Fourth of July

Vanilla and Bay Leaf-Scented Ice Cream with a Blueberry Swirl

August 28, 2012
0 Ratings
  • Makes About a quart
Author Notes

As a child – when I was a determined “section eater” -- I never cared much for ice creams with swirls in them. But as an adult, I rather like them, especially when working with the intensely-flavored fruits and berries of summer. Take this ice cream, for example. The centuries-old duo of bay + vanilla has had its hold on me for awhile, as evidenced by at least one other recipe posted here. Cooked blueberries, however, can overpower that gentle pair, so I generously flavor the base recipe with bay and vanilla, where they hold their own quite well. I flavor the blueberries with bay leaves as well. The base recipe is the one that Jeni Britton Bauer so kindly shared with the FOOD52 community. We like this bay and vanilla ice cream all by itself, too, by the way, without the blueberries -- and with just the addition of freshly toasted, lightly salted cashews. Enjoy!! ;o) —AntoniaJames

What You'll Need
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 4-inch vanilla bean
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 4 fresh bay leaves (2 for the ice cream, 2 for the sauce)
  • Small pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 heaping cup of fresh blueberries (See note below.)
  • One 2" cinnamon stick
  • 1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 ½ ounce cream cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  1. A brief word of advice: To get the most bay flavor into the berries, it’s a good idea to make the sauce and let the berries sit for at least several hours. (Overnight may be too much, however, if your bay leaves are very fresh.) I’ve had great success with Jeni Britton Bauer’s recipe when making the base and letting it chill in the back of my fridge overnight – not bothering with the bowl of ice water -- and then churning it in the morning. I leave the sauce at room temperature until an hour or so before I plan to swirl it into the ice cream, then I put it into the fridge (even the freezer for 10 -15 minutes) to chill.
  2. Measure into a small bowl the 2/3 cup of white sugar. Lightly score the vanilla bean with the tip of a sharp small knife and scrape out the tiny seeds, into the sugar. Rub the seeds into the sugar, taking care not to leave any on your fingers.
  3. In a small bowl, make a slurry by combining 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch. Stir it well.
  4. Put the scraped vanilla bean in a medium heavy saucepan with the remaining milk. Tear the edges of 2 of the bay leaves in five or six places each (to release more flavor) and add them to the same pan with the pinch of nutmeg. Over medium heat, bring the milk just to scalding. Turn off the heat and let the infused milk sit for at least ½ hour.
  5. Put a small metal bowl in the freezer to chill. In a small but heavy saucepan, cook the blueberries with the remaining 2 bay leaves (also torn on the edges), cinnamon stick and brown sugar over medium heat. When the berries start to sizzle just a bit – some will seem about to explode – use a potato masher to crush them. This will release the juices quickly. Keep smashing as you continue to cook the berries, stirring occasionally, until you have crushed most of them. Turn the heat down to medium low and simmer, stirring frequently so they don’t scorch, for 10 – 15 minutes, until you have a fragrant, slightly jammy-looking, rough sauce. Immediately remove the cinnamon stick. (If you don’t, its flavor will overpower the bay leaf.) Pour the sauce into the chilled bowl and set it aside. Stir it occasionally to help it cool down.
  6. Proceed with Jeni’s basic recipe (which I’ve transcribed below), using the infused milk, and leaving the bay leaves and vanilla bean in as you boil the milk, cream, sugar and corn syrup. Follow the next steps, adding the slurry and then mixing the milk and cream in with the cream cheese (see my note below, please) and chilling in a zippered plastic bag. I leave the vanilla bean and bay leaves in the base while chilling it. (Make sure to remove the bay leaves and vanilla bean before churning. Rinse and save the vanilla bean for another use, e.g., making vanilla-scented sugar.)
