In a moment, I am going to show you a photo of some ice cream. The ice cream is white and it kind of looks like vanilla. Actually if it were homemade vanilla, at least the way I make it, there would be black flecks in it from the vanilla bean. So, the ice cream I am going to show you looks even more vanilla than vanilla – if you catch my drift.
This is my garden. I posted about it in May and, as you can see if you compare the photos, it has exploded. Our study, where I do all my writing and emailing, faces this garden. As I gaze out the window in January, it seems impossible that plants will every bloom again. Everything is cut back and looks completely dead. But then, right on schedule this happens.
Back to the ice cream. You see those plants up there? Lavender. As you walk up to our front steps, you get a tremendous whiff of lavender. I used to think I didn’t like the scent. I still don’t if you are talking about a perfume, an essential oil, or a sachet. But fresh is something else all together. At the risk of sounding like one big cliché, I first smelled fresh lavender in Provence. On our way home, after our year in London, we spent a week at a special little villa with some friends. The English couple who owned the villa harvested the lavender and left it out to dry around the property. It was there that I learned that the scent of those purple flowers is much more delicate and much sweeter than the potpourri in a bad B&B would leave you to believe.
Still, lavender in ice cream? When I told my brother I had made Lavender-Honey Ice Cream, he immediately yelled, “Soap!”. But no. It tastes of cream and honey with just the slightest and most subtle floral undertone – and I mean that in the most flattering way possible. This is actually the second time I have made this flavor and the first time Randy told me it was the best ice cream he had ever eaten. Randy is not a big food person but he loves ice cream. He loves it enough that if I said I couldn’t live without one of those $500 ice cream makers which take up a tremendous amount of room but don’t require the bowl to be frozen for 24 hours before using it, he’d probably run right out and buy me one. But then I would be making ice cream constantly so it’s probably best that I stick with my $50 Krups model.
In my head this is also known as the ice cream that almost burned my house down. The first time I made it, I was steeping the honey with the lavender. This is accomplished by putting the honey and lavender flowers in a small pot, bringing the heat up so the honey is hot, and then turning off the heat and allowing the flavors to meld together. Right as I turned the heat on under the burner, I got a phone call. I ran into the study to check something on the computer while still on the phone and proceeded to forget about the honey. I also forgot that I had left a rubber spatula (heat resistant to 650ºF!) in the pot and by the time I smelled my error, the entire pot was burned (my one quart!), the spatula was non-existent and there was smoke throughout the house. Just as I ran upstairs to try and furiously fan the smoke away from the detectors so my boys wouldn’t wake up, alarms all over the house went off. This is a long story. All I’m really trying to say is – don’t walk away from the honey.
One Year Ago: What do you know? Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Lavender-Honey Ice Cream
The Perfect Scoop
Makes about 1 quart
½ cup good-flavored honey
¼ cup dried or fresh lavender flowers
1½ cups whole milk
¼ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1½ cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
Heat the honey and 2 tablespoons of the lavender in a small saucepan. Once warm, remove from the heat and set aside to steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Pour the cream in a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. Pour the lavender-infused honey into the cream through the strainer, pressing on the lavender flowers to extract as much flavor as possible, then discard the lavender and set the strainer back over the cream.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons lavender flowers and stir until cool over an ice bath.
Chill the mixture overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, before churning, strain the mixture, again pressing on the lavender flower to extract their flavor. Discard the flowers, the freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.