“Strawberry basil or basil?” I asked my friend. “My first ice cream flavor.”
“Basil,” he answered matter-of-factly.
But it wasn’t only that response that made me choose basil. Due to my childhood picky self, I never discovered basil until I was in my mid-twenties.
It always came with Vietnamese pho. A full plate spilling with bean sprouts, jalapeño slices and basil. Especially basil. I would take each branch and pull off the leaves. One by one into the soup. Then with chopsticks, I stirred it around in the hot broth so that every leave was dunked.
Lightly refreshing but subtle is my own description of basil.
As my first flavor of the project, I intended to start off well. It wasn’t the first time that I had made ice cream. So I had started making this…thinking all will go well. So first, I used my blender to mix the basil with the milk-cream mixture.
I thought that everything was going well until I started making the custard. As I must always repeat, I somehow lack the required characteristic that cooks must have. That is, attention to detail, particularly with heat and eggs.
When I started seeing bubbles, I was thrilled. It must be finished! I dipped my wooden spoon in and stroked the back with my finger. Clean…sort of? I turned off the heat and steam billowed out from the pot. To my disappointment, I saw…a mass floating to the top. Solid eggs. To my horror, the eggs had curdled. I dumped the mixture into a large tupperware (obviously, with no real plan of action) and decided that I would try again the following day.
And the following day, I attempted the basil ice cream with a slightly modified recipe. And to my horror again, it curdled in the pot again. Cursed the eggs! At this point, I had wasted expensive high quality organic whole milk and heavy cream. I googled and found that some similar-minded chefs simply strained the mixture.
The following day, I fed the ice cream to my friends. Delicious! they all said. I think that I succeeded.
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop and Completely Delicious Blog
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream (separated into cups)
1 cup whole milk
Pinch of salt
5 egg yolks
Using a food processor or blender, puree the basil leaves with sugar and one cup of heavy cream. This allows the leaves to steep better with the mixture.
Pour half of this mixture into a separate bowl. Add the remaining heavy cream and set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the other half with milk and salt.
In a separate large bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Temper the egg yolks by pouring one cup at a time of the warmed cream mixture. Whisk the mixture after every cup. Return the contents into the pot and place over medium heat. Stir frequently. The custard will thicken. Remove from heat when the mixture coats the back of a spoon.
Now a custard, pour it through the strainer into the bowl with the remaining cream mixture. Zest the lemon directly into the custard.
Chill for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Churn in an ice cream maker based on the manufacturer’s instructions.
Written in July 2012