Homemade ice cream is one of my “signature dishes.” Over the years I’ve brought quarts upon quarts of ice cream to potlucks, enough that I’ve (no modesty here) developed a stellar reputation amongst my friends for my ability to prepare this sinful (read: heavy cream, sugar, eggs) treat. My “specialty” is making ice cream using herbs picked from our garden. Fresh mint with shaved dark chocolate, thyme with honey and even simple sage (which, as a sweet treat, is amazingly delicious and perfect when paired with a garden fresh yellow plum crumble).
A couple weeks ago, I cooked a traditional Armenian dinner for friends: sarma, pilaf and shish kebab. Of course, it went without saying that pakhlava would be on the dessert menu. Even though our table was laden with plenty of food to fill four happy bellies, I felt like something would be amiss if homemade ice cream wasn’t along for the ride.
When Big Papa and I visited Yerevan this past September, along with the tasty Armenian cuisine we enjoyed were a few dishes of superlative ice cream. I don’t know what the “secret” was: the milk, some other ingredient or how it was prepared? No matter, Big Papa and I lapped up every last exquisite spoonful (and I, for one, would have shamelessly licked the bowl had we been in our own home).
Me, myself and I debated which flavor would pair nicely with our meal. Fennel was a strong contender, but ultimately I selected a recipe where I could use the ‘Bengal Rose’ scented geraniums growing on the deck of the Urban Cabin. Scented geraniums, unlike your usual garden-variety, window box geraniums, have leaves that can be crushed or cut and used for various culinary purposes: baking, jam-making and, in this case, infusing into warm cream. Scented geraniums come in such a variety of flavors and scents that you could designate an entire greenhouse to them. If you love apricot, they have it. If mint is your preference, taste chocolate mint and peppermint. Lemon, lime, apple, ginger and nutmeg are scented geranium flavors, too.
While not traditionally Armenian per se, rose is a flavor used in ice creams (and other desserts) in Persia and the Middle East. ‘Rose water’ is typically the source for imbuing sugary delights and could be substituted in this recipe (a couple teaspoons or “to taste”) as could organic (only organic!) rose petals (say 30 or so).
The recipe I found also incorporates white chocolate, and though it did add some additional richness to the final product, the next time I make this ice cream (and there will most definitely be a next time), I plan to go rose all the way.
Suffice it to say that White Chocolate-Rose Geranium ice cream was a hit. Exotic yet subtle perfumed hints of rose called to mind the summer I hope will eventually unfold in Seattle.
White Chocolate-Rose Geranium Ice Cream
11/2 cups whole milk
11/2 cups heavy cream
10 to 12 fresh organic rose geranium leaves, coarsely chopped
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Organic pink rose petals (at least seven)
Organic rose geranium leaves, whole (at least seven)
1. Combine milk, heavy cream and geranium leaves in stainless steel saucepan. Bring mixture to simmer over medium heat. Turn off heat. Allow leaves to steep in warm mixture about 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, whisk eggs and sugar in bowl.
3. Place chopped white chocolate and vanilla extract in another bowl. Set aside.
4. Using stainless steel sieve, strain cream into egg mixture to remove geranium leaves. Press any excess fluid from leaves through sieve. Whisk to combine.
5. Place ice cream base in clean stainless steel saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened, about 5-10 minutes. Do not boil, or base will break.
6. Immediately remove base from heat. Using fine mesh stainless steel sieve, strain mixture into bowl containing chocolate and vanilla. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.
7. Cover surface of base with plastic wrap and allow base to cool to room temperature.
8. Refrigerate mixture until it is has completely cooled to refrigerator temperature, about 40-45°F, or about 3 hours. (You can accelerate this process by placing mixture in shallow bowl in freezer for about 20-30 minutes.)
9. Pour chilled base into bowl of ice cream machine, and churn following manufacturer’s instructions. Remember: Many ice cream machines have bowls that must be thoroughly frozen first. Mixture should churn to relatively stiff consistency within 30 minutes in most commercially available machines. For firmer consistency, turn churned ice cream into small chilled bowl, cover with plastic and freeze for another 1-2 hours before serving.
10. Using small ice cream scoop, transfer ice cream to chilled serving dishes. Garnish each with pink rose petal and geranium leaf, as desired. Serve immediately.
This recipe developed by Julia M. Usher
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