Today I have a spectacularly delicious recipe to share with you, but to tell you about its creation I have to go back to a hot summer day in June, 2008.
This is our wedding cake. It was also spectacularly delicious. It was a lemon-lavender cake, rich and dense like pound cake, slightly tart with lemon and sprinkled throughout with tiny lavender flowers. Every year since, I've made a lemon-lavender cake on our anniversary. And although we eat anniversary cake leftovers for the whole subsequent week, Collin always says it isn't enough and that it's too good a cake to only make once a year.
This is a Meyer lemon tree that I gave Collin for his birthday a year and a half ago. It's actually our third lemon tree, but the first two were very sad stories that we don't have to go into now. This tree has grown beautifully, and gave us about 10 ripe lemons last winter. There was one lemon still on the tree during that first harvest that wasn't quite ready, and it kept growing and not ripening for months. By this summer it had swollen into a huge lemon, green with a light yellow tint, and about the size of a grapefruit. The poor little tree was bending over with its weight! Collin picked it finally, hoping it would finish ripening off the tree.
After a few weeks hanging out in my kitchen, the lemon did turn yellow. Here it is, next to a Cutie clementine for scale. It wasn't very pretty, between it's ungainly size and spots of insect damage, but it had put so much work into growing to that size I had to make something special with it. Plus, it will be months before the next lemons will be ready.
The recipe itself is based off the best ice cream base I've ever made, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home. I've tried a number of other ice cream recipes, from egg yolk custards to condensed milk concoctions, but I always come back this one as by far the superior recipe. If you like homemade ice cream, this is seriously your one book to own. I can't say enough good things about it!
Adapted from Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream
Makes a generous 1 quart
- 1 jumbo, 2 regular size, or 3 small lemons. Meyer lemons are wonderful for their mild flavor and floral notes, but regular lemons will be just fine too, just a little tarter.
- 2 T. sugar (for syrup)
- 3 T. (1 1/2 oz) cream cheese
- 1/8 t. sea salt
- 2 c. whole milk, plus a small splash
- 1 1/4 c. heavy cream
- 2/3 c. sugar (for ice cream)
- 2 T. light corn syrup
- 4 t. cornstarch
- 2 t. dried lavender flowers (available with bulk herbs in many health food stores or larger groceries)
- Calendula flower petals (optional - calendula is a very mild-tasting edible flower that makes a lovely garnish.)
1. Lemon syrup: With a vegetable peeler, zest the lemons in large strips. Set the zest aside, and juice the lemons. Combine 1/2 c. of the lemon juice with the 2 T. sugar in a small pot, and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and chill.
2. Place the cream cheese and salt in a stand mixer or mixing bowl and whip until smooth. Set aside.
3. Combine the 2 c. milk, cream, 2/3 c. sugar, corn syrup, and lemon zest in a pot. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium-high heat. While the milk mixture is heating up, add a small splash of milk to your measuring cup and make a slurry with the cornstarch.
4. Boil the milk mixture for 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat, and stir in the cornstarch slurry. Return pan to heat, and boil another minute or just until the mixture is starting to thicken.
5. Pour a spoonful or two of the hot mixture into the mixing bowl with the cream cheese. Mix until the cream cheese is fully melted and incorporated into the hot milk mixture. Add the rest of the hot milk mixture to the mixing bowl, and beat until no lumps remain. At this point you can remove the lemon zest (easier) or let it continue to steep in the ice cream mixture until chilled (harder to remove, but more flavorful).
6. Chill the ice cream base. If you're in a hurry, you can set the mixing bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice water. I usually just cover the bowl and put it in the fridge overnight, and come back to freeze it the next day.
7. When the mixture is fully chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the maker directions. As the ice cream is churning, add the dried lavender flowers and lemon syrup. Spin until the ice cream is thick and pulling away from the sides of the canister, a lot like when you're kneading bread.
8. Pack the ice cream in a storage container, and place in the coldest part of your freezer for at least 4 hours.
9. Scoop ice cream into glasses, and sprinkle with more lavender flowers and/or calendula flower petals. Enjoy!