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Mint and Lemon Balm Ice Cream

We're in lock down in Barcelona. And there's no herbs growing on my terrace. In fact there's nothing growing on my terrace at the moment!

Luckily the boys in the flat above us threw down a bunch of mixed herbs from their terrace, mostly mint and lemon balm (which they recommended we make into soothing teas).

The weather's hotting up now though, so instead I knocked up a quick ice cream based on a recipe in the excellent Ices: The Definitive Guide by Liddell and Weir.

It uses a light French vanilla custard base, infused with the grassy flavors of the herbs using a vigorous muddle and a bit of a steep.

The end result was slightly chewy ice cream with a lovely, herby fresh mint flavor that's lifted by the citrusy lemon balm.

Perfect for eating on our plantless terrace, as we enjoy the last of the days sun and dream about when the garden centers will open again...


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Mint and Lemon Balm Ice Cream
A fresh, relatively light ice cream infused with the clean, grassy flavors of mint and lemon balm. Perfect for sitting in the late sun.
Mint and Lemon Balm Ice Cream
Prep Time 5
Cook Time 15
Passive Time 60
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 5
Cook Time 15
Passive Time 60
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Mint and Lemon Balm Ice Cream
Instructions
  1. Mix the milk, beaten eggs,vanilla extract, sugar (and optional locust bean gum) together. If you are using locust bean gum, it's a good idea to mix it into the sugar before you add it to the wet ingredients to avoid clumping.
  2. Add the mixture to a saucepan and heat gently, stirring vigorously all the time until it starts to thicken. This will take 8 - 10 minutes. Do not overheat or the mixture will curdle...
  3. If you have a kitchen thermometer heat to 85°C / 185°F. If you don't have a thermometer heat until the mixture coats the back of a spoon and holds a line drawn through it with your finger.
  4. As soon as the mixture hits 85°C / 185°F, remove it from the heat, and continue to stir while you submerge the bottom of the pan in cold water. This will prevent any residual heat from curdling the custard.
  5. Rip up the springs of mint and lemon balm and add them to the cooling custard. Give them a good muddle.
  6. Let the mixture cool to room temperature and then transfer it to the fridge. Leave for a least an hour, preferably two. Even better overnight. Taste the mixture to make sure you're happy.
  7. Stir in the cream and then pour the mixture into your ice cream machine through a sieve, pressing the mint and lemon balm to make sure you get all the flavor out.
  8. Churn the mixture until it starts to come away from the sides of the bowl and looks like whipped cream.
  9. You can eat it directly from the machine (but it will melt quickly). Or transfer it to a plastic freezer container, cover with cling film or grease-proof paper (to prevent ice crystals forming on the surface) and then a lid and leave for a least a couple of hours.
  10. Remove from the freezer and if it's frozen solid, let it soften for 15 or 20 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes

The Locust Bean Gum is entirely optional. It will improve the texture slightly. But the eggs will do a reasonable job on their own.

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9

Fior di Latte: A simple gelato recipe

Fior di latte is perhaps the simplest, purest ice cream of all. It’s a Sicilian gelato and fior di latte translates from Italian as “flower of milk”. Or “the best of the milk”.

And that’s all it is: a sweetened, milky ice cream. No eggs. No vanilla. Nothing but milk, cream and sugar.

I’ve seen it described as “monastically simple”. And while there is something quietly spiritual about those soft, white waves, there should be nothing austere about this gelato.

Thick, dense and creamy, as long as it’s not too sweet there’s a whole load of complex dairy flavors to explore here.

For many, a Fior di latte is the best test of a gelato shop. I suppose because any shortcuts an inferior gelateria might try to hide behind other flavors will be starkly apparent in their Fior di latte!

And that’s why it such a great place to start when you start learning to make ice cream. You can really concentrate on finding a balance of sweetness and creaminess and a texture and body that work for you.

I recommend making it again and again and again!

In this Fior di latte recipe I wanted to keep everything as simple as possible. So I’ve tried to keep the ingredients to a minimum and the preparation as straightforward as possible. Let’s have a look at each ingredient in more detail:

Milk

In this recipe I’m using 3.5% full fat milk. You could use semi-skimmed or even skimmed. But then you’d need to adjust the recipe.

