Friday, July 1, 2011
Lemon Verbena Ice Cream
On a recent respite at the home of some dear friends up in the beautiful rambling hills overlooking Berkeley, I had the wonderful experience of roaming a yard full of gorgeous roses, fruit trees, grape vines and lots and lots of beautiful plants. Along the edge of the garden I discovered some lovely lemon verbena. Oh, what a find! If you have lemon verbena in your midst, just pick a leaf, bend it in your fingers and you are suddenly immersed in a wonderful lemony scent reminiscent of lemongrass along with the slight sensation of the coolness of mint. It’s a very soothing aroma. And since I love Lemon Verbena Ice Cream, I was in heaven.
Among all the fabulous herbal ice cream preparations, this is a very subtle and unmistakably delicious one that is very unique. If you aren’t lucky enough to have friends growing lemon verbena, you may be able to find it at your local farmer’s market right about now.
I also had the great fortune of tasting my first peach of the season and it was absolutely glorious. I pair the ice cream here with a few slices because I think the peaches echo the slightly floral aspect of the ice cream. It all makes for a really cool and decidedly delicious summer sensation.
- As the lemon verbena leaves are steeping, taste to see if the mixture has the right strength. I steeped mine for 1 hour. I also returned the leaves to the finished custard and refrigerated the ice cream base overnight. I strained out the leaves again just before placing in my ice cream machine.
- You can substitute 3 cups of half-and-half for the dairy in this recipe.
- When making the crème anglaise base for egg yolk custard ice cream, watch it closely and keep the heat on medium or medium low. Do not let the mixture boil or you will have a mess of goopy scrambled eggs. If you have an instant read thermometer, this would be a good time to use it. I tend to cook it to about 165 degrees, pull it off and keep stirring. Residual heat will usually take it to 170, which is about right. I then pour it immediately into a clean container. Just be sure to watch it very, very closely as it cooks because once it nears the right temperature of 170 - 175 degrees it continues to rise very quickly. It's trashed at 180. Like all things in pastry, lots of practice makes it easy.
Lemon Verbena Ice Cream
1 1/4 C fresh lemon verbena leaves, loosely packed (about 30 leaves)
1 1/2 C milk
1 1/2 C heavy cream
1/2 C + 1 T sugar
pinch of salt
4 egg yolks
Remove the lemon verbena leaves from the stalk. Place the milk, cream, sugar and salt in a saucepan on medium low heat, stirring to dissolve. When it begins to simmer, add the lemon verbena leaves and continue on a very low simmer for another minute. Remove from heat, cover and steep for about an hour.
Strain out the lemon verbena from the cream mixture, pressing against the leaves to extract as much liquid as possible. Warm the infused cream. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl and slowly add the warm cream, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook on medium low heat, stirring continuously with a heatproof spatula and scraping the bottom of the pan. Cook until the custard leaves a clear track on the spatula when you drag your finger across it. Immediately pour the custard into a clean container and stir to cool it down. Taste for salt and add another pinch if necessary. Cool completely and then chill the custard base thoroughly, preferably overnight.
Freeze in your ice cream maker according to instructions. Pour into a clean airtight container, press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface, cover and place in your freezer to firm up.