September 16, 2010

a little bit more fancy

I first tasted and fell in love with honey lavender ice cream at the Bi-Rite Creamery in San Francisco last fall. It was about as perfect as ice cream gets, incredibly creamy with the most amazing texture. The flavors were just right and I remember thinking I'd never eaten anything quite like it. And that someday, I would try to make it.

I sort of forgot about honey lavender ice cream until (I'm kind of embarrassed to admit this, but there's no turning back now) one night, by myself and with a glass (or two) of wine, I was watching the movie with Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin called "It's Complicated". I actually loved this movie. There, I said it. I really loved it, in fact, because it reminded me so much of my parents. My parents never got back together the way they almost did in the movie, but I guess it just reminded me of my family. My family is one of a kind. My family is crazy and loud and dysfunctional, but so lovable you can't help but just go with it and hug it out. They are like my limbs - I never feel quite right without them.

Meryl Streep's family wasn't quite so crazy and loud, but they were definitely dysfunctional and they had a mom (Meryl) who just so happened to be an amazing cook (like my mom) and would make honey lavender ice cream when she couldn't sleep. I love that idea, because making ice cream is a soothing process in itself, so I could see where she was coming from. I'm with you, Meryl. Anyway, watching the movie gave me an insatiable urge to make the ice cream. After I finished laughing and crying into my wine glass, that is. (god, I KNOW! It's ridiculous. But seriously, you should watch it.)

I've made the ice cream exactly twice now, and both times my friends have sung its praises. I have to admit, I wasn't sure if the flavor would be for everyone, but I was totally wrong. It's a hit. My friend Laine says it tastes like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, only a little bit more fancy. I kinda like the sound of that. 

Honey Lavender Ice Cream
adapted from a recipe in Gourmet Magazine

I found this recipe from an old issue of Gourmet and decided to fiddle with the quantities of cream and half-and-half because I like my ice cream a little less rich. I used dried lavender flowers from the bulk section of a local health food store, Mama Jean's. Buy extra because you'll want to make this recipe again, I promise.

You'll need an ice cream maker. I use a Cuisinart and it works great. You might also want a candy thermometer, but you can do without if you don't have one. 

1 cup of heavy whipping cream
2 cups of half-and-half
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons of dried edible lavender flowers
2 large eggs
1/8 teaspoon of salt

Using a two-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream, half-and-half, honey and lavender just to a boil, stirring occasionally; right after it reaches a boil, remove from heat. Put the lid on it and steep for 30 minutes. Take a break.

Strain the cream through a fine wire mesh strainer, into a bowl, and discard the lavender. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together the two eggs and salt. Return the cream mixture to the pan on the stove and heat until hot (this doesn't take very long - don't boil!). Very slowly pour a cup of the hot cream into the egg mixture while whisking the eggs quickly. Pour the egg mixture into the cream and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until a candy thermometer reads 170 degrees or until the cream coats the back of a spoon. Again, don't cook too long here! Trust me, I did it the first time, and the second batch had a much better texture.

Pour the custard again through the mesh strainer into a clean bowl and cool completely. You can either put it in the fridge overnight (covered in plastic wrap) or placed in a bowl filled with ice (if you need it to cool faster). 

Put the cooled custard into an ice cream maker; once the ice cream is finished, transfer to an air-tight container to harden for at least an hour.