I feel like we all need more awe-inspiring, eyes of wonder moments in our lives. Moments when, on a total leap of faith, our handiwork comes together in majestic ways. I have to say that, for me, making ice cream for the first time was a blissful moment of awe. I trusted that my uber-creamy, eggy base would taste good. I trusted that I had left my ice cream maker attachment in the freezer long enough. I even trusted that I made the right decision to simply get a KitchenAid mixer attachment rather than a CuisineArt ICE50BS Supreme Ice Cream Maker for a whopping $200+ dollars, as per David Lebovitz. A little pricey, mister. And my KitchenAid attachment has yet to fail me. Case in point, my recipe for Strawberry Frozen Yogurt was a KILLER – so good that I can’t post it yet because my darling husband ate every last bit of it before I could snap a picture. In the words of Ron Burgundy, “How’d you do that? I’m not even mad…that’s amazing.”
I decided to make a batch of basil ice cream because I am a fan of not only the glory of the celebration of the sweetness of basil, but mainly because of the polarizing nature of this dessert. It’s a love it or hate it kind of thing. Maybe for the folks that try it and hate it (my best friend Kate’s mom, Dennis eating Strawberry Fro-Yo and leaving all of this behind in the freezer), they’d need to give it a few chances. It’s different, yes. But it is so so very good. Eyes of wonder good.
I first tasted basil ice cream at a special birthday dinner with my mom – I decided to take her to Tosca in DC for her celebration, just the two of us. She had fallen in love with the place after we took my sister there for her graduation celebration. The place is gorgeous – uber-minimalist and luxe, bringing your focus directly to the food. My mom is an August baby, so when we went, they were serving a special tomato menu, celebrating the glorious heirlooms available during that small window of time in the summer that you feast like a king, nay, a tomato demi-god. So what do they close the meal with? A sweet tomato tart with basil gelato. Go through the mental checklist with me: tomatoes and basil go together? Check. Tomatoes can be sweet? Check. Basil can be sweet? Check. It was a go on all counts. And kids, the final result was one etched in my brain on the short list of tastes I’ll never, ever forget. I swoon just remembering that very first bite.
It was inevitable that I’d make it for myself someday, and once again inevitable that I’d share it with you. Definitely tuck into this with the tomato tart as well, if you want the full experience, but know that this is a treat all by itself.
Basil Ice Cream (Basil Gelato)
3 c. of basil leaves
2 c. of heavy cream
2 c. of whole milk
1 c. of sugar
2 vanilla beans
1 pinch of kosher salt
12 egg yolks
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. While the water comes to a boil, take a large bowl and fill with cold water and 6-8 ice cubes. Plunk the basil leaves into the boiling water and stir for about a minute and then drain and place into the ice bath to shock the leaves. Let them hang out in the ice water for a bit while you prep the creamy good stuff.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the milk, heavy cream, sugar, and kosher salt. Using a paring knife, carefully split the vanilla beans in half and scrape the black pasty goodness in the middle of the bean into the cream. Add the whole beans to the milk as well once they’ve been scraped. Bring the mixture to a slow simmer, making sure not to let it boil. Once simmering, continue to cook for 2-3 minutes.
Drain the basil leaves and add to a blender along with a cup of the hot cream mixture, making sure not to include any of the vanilla bean pods. Place the lid on the blender and a towel over the lid to prevent a hot, sticky splatter from the blended cream. Blend on high until smooth and then strain mixture back into the rest of the cream using a fine strainer or chinois.
Set up a double boiler – you want a metal bowl for the top that fits over a pot on the bottom. You want to add enough water to the bottom so that it will easily boil without touching the bottom of the top pot. Wikipedia has a diagram of it that hilariously looks like it was drawn in MS Paint, but gets the point across.
While the bottom pot of the double boiler is coming to a boil, work off the heat and take your top pot and separate 12 egg yolks into the bowl. Beat until pale golden and smooth and then slowly add a cup of the hot cream, whisking the entire time to keep the mixture smooth and prevent the egg from scrambling. Set the pot over the now boiling water and continuously whisk in the rest of the cream. Discard the vanilla pods, or clean them off and reuse them to flavor sugar or coffee – Marx Foods actually has a huge list of suggestions of what to do with the pods. Keep on whisking until the mixture thickens and the ice cream base can coat the back of a spoon. Turn off the heat. Strain the mixture into a large bowl and let the base cool in the fridge.
Once cooled, pour the ice cream base into your ice cream maker and follow your manufacturer’s instructions. When finished, remove to a tupperware and freeze for a little bit to allow the ice cream to solidify a bit more. Serve to people with curious palettes looking to try a little something special.