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August 21, 2008 at 10:02 AM

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor? Mine’s cinnamon basil.

It’s certainly been an ice cream summer, what with artisan-ice cream makers popping up everywhere you turn. Me? I don’t feel the need to rush out to, say, Wallingford, to stand in line for a creamy-sweet concoction flavored with fresh lavender or bergamot-infused olive oil. Because I’m a do-it-yerself kind of gal. And yesterday I did it myself at home, cribbing from the Jerry Traunfeld playbook to make the most amazing ice cream, using this:

I’ve had lots of good luck this summer making ice cream with my Krups La Glaciere ice cream maker and whatever fresh fruit I can get my hands on, including the strawberries that went into this lovely vision:

For that one, I used a very simple recipe. With an electric ice cream maker it’s easy as pie. Scratch that: it’s easier, especially if you make the custard early in the day and then, while you’re eating dinner, plug in the machine, spill the custard into the frozen canister and let it whirl:

That’s exactly what I did last night. Only this time I went the savory route, using this recipe from Jerry’s award-winning “The Herbfarm Cookbook“:



2-1/2 cups whole milk, plus an additional 2 tablespoons if needed, or substitute low-fat (2%) milk for a slightly less rich ice cream

1-1/2 cups heavy cream

8 4-inch springs cinnamon basil and 1/2 cinnamon stick, or 6 4-inch springs sweet basil and 1-1/2 cinnamon sticks

1/4 vanilla bean split and scraped, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 large egg yolks

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1. INFUSE THE CREAM: Pour the milk and cream into a 2-quart saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the basil, cinnamon stick, and vanilla bean if using, push them under the surface of the liquid with a spoon, and immediately remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan and steep for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid through a fine sievee into a large liquid measuring cup, pressing down firmly on the herbs to extract all the liquid from the leaves. Add fresh milk if needed to measure 4 cups. Return the infused cream to the saucepan.

2. EGG YOLKS: Put the egg yolks in a medium stainless-steel mixing bowl and float that bowl in a larger bowl half full of hot tap water. Whisk the yolks until they are lukewarm, 90-degrees to 100-degrees F (it will take less than 1 minute), then lift the bowl out of the water.

3. ICE CREAM BASE. Add the sugar to the infused cream and bring it back to a boil over medium-high heat. The instant the cream comes to a rolling boil and rises in the pan, lift it off the heat. With the whisk in one hand and the saucepan in the other, pour the boiling cream into the egg yolks as you whisk constantly but gently. Don’t whisk rapidly or you will cool the custard before the yolks have a chance to set. Continue to stir the custard with the whisk for 1 minute. At this point it should be fully cooked. An instant-read thermometer set in the custard should register 170-degrees to 180 degrees F. It will coat a teaspoon, but it will become much ticker when it cools. (If for some reason the custard did not get hot enough to thicken, you can place the bowl on top of a sacuepan of boiling water and stir it with a rubber spatula until it reaches 170-degrees F. Do not over heat the custard or it will curdle). Which the sauce rapidly for 30 seconds to cool it, then pour it through a fine sieve. If using vanilla extract, add it now. Refrigerate this custard base until thoroughly chilled. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Need some visuals? I’m happy to oblige. First, I gathered my ingredients:

Jerry’s recipe calls for either fresh vanilla bean or extract, but I used fresh, and accidentally doubled the amount he called for (I should have used a quarter of a bean, not half a bean). Whatever: the ice cream was none the worse for it. If you’ve never used fresh vanilla beans you should treat yourself to some. You prep them by using a sharp paring knife to split the leathery bean lengthwise. Then flatten each half by running the blade along the length of it, scraping out the sticky little seeds:

Here’s the basil, cinnamon and vanilla infusing in the milk/cream mixture:

Next, I strained the infused liquid through a fine sieve:

Note my heavy-duty liquid measuring cup. It’s one of the few things worth buying at one of those annoying Pampered Chef parties (it even comes with a lid). Another is the Pampered Chef barbecue grill spatula with the serrated edges and (best part!) handy beer-can opener:

Then I whisked the yolks, which are eventually blended with the basil-cream infusion to make a custard:

This is what Jerry means by a “rolling boil”:

The bowl I used to whisk/heat the yolks was way too small for the boiling cream (don’t make that mistake), so I had to switch it out. Notice the “scrambled egg” on the edges of the smaller bowl in the photo below. See the specks of curdled egg in the custard? Obviously, I didn’t listen to Jerry when he cautioned that the yolk-whisking “will take less than one minute.” Or maybe I was just too busy taking photos on my “workation” day:

Here’s a closeup of my finished ice cream base (and its “curdle”) after step three nears completion:

Good thing the last step before refrigerating the custard is “pour it through a fine sieve,” huh? Here’s the finished product, served with my friend Chris’s wonderful sugar cookies and garden-fresh garnish. That ice cream was so incredibly delicious — and aromatic — I can’t wait to make it again:

I’ve long been a mint-chocolate-chip fanatic, but cinnamon-basil ice cream has risen — like curdled egg-specks in an otherwise dreamy ice cream — to the top of my “favorite” list. So tell me do: What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?


