Monday, July 19, 2010

Lemon Verbena Blueberry Ice Cream

This simple ice cream involves no cooking or custards, just some delicious fresh ingredients, a blender and an ice cream maker. Raw food at it's best! Ha Ha!!

This Ice cream was an experiment. I had a big lemon verbena plant growing outside my back door in a pot, some cream in the fridge and some blueberries leftover form weekend picking. I blended the verbena leaves in the cream (which started to whip, so I had to add some water, since I had no milk to blend the herb into). Blending the herb into the cream, or milk releases the oils in the leaves which have all the flavor. If you don't have verbena, you can try using some fresh lavender which is a little more common. To be honest, the combination of lemon verbena, cream and sugar was incredible, so I kind of wish I had put the blueberries on top of, rather than in this ice cream. Regardless, it was delicious, and there were far from any complaints, so try it which ever way you like.

I am a big fan of custard based ice creams: yolks, cream, milk, sugar. I first learned to make these during a brief stint at Gramercy Tavern in NYC where pastry chef Claudia Fleming had created an incredible dessert menu and dozens of fabulous ice cream flavors, some of which you can find in her book The Last Course which has just been reprinted, but I think you have to contact her to get it at the moment (it's going for mucho $ on amazon). This is one of the best pastry books of all time. If you google "Claudia Fleming ice cream recipe" lots of great custard based recipes will pop up: buttermilk, sweet corn, basil, chocolate malted etc... you just can't go wrong.
When you make a custard based ice cream you heat the cream and milk which gives you a chance to infuse the milk with flavor by steeping it with herbs, spices or tea. You then whisk it into the yolks to make the custard and chill it, usually over night before freezing the ice cream. Sometimes there just isn't time for that, and you may want some immediate ice cream gratification. So, as I've mentioned before, if you have an ice cream maker (you can get one these days for about $30-$50) you can make a smoothie and pour it into the machine, and if you eat it within a few hours of going into the freezer it will still be a great creamy ice cream. For an ice cream that holds up better over days in the fridge, try a custard base and puree and then steep the herbs in the warm milk for 30 minutes and then follow the rest of the recipe. Milk based ice creams are popular in Philly, and allow small ice cream shops to open up and make ice cream from scratch without needing a very expensive pasteurizer, or without buying a pre-made ice cream base as almost every "home made" ice cream shop in the country does.

Lemon Verbena Blueberry Ice Cream (the quick version)
3 cups cream
1 cup milk*
10 leaves lemon verbena (or 3 sprigs lavender)
1/4 -1/2 cup sugar (or other sweetener, I'm guessing on this amount as I did this to taste. When frozen it will taste a little less sweet, so adjust accordingly)
2 cups blueberries

*note: you can change the milk to cream ratio, if you want a lower fat ice cream. You can also replace the milk with some non-dairy milk and coconut milk.
  1. Put cream, milk, sugar and lemon verbena in a blender and puree till the herbs are finely chopped, but the cream has not gotten thick. let sit for 10 minutes or longer. Strain using a fine mesh strainer. discard herbs.
  2. Pour cream mixture into a ice cream machine and freeze according to directions. 
  3. If you want to add blueberries to the ice cream, puree them in a blender with a tiny amount of milk or water to get them blending, or mash them by hand. When the cream is nearly frozen, pour in the blueberry puree and continue freezing until thick. Transfer to a container and freeze for 30 minutes to 3 hours. Serve.  If you are happy with your delicious creamy lemon verbena frozen cream, just serve the blueberries on top.

 If you are having trouble figuring out the custard based recipes you find on google, let me know, and I'll put together an ice cream tutorial post. good luck, and happy ice creaming!!!

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