Ice Cream/Frozen Desserts

"Plums and Roses" Tastes as Divine as It Sounds

September 25, 2017

One morning, I woke up to NPR, as I always do. Drowsy, I heard a local chef talking about the rose flavor notes in the Santa Rosa plum. I drifted off to sleep again but woke up thinking “plums and roses!" What an irresistible title, right? All I needed was a recipe to use it.

I cooked small pots of plum compote, exploring options for plums and for the rose flavor itself, including rose water, fresh rose petals, rose petal tea, rose hip tea, and a black tea and rose petal blend. All were tasty, interesting, and informative. I was quickly reminded that bottled rose water (which I love) needs a light hand, lest it impart a soapy flavor. Too strong an infusion of dried roses tastes (distressingly) like potpourri! I also learned that an infusion of fresh rose geranium leaves tastes more like rose than an infusion of fresh rose petals; and that the latter actually tastes more like artichoke than rose! Several compotes later, lessons learned, I decided that sorbet might be even more compelling than compote.

The sorbet base needs some kind of liquid. Water is excellent. Really! But you could infuse water with fresh or dried rose petals, or rose hips, rose geranium leaves; the latter is my favorite. In combination with rose water, rose geranium leaves have the freshest, prettiest “rosiest” flavor. In fact, I think that everyone should keep a rose geranium plant in the yard or on the windowsill. The leaves make marvelous hot or iced herbal tea, syrups for cocktails, or flavor for fruit jams, preserves, and sauces. The plant itself triumphs over bad gardeners (like me) and lives on season after season.

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As for the plums—I always taste before buying, whether at a farmers market or my produce market. All kinds of tart and tangy plums and pluots with work here; save the mellower French and Italian prune plums for another use.

Wake up and smell/eat the roses. Photo by Bobbi Lin

Plum sorbet with a hint of rose is at once sweet and tart and floral with lots of “plummy” red fruit flavor. Perfect for the lingering hot weather, it partners well with nutty cookies or vanilla ice cream (in a dish or an ice pop mold) and makes a terrific ice cream sandwich.

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My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).