I don't know why the idea never occurred to me before, but agirl recently enlightened me to the realization that ice cream can be made by hand, without an ice cream machine. David Lebovitz agreed, with detailed instructions on how to check and vigorously mix the ice cream mixture every half hour or so. I figured that if I can make bread, which involves a similar process of light work periodically over a few hours, I could also make ice cream, especially with the help of a food processor.
It was not quite so simple, but I did end up with an extremely rich and sweet ice cream - a day later. I'm not sure what the problem was, but my ice cream took several hours in the freezer before it started to freeze around the edges, and a day before it was frozen to the right consistency. Most likely I should have let the mixture completely cool in the refrigerator before moving on to the freezer. I used a food processor rather than mixing the ice-cream-in-formation by hand every now and then to help thoroughly break up ice crystals, and the final product was not as smooth as the real thing, but definitely good enough.
I searched around for inspiration and hit upon a blueberry lavender combination, which was a great way to use the fresh lavender growing on my patio, as well as ripe blueberries in season now at the farmers market. But, wow, were the flavors were dominated by the sweetness of heavy cream from Milk Thistle Farm. This ice cream ended up so rich that I can't have more than a few spoons at a time, although I think an a la mode pairing with vanilla cake would go down well. Next time, I will go a little lighter on the cream, eggs, and sugar in my ice cream. In the meantime, the recipe I used is below.
Now, who wants to come over and help me finish this container of blueberry ice cream?
Extra Rich Blueberry Lavender Ice Cream
adapted from David Lebovitz's basic vanilla ice cream and The New York Times Dessert Cookbook's lavender blueberry ice cream
1 cup milk
3 tbsp fresh lavender
3/4 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
2 cups cream
1 1/2 cups blueberries
Warm milk, sugar, and lavender over medium heat in a saucepan for a few minutes, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and infuse for approximately 30 minutes. Strain out lavender sprigs.
Whisk egg yolks in a bowl. Gently pour and stir milk mixture into the eggs, to temper the eggs, then return the mixture to the saucepan.
Stir in cream and cook over low heat until mixture thickens into custard that coats the back of a spoon.*
Puree blueberries in a food processor or blender and fold into the custard.
Pour custard into a bowl, and nest in a larger bowl filled with ice. Place ice bath in the refrigerator and let cool completely, overnight.
Prepare in an ice cream machine. Alternately, place in freezer, mix thoroughly every 30-60 minutes with whisk or food processor for at least a few hours, until ice cream reaches desired consistency. Store in airtight container in freezer.
* I will admit that I had difficulty knowing if I properly reached this stage, since my mixture seemed to coat the back of the spoon from the start...and then after some time on the heat the custard started getting lumpy, so that's when I took it off. Anyone know what was going on there?