Basil in my ice cream? Uhhh…are you nuts? That sounds freaky.
Yet, the idea drew me in.
Nearly a year after first saving the recipe for basil ice cream, I finally got around to trying it. However, I nixed the original recipe I had saved after I read about Basil Ice Cream with Pine Nut Pralines in Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home book. Pine nut pralines added an even more enticing element to the ice cream concoction.
Her base ice cream method uses some unique ingredients, at least in my churning encounters: cream cheese and cornstarch and corn syrup. Hmmmm…intriguing. I wanted to test it, though, so I scoured her book for a recipe that would scream, “Me! Me! Me!” And this one shouted loudest. (By the way, did you know that pine nuts are also called pignoli? and that it’s the seed of several species of pine tree?)
I wanted to experience the basil element in the ice cream, but the pine nut pralines sounded unusually yummy, especially after reading Jeni’s comment about how the brown sugar caramelization melts into little gooey pockets in the ice cream. I guess I was in a gooey mood.
So, the result? Honestly, the basil is a bit odd yet addictive at the same time. Loved, loved, loved the pine nut pralines. I would have never thought to make pralines out of those humble, neutral-colored nuts. By the way, I know pine nuts are outrageously priced at the markets; however, if you buy them in small amounts from the bulk bins at Sprouts or Whole Foods or similar places, the cost is much more realistic. Anyway, the nuts are soft, so they don’t break the teeth when you bite one. And the praline part of it…let’s just say that caramel flavoring paired with the sweet base ice cream is heavenly.
Here’s a funny little error that turned out pretty good: Jeni calls for putting the custard base into a resealable bag and immersing it in ice cubes to cool down the custard. Well, I hadn’t strained out the basil before the cooling process. I thought if I snipped a tiny corner of the bag to release the custard into the ice cream bowl, it would automatically keep the basil in the bag.
The little leaves squished into flexible snippets and snuck through the hole! And yes, the hole was t.i.n.y. Since it was too much trouble to pick out the basil leaves, I just left them in there. And you know what? It actually tasted good. You get a chewy-little-green-squished-up basil leaf every so often that simply enhances the overall basil flavor and texture of the ice cream. So, that particular error led to a serendipitous surprise.
One final note: the pine nut praline portion of the recipe will make more than you need for this ice cream. I followed the recipe in Jeni’s book, which makes about 1 cup; however, this ice cream recipe only calls for 1/3 cup of the pralines. If you can resist eating the tasty little goodies, then place them in an airtight container and freeze them. I’ll be sharing another ice cream recipe next week in which I used those pralines and which shot up the ranks into my favorite handful of flavors, so definitely try to save them.
Basil Pine Nut Praline Ice Cream
Sweet Cream Base
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. cornstarch
- 1 1/2 ounces (3 tbsp.) cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp. light corn syrup
- a large handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly torn into small pieces
Honey Pine Nut Pralines (yield: about 1 cup; need only 1/3 cup for recipe)
- 1 cup pine nuts
- 2 tbsp. light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp. honey
- 1 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
Honey Pine Nut Pralines
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, stirring to coat (you may need to microwave the honey for 15+ seconds to make it easier to stir). Spread nuts out on a rimmed baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a silpat; bake for 8 minutes. Stir and bake for an additional 6 minutes, stirring a couple times more during the 6 minutes. Remove from oven; allow to cool completely. While cooling, stir nuts every couple of minutes to break them up.
Sweet Cream Base
- Make a cornstarch slurry by mixing 2 tbsp. of the milk with the cornstarch (you’ll need to mix it again before pouring it into the ice cream base).
- In a medium bowl, whisk the softened cream cheese and salt until smooth; set aside.
- Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan; bring it to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat; gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.
- Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute, then remove from heat.
- Gradually whisk the hot milk into the cream cheese until smooth. Add the basil.
- Pour the ice cream base into a large, resealable bag; submerge the bag into an ice bath (a large bowl filled with water and ice) or sandwich it between a couple of blue ice blocks. Allow base to cool for about 30 minutes, and if you are using an ice bath, add more ice as needed.
- Strain out the basil (or leave it in if you want basil bits in the ice cream). Pour the base into the frozen canister of your ice cream machine and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions. Drop 1/3 cup (or more) of the pralines in a bit at a time during the last couple minutes of churning.
- Pack frozen ice cream into an airtight container, seal, and freeze for several hours (at least four) until firm.
SOURCE: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home book