Sophisticated Comfort Food: Strawberry Basil Ice Cream

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Strawberry ice cream Although I missed a week of writing while celebrating the holiday with family in Boston and New York, my summer berry kick continues. In case you’re just tuning in, to recap my berry escapades I’ve thus far created two different salads (strawberry, sunflower seed, and chèvre and triple berry, toasted walnuts, and blue cheese) and three different cocktails (strawberry mojito, strawberry margarita, and strawberry-basil martini). I have one more strawberry post to celebrate this wonderful berry before turning my attention to raspberries, blueberries, and gooseberries. (Yes, a gooseberry is a real thing.)

Today I bring you—wait for it—strawberry-basil ice cream.

Basil? In Ice Cream?! Whatever For?

It’s a reasonable question, I think. I created it rather spontaneously so it was in fact the first time I tried it myself. But I got pretty darn excited about 10 days ago when one of my Facebook fans and I had a discussion about cocktails and simple syrup, which inspired the aforementioned strawberry-basil martini prepared with fresh simple syrup. I had already planned on making a batch of strawberry ice cream, you see, and at the last minute I thought whimsically to myself, “Why not add a bit of basil simple syrup?” Herbs are frequently used in cocktails and confections—chocolate and mint comes to mind, for example—so this was a great opportunity to try something new and bring a sophisticated twist to one of my favorite ice cream flavors. Of course, if you’re not feeling adventurous or loathe basil, just leave it out and enjoy a traditional bowl of fresh strawberry ice cream. The classics never go out of style, after all.

Strawberry Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 pint fresh ripe strawberries, 1/2 mashed and 1/2 puréed
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk (2% works well, or whatever)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons basil simple syrup
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

Stir the berries, lemon juice, and 1/3 cup sugar together and let macerate for ~2 hours. Mix the remaining sugar, milk, and cream together until the sugar dissolves, ~2-3 minutes. Add the contents of the vanilla bean and extract and stir. Fold in half of the strawberry mixture and simple syrup. Pour into the ice cream maker and process 25-30 minutes; it will look like soft serve. Do not over mix, else you run the risk of churning butter that will end up as chunks in your ice cream. Mix in the remainder of the strawberries, fill a quart container, and place in freezer 2-3 hours to ripen, if desired. (Note: the basil flavor is very subtle.)

Notes on Preparation and Consumption

This ice cream is made in the American style, which is to say without eggs; eggless homemade ice cream tends to form more ice crystals. Thus, like all ice creams, make sure you give it a bit of time to sit out before serving it so it’s not icy-hard to maximize enjoyment. The leaner the milk you use, the harder it will be. While allowing the ice cream to “ripen” in the freezer is a standard step of the process, do not hesitate to have some right after preparing it, in my view. This is more like a soft serve and oh-so-scrumptious. It will also give you a good feel for the difference in texture, and you’ll be less alarmed when you take it out of the freezer and it’s rock hard. It will soften, though, so don’t worry. A sprig of mint makes a lovely garnish.

A Few Health and Nutrition Notes: Fats and Beyond

Strawberry Basil Ice Cream | #pkwayFirst, note that while I wanted to make a pretty picture with my glass dessert bowl (above), I serve ice cream in ramekins when I eat it. Which is infrequently. Check out these two other posts for more tips on healthy (holiday) eating like portion control via smaller serving plates and not keeping sweets around the house. Second, I suppose there are recipes without cream you could consider to accomplish more of a frozen yogurt-type-dessert, but I generally prefer to consume full-fat products infrequently rather than eat reduced- or no-fat products often. Butter, cream, full-fat cheese—they can all be part of a healthy diet in moderation. They are also much tastier than their reduced-fat counterparts, which are often high in all kinds of sugars and artificial ingredients designed to take on the mouthfeel and flavor of saturated fat. Sure, foods high in saturated fat should be limited in a heart-healthy diet: just keep walking past that deep-fried butter at the county fair. But better to focus on eliminating trans fats from the diet – the real villain when it comes to heart disease—and increasing consumption of healthful unsaturated fats like olive and other vegetable oils, nuts and nut butters, and fish, to name a few. (More general nutrition advice on fats and beyond is here.)

There’s a time for ice cream, and summer is it. And if you’ve got an ice cream maker and fresh summer berries, perhaps it’s time you try making your own for an extra special treat. Whether classic strawberry or my twist on the traditional with a hint of sweet basil, it’s the best of summer in a bowl.

I mean, ramekin.


Like this? Then you simply must check out my strawberry balsamic gelato.

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Dr. P.K. Newby is a nutrition scientist, speaker, and author with expertise in all things food, farm to fork, whether preventing obesity and other chronic diseases through diet or teaching planet-conscious eating. As a health expert and food personality, she brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability to educate and inspire, helping people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. Healthy Hedonism (TM) is her philosophy: Because healthy food shouldn’t suck.

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