Posted by JAM

11:02 AM, Aug 21, 2008

My favorite ice cream for many years – lemon verbena from the same cookbook. The sour cream is a brilliant addition. Serve with grilled peaches…or peach cobbler.

Posted by AVID

11:06 AM, Aug 21, 2008

Coffee ice cream with a kahlua on the side.

Posted by Miles Mavis

11:51 AM, Aug 21, 2008

Ben&Jerry’d Pistachio Pistachio is the best Ice cream ever made bar none. Unless you don’t ABSOLUTELY LOVE pistachios in which case you are on your own and should probably kill yourself.

Posted by Nancy Leson

11:57 AM, Aug 21, 2008

OK, you got me, JAM: I’m making that next.

Posted by Sophie

12:04 PM, Aug 21, 2008

I bought a container of Strawberry Rose ice cream from the PCC. I don’t remember the brand, but the flavor was delicate and beautiful! I have never had plain rose ice cream, but I can imagine that it would be my favorite.

Posted by KAG

12:10 PM, Aug 21, 2008

Here in Peoria we have a wonderful small restaurant called The Spotted Cow and Frank makes all the homemade ice cream — including lavender fudge — really remarkable and yummy and sweet smelling. Even my son (9 yrs) likes it. He also makes Late Night Chocolate — chocolate ice cream with cinnamon — my absolute favorite!

Posted by Laura

12:30 PM, Aug 21, 2008

I have to say I was at that Wallingford Ice Cram shoppe Sunday – and I’ve never tasted heaven quite like the Salted Caramel

Posted by sailcocktail

12:32 PM, Aug 21, 2008

I made nectarine-basil, and boy was it good. My freezer is always way too full, so we bought one of the makers that has it’s own compressor (no, not a Simac though that would have beeen nice).

Several years ago my husband got a bug to make the douglas fir sorbet that was sometimes served at The Herbfarm. Unfortunately, that recipe wasn’t in the book, so he had some experimenting to do. But nice to try, since to me it tastes like a Christmas tree with snow on it.

Posted by CindyW

12:33 PM, Aug 21, 2008

That looks great! I used to think basil was only for savory foods, but this past year I had basil-chocolate truffle from a local candy-maker. Really wonderful.

The ice cream flavor that really wowed me this year was part of a dessert at Woodinville’s Barking Frog. A slice of olive oil cake came with a scoop of Preserved Lemon ice cream that just knocked my socks off.

Posted by Misty

12:49 PM, Aug 21, 2008

Any flavor from Olympic Mountain Ice Cream company.

Also, Tillamook’s Marionberry.

Posted by Chuck

12:52 PM, Aug 21, 2008

I’m with Laura — next time try the salted caramel with the house-made hot fudge sauce, which is a nice complement to the saltiness of the ice cream.

Posted by kirsten

2:40 PM, Aug 21, 2008

Cardamon ice cream is my favorite.

Posted by MKS

2:45 PM, Aug 21, 2008

Cinnamon ice cream is one of my favorites but adding the basil took it to a new level. It was really delicious. Thanks, Nancy!

Posted by Crys

3:20 PM, Aug 21, 2008

My favorite is lavender. Cant beat it. Olympic Mountain makes a great one.

that wallingford ice cream shop you were referring to has good tasting lavender ice cream but the texture of the lavender flowers in it is gritty and unsettling. I wish they’d remove the flowers.

I echo one of the previous comments that the caramel sea salt ice cream there is pretty out of this world.

Posted by JAM

3:37 PM, Aug 21, 2008

Nancy – if you don’t have lemon verbena growing in your backyard (and you should – it’s great for panna cotta etc) and have a hard time finding some, let me know…

Posted by Kairu

3:46 PM, Aug 21, 2008

I have too many favorite ice cream flavors to list, but right now in terms of homemade ice cream, I’m loving David Lebowitz’s salted butter caramel ice cream. It’s so good.

Posted by Brad in Seattle

3:56 PM, Aug 21, 2008

My favorite concoction I’ve made recently was my new recipe for Sweet Potato ice cream (with marshmallow fluff)!

