Lavender Ice Cream

In my first few miserable months of grad school, a professor I was working with tried to reassure me by saying that even though I was feeling lost and discouraged about the art I was making, when it is all over, I'd have survived and be making what I had before I started.  I've been thinking about his words recently.  At the end of this three year journey of grad school, I feel like I've been making circles--coming back to exactly where I started, but with a fresh perspective....discovering what I already knew, but with doubt erased.  For some reason I feel like I'm coming back around to a place in the circle from way before I moved here.  Somewhere more open-ended and free...

When I was in high school, I bought an ice-cream maker to make lavender ice cream.  I don't know how the idea of lavender ice cream had entered my brain.  I had never had it before, though I did like rose ice cream.  The idea seemed like a fragrant fantasy--I imagined it akin to pillowy clouds, drifting memories, lying in a sunny field thinking you are in love.... ethereal and earthy, dreamy and frozen, floral and rich.
So for turning and returning, for optimism and wishes---here is lavender ice cream again. I think like any dish using flowers or flower-water, the amazing part is recognizing a smell on your tongue.   I've tried a few variations on a lavender ice cream recipe and this is the latest.  It is custard based though it is less eggy than ones I've made in the past (but still plenty creamy) and has a little honey.  I like the flavor of lavender to be pretty strong, but some find it soap-like---taste-test it often and see what works for you. Be aware that the freshness of the flowers affects their strength.

  • 2 C heavy cream
  • 1/2 C half&half
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1/3 C mild honey
  • 1/4 -1/3 C sugar
  • 2 T dried lavender flowers
  • 1/2 vanilla bean OR 1/2 tsp good vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks (save the whites for something else)
  • 1/8 tsp salt

In a heavy saucepan, heat the cream, milk, half & half, sugar, honey, bean (if using) and lavender flowers until just under boiling.  Cover and let steep 30 minutes to 2 hours (taste and see when it is the right strength for you).  If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds and discard the pod, strain the mixture through a fine sieve.  Then return to a clean saucepan and heat over moderate heat.  In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and salt. Whisk in one cup of the milk mixture to the eggs, then pour the egg mixture into the milk in the saucepan, stirring with a wooden spoon.  Heat until the mixture coats the back of the spoon, 170°-175° on a thermometer, about 5 minutes. Do NOT let boil. Strain again into a bowl, add vanilla extract (if using) and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.  Pour mixture into an ice-cream maker and process accordingly.  I drizzled honey into the ice cream maker in the last couple minutes to make a honey ribbon through the ice cream.  Transfer to a container and freeze to harden.

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