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Strawberry Basil Ice Cream

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Yields about 1 quart.

This recipe uses David Lebovitz's simple formula to create your own custom ice-cream flavor with flavor infusions and add-ins. The pairing of strawberry and basil is the quintessential flavor of summer.

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Table salt
  • 1 cup tightly packed, coarsely torn basil leaves
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 lb. fresh or frozen strawberries, trimmed, pureed, strained, and mixed with 1/2 cup sugar

In a medium saucepan, mix 1 cup of the cream with the milk, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Warm the cream mixture over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and tiny bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan, 3 to 4 minutes.

Stir in the basil leaves. Cover, remove from the heat, and let sit for 1 hour. Taste and let sit longer if you want a stronger basil flavor.

Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with several inches of ice water. Set a smaller metal bowl (one that holds at least 1-1/2 quarts) in the ice water. Pour the remaining cup of cream into the inner bowl (this helps the custard cool quicker when you pour it in later). Set a fine strainer on top. Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl.

Rewarm the cream mixture over medium-high heat until tiny bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan, 1 to 2 minutes. In a steady stream, pour half of the warm cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling.

Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heatproof rubber spatula until the custard thickens slightly (it should be thick enough to coat the spatula and hold a line drawn through it with a finger), 4 to 8 minutes. An instant-read thermometer should read 175° to 180°F at this point. Don’t let the sauce overheat or boil, or it will curdle. Immediately strain the custard into the cold cream in the ice bath. Press firmly on the basil leaves in the strainer with the spatula to extract as much flavor as possible.

Cool the custard to below 70°F by stirring it over the ice bath. Stir the strawberry puree into the cooled custard.

Refrigerate the custard until completely chilled, at least 4 hours. Then freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the just-churned ice cream to an air-tight container, and freeze for at least 4 hours or up to 2 weeks.

Photo: Scott Phillips

Just perfect ice cream. I steep the basil longer when using really fresh strawberries but if you use store bought frozen ones the basil steeping time from the recipe is perfect (way more strawberry taste with the fresh).

Wonderful flavor. Will definitely make again. Served it with pound cake and fresh strawberries on July 4. Guests loved it. A couple notes--1st) the custard took considerably longer to reach "coat the spoon" stage. Perhaps that's because I have an electric stovetop. In fact, all the heating steps took longer (approximately twice as long) than indicated. However, I didn't want the mixture to curdle, so may have used too low a temp. 2nd) The mixture made more than a quart (no complaints about that), but next time I'd churn the mixture in 2 batches instead of 1.

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