  7. Churn in your machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Before putting the ice cream into your freezer container to harden, remove the bay leaves from the blueberry sauce, and smear about 1/3 of the blueberry sauce on the bottom of the container; add half of the ice cream, followed by another third of the blueberry sauce. Then gently spoon on the remaining ice cream and on top of that, the last of the sauce, swirling just a bit.
  8. Allow it to firm up in the freezer, but take it out about 20 – 30 minute before eating, for easier scooping (and a more pleasing texture).
  9. Enjoy!! ;o)
  10. To make Jeni’s (Truly Splendid) Ice Cream Base, which I quote directly from Jeni Britton Bauer’s post on FOOD52: “24 hours before you want to make the ice cream, wash the canister, dry it well, and place it in the coldest part of the freezer. Do not remove it until you are ready to pour the chilled cream into it. PREP THREE BOWLS: In a small bowl, mix about 2 tablespoons of milk with the cornstarch to make a slurry. In a medium bowl, add the salt and room-temperature cream cheese and whip all the bumps out. In a large bowl, make an ice bath (heavy on the ice) and set aside. COOK: Pour the milk, cream, sugar, and corn syrup into a saucepan. Bring to a boil and set a timer for precisely 4 minutes—the timing is critical. Turn off the heat and add the cornstarch slurry to the ice cream base in the pan. CHILL: Incorporate the hot cream mixture into the cream cheese. Do this a little bit at a time so that you can whip out any lumps of cream cheese. [AJ’s comment: Please see my note below. If you don't have an immersion blender, put the cream cheese in a bowl with a broad, flat bottom; use a dinner fork to start, and add only a couple of tablespoons of the cream mixture, and pressing down with the tines hard as you pull it across the bottom of the bowl. This gets the lumps out really nicely, as you create a smooth sauce with the fork.] Pour the hot ice cream base into a Ziploc bag and seal. Submerge in the ice bath until very cold. [AJ’s note: Or, you can put it into a regular storage container and put it in the back of your refrigerator for the afternoon or overnight, as I do when I have the time.] FREEZE: Cut the corner off the bag, pour the chilled base into the ice cream machine, and turn on the machine. When finished, transfer to a storage container and freeze until firm, about 4 hours. HOW TO TELL WHEN YOUR ICE CREAM IS DONE: The ice cream is finished at the exact moment when the machine isn’t freezing the ice cream anymore; the ice cream will begin to pull away from the sides (about 25 minutes). If you stop too soon, there will be a thin layer of really dense ice cream on the sides of the canister.”
  11. Here are a couple of tips I learned while working in an ice cream parlor as a teenager. You get the nicest looking scoop if you scrape the ice cream across the top of the container and then roll it into a ball with the scoop. For that reason, I always store the ice cream I make in a wide, shallow container. Also, make sure to dip your scoop into cold water between rolls and while shaping and packing the ice cream into the scoop itself. And of course, always serve it with a smile! ;o)
  12. N.B. I use freshly picked blueberries from my own bushes for this. I've found that the fresh blueberries available commercially -- even in the farmers' markets -- are not nearly as flavorful as our blueberries. If you don't have intensely flavored fresh blueberries, consider using frozen wild blueberries instead. I bought some once, just to compare, and based on that, I think they'd work well. Use about 8 ounces of the frozen ones for this recipe, and add a teaspoon or two of lemon juice if their flavor isn't just a bit tart. ;o)
  13. After using Jeni's recipe for several different batches, I've concluded that the easiest way to incorporate the cream cheese into the milk and cream without any lumps is not to bother putting the cream cheese into a bowl. I drop it into the bottom of the plastic vessel that came with my immersion blender, along with the salt. Then I pour about 1/2 cup of the hot milk and cream on top of that, let it sit for a few seconds, and blend for about 10 or 12 pulses. Swirl it around to confirm that it's nice and smooth; buzz it for a few more seconds, if it's not. Then pour it back into the saucepan in which you boiled the milk, and give it a good stir. ;o)

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Recipe by: AntoniaJames

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1 Review

drbabs June 3, 2013
This sounds great and your instructions are impeccable.