Basil Ice Cream

About three years ago my parents were in NYC visiting me for my grad school graduation. We fortuitously decided to have lunch at Shake Shack, where I discovered that they had basil ice cream on the menu. I was a bit hesitant, because I love love love basil, but how would that taste in an ice cream? So I ordered a shake, and subjected my parents throughout the whole meal to my ongoing commentary about what a revelation it was! How amazingly extraordinary was the taste! Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. It was literally one of the greatest things I had ever eaten. And then for the next two and a half years I hunted in vain for it at various restaurants, ice cream shops, anywhere. I got tipped off that they had it one day during a hurricane at the Meatball Shop in Williamsburg, but that pesky hurricane prohibited me from making the trek to Brooklyn. Finally I realized the best solution: purchase an ice cream maker! One night I spent several hours at Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table (bad idea) and walked away with various exciting kitchen tools, and also a fancy little purple Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker.

The next day I set to making this fabulous basil ice cream. It was a labor of love as it takes some time and quite a few steps, and I didn’t have a mesh strainer at the time, so ended up with some chunks of basil in the ice cream. It was AMAZING. Basil ice cream is probably the greatest thing in the world, and that’s no exaggeration. So bust out your ice cream maker (I know you probably have one in your closet!) and whip up this recipe – you won’t regret it.

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Basil Ice Cream

Recipe adapted from epicurious

2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks*
1/2 cup chilled heavy cream (make sure to pull it directly from the fridge before adding, don’t let it sit out beforehand)

Bring the milk, basil, 1/4 cup sugar, and the salt to boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, stirring throughout. Once it begins to boil, remove from the heat and let the ingredients steep for 30 minutes. Transfer to a blender and blend until the basil is finely ground, generally about 1 minute.

Using the fancy candy thermometer.
Using the fancy candy thermometer.

Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat together the eggs and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, until the mixture is a pale yellow and thick, about 1 minute. Add milk mixture in a stream and beat until the ingredients are well combined. Pour mixture into the same saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon. The mixture should not boil, but reach 175 degrees Fahrenheit/79 degrees Celsius, which you can measure with a candy thermometer – the mixture will also be ready when it coats the back of the wooden spoon.

Immediately remove from the heat and (if available) pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium sized metal bowl. If you don’t have a sieve, you can also try and remove some of the large chunks by pouring through a colander – some will escape, but it’s an easier method if you don’t have all the necessary tools. Place the metal bowl into a larger bowl of ice water, and stir until the mixture is cold, about 10-15 minutes. I also did not have a metal bowl, so I poured it into a clean saucepan, and placed that saucepan in a larger bowl full of ice water. Be careful not to overfill the second bowl, or some of the water may get into the ice cream mixture!

Making magic.
Making magic.

Once the mixture is cool, remove from the larger bowl of ice water, and stir in the cream. Pour directly into the frozen bowl of the ice cream maker, and freeze following the ice cream maker’s instructions. It generally takes about 30 minutes to get the desired consistency, after which you should transfer to an airtight container and freeze for a couple more hours in order to allow it to firm up. And then eat and enjoy!

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*If you haven’t separated egg yolks from egg whites before, it’s very simple. There are special tools to do so, but the easiest is to simply crack the egg, and using each half of the shell, pour the egg back and forth, dripping the egg white into a bowl. Be careful not to break the yolk, and in a few pours back and forth you will have a bowl with egg white, and the yolk still in the shell. Also an added bonus, using egg yolks means you will have egg whites leftover – perfect for whipping up a meringue! 

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