Last Licks of Summer: Basil Ice Cream

finished ice cream 1

It’s been fall for about a month and it’s starting to get a little cooler here in Philadelphia, but I’m not quite ready to make soups and stews just because the calendar says so. I still want to keep summer going (and… my neighbor was kind enough to give me some of the last of his basil), so I thought, how about some basil ice cream? The chef who taught the culinary techniques course I took last year treated the class to basil ice cream one night and it was absolutely – and unexpectedly – delicious.

What I love about it is the beautiful color and the intense but not-in-the-least-bit overpowering flavor. The more basil you use, the deeper the color and bolder the flavor.

Basil Ice Cream

This was adapted from a recipe in the October 2004 issue of Gourmet magazine (


2 cups whole milk
¾ heavy cream (kept cold until ready to use)
10 ounces basil leaves
¾ cup sugar, divided in half
5 large egg yolks


1. In a medium-sized heavy saucepan, combine milk, cream, basil and half the sugar; stir and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and let the mixture steep for a half hour.

Milk, cream and basil co-mingle in the saucepan

Milk, cream and basil co-mingle in the saucepan

2. Pour the mixture into a blender and mix until the basil is finely ground. (Save the saucepan for reuse.)

3. In a medium bowl, beat eggs yolks and remaining sugar with a mixer until it thickens and turns pale yellow. Add the milk mixture from the blender into the egg mixture; beat until well incorporated.

4. Pour the custard into the saucepan over medium heat. Attach a thermometer to the saucepan; using a wooden spoon, stir constantly until the thermometer reaches 175 degrees and the custard coats the back of the spoon. (Note: Do not let the mixture boil.)

Milk-cream-basil and eggs-sugar cook to temperature

Milk-cream-basil and eggs-sugar cook to temperature

5. Pour the mixture into a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl to catch any bits of egg that may have cooked.

6. Cool the custard by setting the bowl inside a larger bowl of ice water or – and I love this idea – pour the custard into a large zip-top bag, seal it and set it in a bowl of ice water. Put the bowl in the fridge for about a half hour or until cooled.

Cooling tip: Pour custard into a zipper bag to chill out in the fridge

Cooling tip: Pour custard into a zip-top bag to chill out in the fridge

7. Transfer the custard to an ice cream maker and churn until it freezes in the canister. Store in an airtight container in the freezer.

custard churning in ice cream maker

The vibrant green of the basil comes through as the ice cream churns

I’m confident that once you have a couple of spoonfuls, it’ll keep your summer going a little longer.


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