your basil-milk into the eggs. If you add the liquid too quickly the eggs with scramble. Add about 3 ladles of liquid until the eggs are roughly the same temperature as the milk mixture. Just feel it with your finger. Pour the tempered eggs into the pot of basil-milk while whisking. Switch to a spatula or wooden spoon and stir the pot until the liquid thickens slightly. To test, lift a coated spoon out of the pot. If you can draw a distinct line through it with your finger, the mixture is good to go.
Strain into the containers you will store the ice cream base in. Annnd ignore the water I spilt everywhere!
Before you put your mixture into the refrigerator, you will need to chill it completely. Do this with an ice bath.
Once the mixture is chilled transfer to the refrigerator and chill overnight.
Next place chilled mixture into your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the ice cream is done spinning, it should resemble soft-serve. Place into the freezer and let chill a few hours until it is firmer and scoop-able. Or eat it as soft-serve… I’m certainly not judging.
Is it better to have loved deeply and lost abruptly than to have never loved at all? I have no idea. What I can tell you is boyfriends come and go but ice cream is forever.
Basil Ice Cream
5 egg yolks
3/4 cup of sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 oz basil, leaves and stems
Begin by blanching the basil. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl about 1/2 way with ice and then fill with water. Dunk the rinsed basil leaves and stems into the boiling water for about 15 – 30 seconds. Remove and immediately transfer to the ice water. Let sit in ice water for about a minute. Transfer to a kitchen towel and dry THROUGHLY. Set aside.
Next, place a large sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 of the sugar and all of the dairy. Cook, while stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Add in the basil. Turn off the heat and let the basil steep in the milk for 30 minutes.
Carefully transfer milk mixture to a blender and blend until completely smooth. Strain mixture back into the large pot. The strainer will catch any large bits of basil that didn’t break up fully. Put the large pot over medium heat and heat until just before boiling point. Tiny bubbles will form around the edges. Turn the heat to medium-low.
In another large bowl whisk together eggs and remaining sugar. Whisk until COMPLETELY combined.
Prepare to temper the eggs. Using a ladle, add one ladle of the hot milk/basil mixture to the eggs, while whisking. Once the first ladleful is fully incorporated, add another, again while whisking. Finally, add a third ladleful (always whisking). Feel the eggs with your finger, the mixture should be almost as warm as the milk.
Next, pour the tempered eggs into the large pot containing the remainder of the basil milk. While continuously whisking, turn the heat up to medium. Switch to a wooden spoon or spatula and cook the concoction over medium heat until it has thickened slightly. This will happen very quickly, maybe 3-4 minutes. Please, for the love of ice cream, do not let it boil.
Once the mixture has thickened slightly, turn off the heat and strain into storage containers. Place the containers in an ice bath and allow the ice cream base to cool completely before transferring to the refrigerator.
Refrigerate over night.
The next day, place the ice cream base into your ice cream machine and follow the machine’s instructions (each ice cream spinner is different.)
I take my ice cream out when it is the consistency of soft-serve and place it in the freezer, for about an hour or two, to firm up a bit more, but by all means go at it in soft-serve form. ENJOY!