Christmas is just a few days away! I’m so excited: this year I’m traveling up to Owen Sound, ON to see my boyfriend for the first time in the six months we’ve been separated for school. I’ve been to his home town before, but usually after a grueling 12-hour drive. Now I normally love road trips – and it’s a good thing, since I doubt I’d arrive in Owen Sound with my sanity if I didn’t – but this year I’m taking the train! I love train rides and am so jealous of the more compact countries I’ve visited who rely so heavily on them (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and especially Japan). I’m looking forward to napping, reading, and working on grad school applications while a train does the work for me this time around.
What comes to mind when you think of the Holiday Season? Lights? Snow? Peppermint hot chocolate? There are so many images, tastes, and sounds that are associated with the Holidays. I love most of those nostalgic norms, but have a few of my own that I doubt make it onto other folks’ lists. For example, one of my favorite Christmas treats that I look forward to every year is pomegranate. Yes, that’s pomegranate: the fruit, haha. I can’t remember how the tradition started, but many years ago I got a pomegranate in my stocking and was thrilled (pomegranate is my favorite fruit). Since then the trend has grown to include my two brothers and the three of us can be found stained maroon and munching on pomegranate seeds come Christmas morning.
I have been wanting to try basil ice cream for years. I can’t remember when I first heard of it but the idea sort of lodged itself in the back of my mind and it was one of the first things I thought of when I first got my ice cream maker. I wasn’t quite daring enough to try making basil-flavored ice cream until now, but with the absolutely delicious success of my Lemon Ginger Ice Cream (as well as other less exciting varieties I haven’t posted) I felt confident enough to try. I have no idea what I was so worried about – the process is ridiculously simple and the flavors develop richly all on their own. Now I DID fail horribly in my first round of custard (see Beezer’s Notes), but I’ll admit it was due entirely to me being an airhead and nothing to do with the difficulty of the recipe.
Vanilla Basil Ice Cream with Pomegranate
(adapted from Gourmet’s recipe on epicurious.com)
2 C whole milk (I mixed 1½ C of my 1% with ½ C heavy cream)
3 T chopped fresh basil
½ C vanilla sugar*
4 large egg yolks
½ C well-chilled heavy cream
pinch of salt
1 ripe pomegranate fruit
* Note: Vanilla sugar is easy enough to make and store yourself: just place 1 whole vanilla bean in a small container, fill with regular granular sugar, seal airtight, and let sit. The sugar will absorb the vanilla flavoring in about a week. See Purple Foodie’s Vanilla Bean Sugar post on how to make superb vanilla sugar in which whole beans are ground up and added to the sugar itself!
- Bring milk, basil, ¼ Cup sugar, and salt to boil over medium heat while stirring in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes. Use an immersion blender or transfer to upright blender and blend until basil is finely ground – about 1 minute.
- While basil is steeping, beat together egg yolks and remaining ¼ Cup sugar until thick and pale – about 1 minute. Once milk mixture has steeped, add it in a slow stream to yolk/sugar mixture beating continuously until both are thoroughly combined. Pour custard base back into the saucepan and return to medium heat.
- Stir custard base occasionally and cook until mixture reaches 175°F on a thermometer and can coat the back of a spoon. DO NOT LET BOIL. I was juggling multiple tasks the first time I attempted the custard and it boiled for just a second, but was still doomed: it immediately turned into green scrambled eggs. Not. Pretty. Go slow and be watchful!
- Once 175°F has been reached, immediately remove custard from heat and pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a small metal or glass bowl. Place this small bowl into a larger bowl partly filled with ice water and stir until the custard becomes cold – 10 to 15 minutes.
- Stir cream into the custard and chill in the ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Empty ice cream into an airtight container, seal, and freeze to harden which takes at least 2 hours.
- When ready to serve, free about ½ Cup of pomegranate seeds per ice cream serving by slicing the fruit into quarters, then inverting the concave slices in a bowl of water to help ease the small seeds free without bursting their juicy coverings. I discovered this trick after posting this recipe and so the photo of my “murder scene” cutting board remains. Glad I learned a cleaner, more efficient way.
- Serve ice cream with fresh pomegranate and enjoy!
I definitely want to mention that my favorite sundaes are those with hot fudge and pomegranate seeds. I’m sure that’s a bit weird, but I just love how the hot gooey fudge, cold smooth ice cream, and fresh tangy pomegranate blends together. I also really enjoy how the seeds burst with juice and give way to chewy centers – I seem to eat my sundaes slower and enjoy them more whenever I add pomegranate. Give it a shot!
Also, along with my green scrambled egg disaster from my first attempt at the custard (watch that milk!!) I was totally off my game and separated egg whites initially instead of yolks. Correcting my error (and then once more with the spoiled custard) left me with 12 egg whites to deal with. I hate, hate, hate wasting food so I decided the best way to use up massive amounts of egg whites is meringue.
Cookies would take too long to bake, so I blind-baked a plain meringue crust similar to the one used in my Double-Layer Ice Cream Pie post. I filled the shell halfway with most of the soft basil ice cream (directly from the maker) and topped it off with whipped cream. The result was a pretty tasty ice cream pie with a delicious crunchy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside meringue crust. The only drawbacks were the texture of the frozen whipped cream – now I know – and the fact that the crust was practically glued to the glass dish despite its liberal buttering before-hand. Future goals will be to figure out how to keep a meringue crust from sticking because it’s quickly becoming a favorite of mine. Any suggestions?
Overall Enjoyment: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