Recipe to come in September on my ice cream/dessert blog:

Posted by Anne

4:42 PM, Aug 21, 2008

no question. Fresh Peach, made from Joy of Cooking or any other book of that era.

also: coconut ice cream made with coconut milk, not cow milk.

Posted by Karen

4:47 PM, Aug 21, 2008

Mexican chocolate (less sweet, with cinnamon) – only know of one place to buy it, Mitchell’s Ice Cream in San Francisco. Maybe I’ll have to learn to make it now!

Posted by luigia

5:45 PM, Aug 21, 2008

No one ever explains what to do with the leftover egg whites!

Posted by Nancy Leson

8:25 PM, Aug 21, 2008

Luigia: Funny you should ask. I fed the leftover egg whites (scrambled) to the dog, who’s been ailing.

Posted by Kairu

9:42 PM, Aug 21, 2008

When I had a dog, I would scramble the leftover whites. Now, I usually make a chocolate soufflé from a recipe by Jacques Torres (found on the Food Network website), which calls for egg whites only. I suppose I could make meringues, or angel-food cake, too, but I like chocolate soufflés better.

Posted by Bruce

11:27 PM, Aug 21, 2008

Sounds delicious. My favorite flavor is malt, which I fell in love with at Lark and have figured out how to make with malt powder (the stuff you buy at a brewing supply house — not malted milk powder, though I imagine that would be fine too).

My favorite tool for making ice cream is a whisk with a digital thermometer built in. Much better than a spatula that punctures your meat — why on earth would you want that?

Posted by Sara

10:09 AM, Aug 22, 2008

My favorite is cinnamon basil as well – I joke that it is the reason I married my husband, a former Herbfarm pastry chef. It pairs wonderfully with a peach upside down cake – as does the anise hyssop ice cream, which I think there might be a recipe for in The Herbfarm Cookbook.

Posted by Kairu

11:39 AM, Aug 22, 2008

Bruce – I’ve been wanting to try Lark’s malt ice cream, but always get distracted other things. I was there last night and had a white sesame ice cream with sesame brittle, which was incredible. Do you have a recipe for the malt ice cream, or did you make one up?

I think I’m just gonna have to get the Herbfarm cookbook and play with it (and my ice cream maker).

Posted by Paula

7:05 AM, Aug 23, 2008

My favorite ice cream? The ones I can eat! Since I have intolerances to both dairy AND wheat, it’s tough to find many good ice creams off the shelf. But my in-laws got us an ice cream maker for Christmas, and this has been the SUMMER OF ICE CREAM at our house – lemon, coconut, mint chocolate chip, strawberry pretzel, fresh cherry, coffee, lavender honey – you name it, we’ve made it! Thanks to the basic Vanilla Soy Ice Cream recipe I found at, we have had to increase our exercise program to compensate for all the frosty goodness that now abounds!

Posted by MrCheese

6:20 PM, Aug 24, 2008

I made the cinnamon basil ice cream; wonderful ice cream, but not at all sure about the basil. However, cooking the custard in the bowl is a great idea.

My favorite is cherry ice cream, made from the Chez Panisse cookbook recipe, but slightly modified. Sweetheart cherries produce our favorite, when cooked with the pits. (There is another recipe in the book flavored with cherry or apricot pits cooked in the custard.) Yes, I wrap the pits in cheese cloth, counting the number of pits that goes in and the number that comes out. Otherwise, the food processor might make all sorts of unfortunate noises pureeing the cherries.

Also really like peach, black raspberry and mint chocolate chip.

Posted by Bruce

12:58 AM, Aug 25, 2008

Kairu- I developed my malt ice cream recipe through trial and error, along with some tips from Charlie Durham, former chef of Capitol Hill’s much-loved Cassis. I use 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. sugar, 1/2 cup dry amber malt extract, 1/4 cup dry white malt extract, 4 egg yolks, 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, and 1 1/2 cups whole milk. I follow the basic technique in Cook’s Illustrated’s ice cream book: Healt milk, cream, malt, and all but 1/4 cup sugar to 175F; strain. Beat yolks with remaining sugar on med-high for 2-3 mins. Add a little cream mixture to eggs while continuing to beat, then whisk thinned yolks into remaining cream. Heat custard slowly to 180F while whisking. Strain, chill, process in ice cream maker. Have fun!

Posted by SteveS

10:14 AM, Aug 28, 2008

My favorites lately have been ‘true’ cinnamon (made with cinnamon — not cassia — from the ever-amazing World Spice), the perfect pairing for apple cobblers; and sichuan vanilla: sichuan brings a very ‘dry’, floral heat that’s a perfect match for cream, and done right you get that telltale tingle but not too much of a blaze…

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