Claudia Fleming’s Basil Ice Cream

Lori Writer / Heavy Table
Lori Writer / Heavy Table

If the basil in your herb garden has, like mine, grown into a bush the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, and you’ve had your fill of caprese salad, consider trying Claudia Fleming’s Basil Ice Cream recipe.

Once the pastry chef at Tom Colicchio‘s Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan, NY, Claudia Fleming now, together with her husband, former chef Gerry Hayden, runs the North Fork Table & Inn in Long Island, NY. Known for her decadent desserts, which call for unusual combinations of fresh and seasonal ingredients, Fleming received the 2000 James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef and is the co-author of The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern, from which this recipe was adapted.

Basil Ice Cream

Yields 1 quart

2 c (about 2 ounces) packed fresh basil leaves
¼ c Simple Syrup (recipe below)
12 egg yolks (as few as 8 will work, too)
1 c sugar, divided
3 c milk
1 c heavy cream
½ tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
Gingersnaps (for garnish)

  1. Fill a small bowl with ice water and set aside.
  2. To blanch the basil leaves, fill a small saucepan with water. Bring water to a boil. Blanch the basil leaves for 30 seconds, remove with a slotted spoon, and plunge into an ice bath.
  3. Drain the leaves, lay them on a paper towel, then blot to remove excess water.
  4. In a blender, puree the basil with the Simple Syrup.
  5. Whisk egg yolks and ¼ cup sugar.
  6. Combine milk, cream, and remaining ¾ cup of sugar in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a simmer.
  7. Remove saucepan from heat. Whisking the egg mixture constantly, add a little of the heated milk mixture to egg yolks to warm it. Then, whisking the milk mixture constantly, pour the egg yolk mixture into the milk mixture.
  8. Return the mixture to the stove and cook over low heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon. When it thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon, remove from heat. Let cool completely.
  9. Stir in the basil puree.
  10. Strain, then stir in the vanilla extract and salt.
  11. Chill until thoroughly cold, about 4 hours.
  12. Freeze in an ice-cream maker to harden.
  13. Serve with gingersnaps.

Simple Syrup

Yields 2½ cups

2 c sugar
1 ½ c water

  1. Over medium-high heat, combine sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.
  2. Stir until sugar dissolves, then stir for another minute.
  3. Turn off heat and let cool.
Lori Writer / Heavy Table
Lori Writer / Heavy Table