Ink & Penstemon

Observations on plants, gardening, & nature from the Great Basin steppe in the American West.

If you get mired in something, click on the Penstemon barbatus 'Elfin Pink' image.

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    Mahonia Blossom Ice Cream

    If a flower produces a fruit that is edible, you can eat it. Their delicate flavor can be difficult to capture in food, but steeping the blossoms towards making ice cream is one of the best ways to do it. The key is using highly fragrant ingredients; the stronger the odor, the stronger the flavor.

    The smelliest thing I have flowering right now is Mahonia repens. Its blossom flavor is rich, almost buttery, and rose-like. Adding some lemon zest mellows its flower-power and hints at the tartness of its fruit. And it makes for a more interesting spring dessert than regular vanilla or lemon.

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    • 1.5 to 2 cups unsprayed flower blossoms (checked over for critters)
    • 1.5 cups cream (sold as heavy or whipping)
    • 1.5 cups whole milk
    • 0.75 cup sugar
    • 5 egg yolks
    • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

    Mix the cream, milk, flower blossoms, lemon zest, and 0.5 cups of the sugar in a 3 to 4 quart saucepan over low and stir until the mixture begins steaming and reaches 175F. This can take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes depending on your altitude. Meanwhile, whisk the remaining quarter cup of sugar and egg yolks together until the yolks are pale yellow and set aside. Once the dairy/blossom mix has reached 175F, strain out the flower blossom mix using a fine mesh strainer and discard. Add the dairy mix to the eggs a half cup at a time while whisking. Once half of the dairy has been tempered in with the eggs, pour the whole of it back in with the remainder and heat over medium heat until the mix is steaming and is thickening or 180F but not higher, stirring with a wooden spoon constantly. The custard will be ready when a finger drawn across the back of the spoon leaves a distinct trail. Remove the mix from heat and pour through a strainer into a bowl set in ice water and cool to room temperature. Then, move to the fridge and cool for a minimum of 3 hours. Twenty-four hours is ideal. Transfer the mix to your ice cream maker (I use a Cuisinart) and process for 20 minutes. I recommend transferring the finished ice cream to a tub and freeze till hard as it gives the flavors more time to mingle, but you can also enjoy it soft, garnished with a sprig of mint. Makes 1 quart.

    This recipe can be adapted to apple blossoms, cherry, peach, plum, pear; whatever is blooming, just omit the lemon zest.

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