Sometimes we think that the various “gourmet” ice cream shops make odd-sounding flavors just to intrigue people. You know the kind: Chili Lime Sorbet, Bubble Gum, Carrot Mango Sorbet, Hibiscus Beet, etc. They may sound interesting, but do they taste good? We happen to like to stick to the standards: Triple Chocolate, Vanilla, Chocolate Macadamia Nut Crunch. The ice creams that sound and taste like ice cream. But, then, we ran across the recipe for Rosemary’s Baby in The Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book, by Jake Godby, Sean Vahey, and Paolo Lucchesi, and it stood out as one of those flavors that we’d actually try.
Now, we didn’t stick with the original name; we wanted you to know right up front what you’re getting into with this ice cream: rosemary and pine nuts, two great savory flavors. So, putting them in ice cream may seem a bit odd, but, we figured, what’s a quart, or so, of ice cream between friends? Oh, and we did change this recipe to use equal amounts of half-and-half and heavy cream: our standard ratio for ice cream.
We’re firm believers in sourcing the best quality ingredients you can, although we don’t always follow our advice. This week in particular. Most times when we make ice cream, we go for the organic cream and half-and-half, figuring the fewer diglycerides the better. But this week, the grocery had great sales on non-organic heavy cream and half-and-half, so we went for it, figuring we could test out this ice cream, and, if it wasn’t to our liking, it wasn’t that great of a loss. For the rosemary, we used fresh-picked from our backyard. And, while pine nuts are expensive, we do buy them from time to time (mainly from Trader Joe’s, which has good prices on all nuts). Finally, we think the oddest ingredient is the olive oil, but we put it in, using Queen Creek Olive Oil.
Procedure in detail:
Heat dairy. Place the heavy cream, half-and-half, and salt in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Heat, stirring nearly continuously, until the dairy just starts to simmer. If you wish, you can measure the temperature with a thermometer — we do — it should reach 170°F. Once hot, remove from heat.
Whisk egg yolks and sugar. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar. It won’t really whisk, it’ll form more of a paste. If we’d thought more about the amount of sugar and egg yolks, we probably would have put half the sugar in the dairy mixture while heating. But, this way works, too.
Temper egg yolks. This is always the tricky part. While whisking the yolk mixture, slowly add the hot cream. The cream needs to go in slowly enough that the yolks don’t cook, so be careful. Once some hot cream is added, you can increase the rate at which you pour it in.
Heat custard. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and place back over medium heat. If you’re using one, attach the thermometer so you can watch the temperature. If not, while stirring continuously, bring the custard back to the low simmer, again, 170°F. Remove from heat.
Strain. Run the custard through a strainer into either a large bowl, or something large that has a spout (it’ll be easier to pour it into the churn, tomorrow). When we started making ice cream, we didn’t bother straining; after all, the custard looked nice and smooth. But, the first time we did strain, we noticed a bunch of tiny lumps that we strained out, making for a smoother dessert. We now strain our custard.
Flavor. Stir in the rosemary and the olive oil. The olive oil will not completely mix into the custard. That’s okay; it’ll get churned together tomorrow.
Chill. Cover the custard and chill at least 8 hours, preferably overnight. This will help the ice cream freeze faster, plus, it’ll give the rosemary time to infuse into the custard.
Toast and chop nuts. Place the pine nuts in a small skillet over medium heat and toast, shaking or stirring continuously, until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Since the pan will be hot, once the nuts are toasted, remove them so they can cool. Then chop coarsely.
Churn. Set up an ice cream machine and churn the custard according to the manufacturer’s directions. This ice cream didn’t seem to freeze as thick as some ice creams we’ve made; instead, even after about 15 minutes of churning, it was very much like soft serve.
Fold in nuts. Pour the pine nuts on top and fold them into the ice cream. Feel free to give it a little taste — after all, you’re making this, so you should be the first to try it out.
Freeze. Pack ice cream into an airtight container and freeze. Scoop out a bit when you want a little treat.
We really were surprised at how good this ice cream is. It’s not as if the amount of rosemary makes the flavor overwhelming, and the pine nuts, being frozen, only have a hint of pine. Together, they form a great combination. The other thing that worried us when we were making this was the amount of salt. It seemed as if 2 teaspoons was a lot. It is, of course, but it really works in this savory ice cream, cutting some of the sweetness and making us think of salted caramel. This is five-star ice cream, but isn’t all scratched ice cream five stars?