This because when the milk is combined with the cream, we’re looking for a 7% total fat content. So if you use lower fat milk, you’ll need to use a higher proportion of cream.

Why 7%? Any less and it starts to taste a bit “hard” and “metallic” to me. And the sweetness is accentuated so it can start to taste like candy. Any more and the creaminess can leave a slightly cloying aftertaste.

Cream

Although it’s called Fior di latte, every recipe I’ve ever seen contains some amount of cream. And as I mention above, with too little cream it starts to taste a little “hard” to me.

There is in fact a variation called Fior di panna (“flower of cream”, obviously). But it’s not clear to me at what point the amount of cream means it’s a Fior di panna rather than a Fior di latte!

Anyway I’m using 36% fat cream. You can of course use cream with a different fat content. Just be aware that you won’t get the 7% fat that I’m aiming for without adjusting the recipe.

Table Sugar

Most ice cream tastes far too sweet to me. But we don’t use sugar just for the sweet taste. It also keeps the ice cream thick and soft and stops it getting icy. So we can’t just use less sugar when we want a less sweet ice cream.

What we can do, however is use different types of sugar. This is because different sugars have different levels of sweetness. So here we use a combination of table sugar (sucrose) and the less sweet dextrose.

Dextrose

Dextrose (also called Glucose) is only 3/4 as sweet as table sugar. So if we replace some table sugar with dextrose we still get all the structural benefits of sugar, but the ice cream will be less sweet.

Dextrose also reduces the freezing point of water more than table sugar, which means our ice cream will be softer too!

Locust Bean Gum

With no eggs to emulsify and stabilize this low fat gelato, we need to add something else to thicken the ice cream and stop it becoming icy and coarse.

Fior di latte gelato probably originates in Sicily and is essentially a frozen crema rinforzata which is a sweet milk pudding, thickened with cornstarch. And we could use cornstarch here.

But it’s a little bit more difficult to make Fior di latte with cornstarch. And more importantly, I’ve never managed to do it without being able to taste the cornstarch in the final gelato.

Locust Bean Gum works in the same way as cornstarch but is much more effective, much easier to use and most importantly: adds no discernible taste to the final gelato!

You probably won’t be able to find it in your local supermarket. But it’s widely available online, it lasts for ages and as we’ll see, a little goes a long way.

OK, the recipe…

Print Recipe
Fior di Latte Gelato
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Passive Time 12 hours
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Passive Time 12 hours
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
Making the mixture
  1. Add the table sugar and the dextrose to a deep saucepan.
  2. Add the Locust Bean Gum to the saucepan. Unless you have specialized scales, it will be difficult to weigh 3 grams accurately. So, 3 grams is about the same as 1 ¼ compact teaspoons.
  3. Use a fork to thoroughly mix the dry ingredients. This part is really important. If the Locust Bean Gum isn't thoroughly mixed into the rest of the dry ingredients before you add the milk, it won't work properly.
  4. Add the milk to the saucepan and warm over a medium heat, stirring all the time to dissolve the dry ingredients.
  5. Keep stirring and checking the temperature with a digital cooking thermometer until the mixture reaches 185° F / 85° C.
  6. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to about 149° F / 65° C.
  7. Then add the cream and blitz for a couple of minutes with a hand blender.
  8. Transfer to a bowl and when the mixture stops steaming, cover with cling film and allow it to cool to room temperature.
  9. Put the bowl in the fridge until it the mixture cools to at least 45° F / 7° C. You'll get the best results if you leave it overnight.
  10. Place the container that you'll use to store the ice cream in the freezer. This will pre-chill it, so it's less likely to melt the ice cream when you're transferring it from the machine to the freezer.
Spinning the ice cream
  1. Remove the mixture from the fridge and give it another quick blitz with a hand blender.
  2. Turn on your ice cream maker and add the mixture.
  3. After around 20 minutes the mixture should have thickened up and have a texture like soft serve ice cream.
Freezing the ice cream
  1. As quickly as possible, transfer the mixture to the pre-chilled container and put it at the back of the freezer where it's coldest.
  2. After around 1 hour, the ice cream will have hardened up and be perfect for eating. It doesn't keep well though and will start to deteriorate after just one night in the freezer. So eat it quickly!
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