Thursday, July 15, 2010

Celebrating the Season: Homemade Strawberry Basil Ice Cream

It may have become increasingly obvious that I truly enjoy learning how to make things at home, instead of going out buying some products.  Things like pasta, red sauces, gravies, soups, dips, etc I would much prefer to make with my own two hands rather than head to the store to buy a product of.  Of course sometimes time doesn't allow me to make fresh pasta on a week night, or make a big pot of soup for the week, but when I can, I like to "not cut corners" and do it myself.  As of a few days ago, I can now add another fun product to the list of things I prefer to make rather than buy- ICE CREAM.  Oh my goodness- homemade ice cream- I am in LOVE!

It all started about a month ago when I saw that Williams Sonoma had an ice cream maker on sale.  This occurred around the same time as my birthday, and I was the VERY lucky recipient of several gift cards to, non other than, Williams Sonoma!  Thank goodness for wonderful friends huh?  So as soon as I possibly could, I made John drive me to the store, and I made a BEELINE for the ice cream maker of my dreams.  Yes-I am being SLIGHTLY melodramatic.

I wanted to make ice cream that very day, unfortunately other duties called, and it wasn't until recently that I had the opportunity.  Feeling very organized. I tucked the instruction manual into my gym bag and read all of the different recipes as I huffed it on the elliptical machine, then I dreamed up all the differently flavors I could make as I did some weight training.  This MAY have been counter intuitive.  As the case may be, by the time I got home, I was ready to go!

I decided to make a Strawberry Basil ice cream for my first run, and really celebrate the the flavors of the season.  I mulled and sliced three cups of strawberries, chopped a few leaves of basil (maybe 5 or so), and mixed them together with just a tablespoon or so of table sugar and the juice of half a lemon.  I let them macerate for a couple of hours, and then I got to work combing milk, cream, vanilla extract, and sugar into a bowl.  The recipe I had read for just strawberry ice cream suggested that I mash half of the strawberries and add them to the milk and cream mix. So I did that, and then reserved the rest of the berries to add them to the ice cream it self.  The mix ended up being a beautiful pink color with the fragrance of summer strawberries and sweet basil.  Delicious.

Then, I ran into trouble.  As organized as I thought I had been, I neglected to read about the actual set up of the machine- which called for the mixing bowl for the machine to be completely frozen before the mixing began.  Drat.  So a slight wrench in my plans, ice cream wouldn't be served for several hours.  

However, after freezing the bowl completely, the rest of the process was incredibly easy!  I just assembled the machine, turned it on, poured in my milk and cream mix, let it work its magic for 20 minutes or so, and then I added the reserved strawberries for the last 5 minutes.  

The texture coming out of the machine was definitely soupy, thicker than it had been, but not even close to real ice cream.  So into the freezer it went for another 1/2 hour to hour.  We may have enjoyed our dessert rather late that evening, but wow- it was the best ice cream I have ever had!  

Often I find with pre-packaged ice cream that the flavors are a bit flat, and they just tend to blend together.  This homemade ice cream had bright and vibrant flavors, each one distinct, but with the common thread of cream.  Delicious, ever so wonderful cream resonated throughout.  I also really loved the combination of the strawberry and the basil together, each sweet in their own way setting for a perfect dessert flavor, but also distinct in their own flavors.  I really felt as though this was the perfect celebration of summer with gardens overflowing with basil, and fields of strawberries nearby.  

So now I here I am, with a huge tub of ice cream in the freezer, delicious and ready to eat, but my brain can't stop thinking of other combinations to make!  

What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?  

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