I’m not even going to address my hiatus, past this first paragraph. You know how life just seems to…happen. But in no way should this hiatus signify that we’re DONE in the kitchen. I mean, come on. I just moved to the Okanagan, for goodness’ sake – the region of BC in itself is a culinary smorgasbord.
My latest focus has been coming up with local and seasonal things to play with. Today’s find and conquer ingredient is lavender. There’s a fresh herb farm here that is actually called Okanagan Lavender Farm. This piqued my interest a while back but wasn’t open when we moved. It is now…
We’re making ice cream – this particular adventure started with Josh and I being asked to cater a party for a coworker’s sister-in-law. The whole menu is set, now, and I’m just trying to find the best possible option for creating lavender ice cream to go with the dessert (that flourless chocolate cake I taught you oh-so-long-ago). I went to the farm and came back with culinary grade lavender essential oil and with dried lavender buds. I did my reading and my research and our first test run with the ice cream goes a little something like this…
I’m not a custard-based ice cream maker. I never made ice cream before I had my Cuisinart, and my first few attempts went swimmingly: mainly, the to DIE for chocolate ice cream with natural peanut butter swirls (*swoon*), and the plain ol’ vanilla that was so fantastic just by itself. These two options are easier than tempering eggs and heating milk and so forth – just mix your milk and cream and flavorings and dump ‘er on into the machine, then let it go til it looks like ice cream. I like this method MUCH better. I also think the end result is a lighter, airier cream that doesn’t necessarily give you the butter-slick on your tongue the way some custard-based creams do.
Okay, enough talk, let’s do this thing!
I was a little hesitant about steeping the cream/milk mix, but since we’re going for trial and error, I suppose we’ll see how it goes, no? The trick with lavender is that the dried buds aren’t the most fun to eat, so you’re either supposed to a) grind them and THEN mix them in or b) heat your milk/cream mixture with the buds in it to just barely a simmer, then pull it from the heat and let it steep before straining and cooling completely. We’re trying option number two today.
So, I’ve got my whipping cream and milk in a pot on the stove, and I put 2 teaspoons of dried lavender buds in a loose leaf tea bag (you can just toss the buds in, really, I was just going for easy clean-up, but realistically you’re going to strain it anyway). Josh found vanilla beans in his chef coat pocket the other day (yes, that’s a common thing – last time it was rennet tables for making cheese – scavenger hunts make laundry fun!) so I’m using one of those as well.
If you don’t know how to use vanilla bean (if you’re like me and spent your whole life using vanilla extract), it’s easy! Use the tip of a sharp knife to cut the bean in half lengthwise, then scrape the insides out. Since we’re going to be straining the milk, you can toss the actual bean in as well – adds flavor!
Set this on the stove, over a medium heat – be careful with your heat levels because milk will burn, and quick. You only want to bring it up to a simmer and then immediately cut that heat off. Now’s the time to add your sugar and your salt – I cut down my sugar levels since I find the vanilla’s given it quite a lot of sweetness already. I’ve left mine to steep for about 20 minutes after removing it from the heat, as I found that the lavender flavor took a little while to come through. Stir frequently – hot milk creates a skin, which isn’t the end of the world either, because strainers.
If you’re using a tea bag like I did, make sure you squeeze all the cream out of it before discarding – we don’t want to leave any of that awesome flavor behind. Also, keep in mind that your cream will be uber-sweet at this point – don’t worry, as soon as you churn it, the air mixed in will bring the sweetness down.
Don’t mind the flecks – everyone knows that good vanilla bean ice cream has bits of real vanilla in it. Once your cream is strained, put it in some sort of vessel for cooling. The internet will think I’m a dirty hipster because I put everything in a mason jar. Deal with it.
This is going to go into the fridge for as long as I can stand. Technically, the standard is 6-8 hours, or overnight. We’ll see how I feel after 6 hours, and if my ice cream bucket is frozen, I’ll finish this tonight. If not, it’ll be after work tomorrow.
So, now that we’ve waited an excruciating amount of time, we’re gonna churn this baby! Your cream should be really cold, and the machine’s bucket should be also. Turn the machine on and slowly pour your cold cream in. Churn until it starts to look like ice cream…
Scoop into a bowl or bucket or whatever vessel you find appropriate for ice cream, and throw that bad boy in the freezer for a couple hours to harden up.
** this last photo was taken by the lovely Sarah, after she and her family (and dinner guests) devoured it. Sounds like they enjoyed it!
I feel less confident about the heating and infusing method, for the record. Tonight’s round two will feature ground buds and no heat, as I found heating heavy cream to change the chemical makeup of the liquid and leave just a touch of butter-slick that I was trying to avoid. Back to the original, even easier method for the next two trials. Stay tuned! Do not switch off!
- 1 cup milk (2% of higher fat content)
- 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
- pinch salt
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 1 small vanilla bean, halved and scraped
- 2 teaspoons dried lavender buds (loose or bundled)
Combine milk, cream, vanilla bean and pods, and lavender in pot over medium heat. Bring to simmer and immediately remove from heat. Stir in sugar and salt. Let steep roughly 20 minutes. Strain. Leave in fridge 6-8 hours or overnight. In electric ice cream maker, churn until desired consistency. Freeze another two hours and then consume large quantities.