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Nutty Basil Lemon Ice Cream

 Basil-Lemon Ice CreamNutty Basil Lemon Ice Cream 

In the last year, I’ve really been into crafting my own ice cream. I feel like I’ve gotten the method down for my favorite style—custard—so I’ve been experimenting with whatever happens to be in season when inspiration strikes. Yesterday, it was my big patch of basil growing just outside the front door. I had already made three jars of pesto for the freezer and I noticed a half gallon of milk in the fridge and some leftover pine nuts, so I decided … why not turn this all into ice cream? Here’s a delightfully nutty, citrusy ice cream that delivers just the right hint of basil, with a little crunch to make it interesting.

Here’s what I did:

1 ½ cups whole milk

1 ¼ teaspoons lemon extract, divided

½ cup basil leaves, roughly torn

4 egg yolks

1 teaspoon corn starch

¾ cup sugar

1 cup heavy cream

2/3 cup pine nuts

Place the milk and 1 teaspoon lemon extract in a heavy sauce pan and heat to a simmer (bubbles will form around the outside of pan, but do not boil). Immediately remove the pan from heat, add the torn basil leaves, stir, and cover. Set aside to infuse for 1 hour, stirring once or twice.

Strain the milk-basil mixture through a fine sieve.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, corn starch, and sugar until pale and smooth. Slowly whisk in the milk-basil mixture until fully incorporated. Return all to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until it coats the back of a spoon. This is important: Do not allow yourself to be distracted during this process. Watch the mixture carefully and remove from heat as soon as it coats the spoon. You can determine this when you dip a spoon into the custard and it forms a solid layer. Run your finger across the custard and if it makes a clear line, without running, it’s done.

Place the pan of custard into a large bowl filled with ice water to cool. Stir in the heavy cream. Meanwhile, process the pine nuts in a food processor until a chunky paste forms. Toast the crumbed nuts in a dry skillet just until you smell a nutty aroma. Set aside to cool.

Once everything is cooled (about 30 minutes), stir the nuts and remaining ¼ teaspoon lemon extract into the custard. Pour everything into an electric ice cream maker and churn for 30 minutes. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for a few hours before serving. Allow to sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to soften before scooping. 

Note: Jim Long of Long Creek Herbs says a similar ice cream could be made with Lemon Basil (omit the lemon extract). I am growing Genovese, sweet, and cinnamon basil so I used a combination of those varieties.