Strawberry Basil Ice Cream
with Goat Cheese!
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I was on the debate team in high school (because I like to argue and I am a very cool person obviously). I'm not sure if I developed a habit of mine there, or if I simply refined it - but I have a tendency to systematically defend things before others even get a chance to shoot them down. As habits go, it's not always the best - after all, there's a lot to be said for putting things out there with strong and silent confidence. But you can win a lot of debates (including the real-world kind) by raising, addressing, and dismissing an argument before your opponent has a chance to level it at you. On that note, I'm going to talk - and preemptively defend - my ice cream.
Be it resolved that a quirky-sounding strawberry ice cream can actually be even better than the basic classic.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. It's a refrain we've all heard many times, and there's a lot to be said in support of the idea. I know I've rolled my eyes at plenty of dishes that would have been better off left alone (side note: I'm really glad we're not putting truffles on every single thing anymore). But sometimes even a classic deserves a bit of rethinking. Case in point: strawberry ice cream. Now strawberries MIGHT just be my absolute favourite fruit. I mean, I'm not drawing a line in the sand or anything - it's a fruity Sophie's choice sort of situation. I didn't develop this recipe because I find strawberries boring and think they need some zip - I did it because I adore strawberries, and I wanted make an ice cream that really let them shine. Basil and goat cheese don't sound like the most obvious of ice cream ingredients, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that this is some sort of bizarre and unnecessary foodie concoction, but they're actually chosen for very specific (and delicious) reasons.
First of all, let's look at basil. Basil and strawberry go stunningly well together, and I'm hardly the first person to say so. Both plants produce fairly large quantities of the aromatic compound methyl cinnamate, a chemical with a distinct strawberry-like aroma. I'm sure you're not too surprised to learn that strawberries contain a chemical that smells like strawberries, but you've probably never sniffed a handful of basil and thought "ahhh, my favourite little red fruit!" That's because basil's complex scent is thanks to a whole host of highly aromatic chemical compounds, of which methyl cinnamate is only one aspect. Interestingly some varieties of basil (tropical varieties in particular) are reported to have far higher levels of methyl cinnamate than others, so you may find that certain types of basil speak (smell?) to you more than others do.
The second odd ingredient - goat cheese - is in here for less biochemically informed reasons. I mean, I'm sure there's some solid biochemistry going on, but I don't know the details. Instead, it's included to introduce a sour, somewhat puckering acidity to the dairy that helps to amplify the taste of fresh fruit. As I mentioned in another recent recipe (Peach Pots de Crème), David Lebovitz points out in his ice cream book The Perfect Scoop that fruity flavours can get a little lost against the creamy richness of French-style custard-based ice creams. One solution is to use an egg-free Philadelphia-style base (as I've done here). Another is to use sour cream, or another sour-tasting agent as part of the base. So why did I use goat cheese instead of sour cream? Three reasons - 1) I had goat cheese in the fridge, 2) I am a relentless kitchen experimenter, and 3) it honestly just sounded like a good idea. When it comes to achieving greatness in the kitchen, I think it helps to really listen to that little #3 voice in your head. It doesn't always work out - but boy did it work out here. It's a delightfully summery, floral, fruit-forward ice cream. The goat cheese delivers a tangy, almost savoury punch that further compliments the basil, while the basil itself contributes to the wonderful aroma without overpowering. And I really mean that too - my kids were REALLY into this ice cream, so you can cast aside any worries that this is going to be some kind of eyebrow-raising 'acquired taste' kind of dessert.
Strawberry ice cream ain't broke, so we're not fixing it. Instead, we're diving into that oh-so-human endeavour of extension and experimentation. It's a step into unknown, wondrous territory! Is it delicious? Undeniably. Is it better than plain strawberry ice cream? You'll have to decide that yourself; tastes are, after all, deeply personal. Is it something you should make? Absolutely. Am I being comically over-dramatic in the conclusion to my one-sided, self-imposed ice cream debate? Also yes. You don't win debates by hedging your bets.
While this recipe might walk a few steps off the beaten path, the ingredients in it are quite common and the techniques are pretty straightforward. The recipe is meant for an ice cream maker. There are some pretty great no-churn ice cream recipes out there, but they tend to depart fairly heavily from a classic ice cream foundation,use a high-speed blender, or both. All well-and-good of course, but you'll definitely want to use an ice cream maker for this recipe. I do have a no-churn strawberry ice cream recipe in the works, so I'll be sure to link to that here when it's up.
Want to hear something crazy about strawberries? They're not as sweet as you think they are. I'm not being poetic with my word choice here - they are genuinely lower in sugar than many other fruits, but we perceive them to taste sweeter than they are because of the volatile chemical components that create their distinctive aroma. One hundred grams of apple, for example, contains about 10.4 g of sugar. The same quantity of strawberry has only 4.9 g of sugar - less than half. In essence, we perceive a strawberry to taste sweeter and more sugary than it is because it smells 'sweet' to us. Fascinating stuff - but you might wonder why I mention it here in the recipe notes. It's because you want to make sure you use really good, fragrant, and ripe strawberries. The kind that bruise if you look at them too hard. The scent of strawberry is going to contribute a great deal to the final character and perceived sweetness of this ice cream - something particularly important given that it's not terribly high in sugar (yes, 1 cup of sugar in a recipe like this is actually pretty low).
Try a few of your strawberries. Are they very fragrant? Do they seem sweet to you? If not, you might want to postpone until you can get better ones. You could try increasing the amount of sugar in the recipe to about 1.25 cups, but that wouldn't be my first choice, as you risk ending up with something that tastes sweet but doesn't have enough of the ever-important strawberry flavour. You could also try using a mixture of two different fruits - strawberry and raspberry, for example, would be nice with the basil.
Ice Cream Makers & Texture
If you're an experienced home ice cream maker you can probably gloss over this section, but it's worth making a few notes about texture.
The difference between ice cream and ice is, more or less, air. If you make the ice cream base and throw it directly in the freezer you'll get something like a giant frozen popsicle. In order to make it soft and scoopable, it has to be frozen while air is being whipped in. This causes ice crystals to stay tiny while also making the final dessert less dense. That being said, ice cream won't have a store-bought style texture right out of the machine (or out of the freezer for that matter). Most home ice cream makers can get ice cream to something resembling the texture of thick soft-serve. If you like it at that texture, go nuts. Personally, I like to get it a little more solid and scoopable. This is where things get a bit tricky, because fully frozen homemade ice cream is ALSO (generally) not the same texture as store-bought. Store-bought ice creams often use thickeners, stabilizers, liquid sugars, and other factors that keep it scoopable and soft. Homemade ice creams, even when made properly, tend to freeze to a pretty firm state - especially with egg-free Philadelphia style ice creams like this. I found that this recipe was just about perfect after 1 hour in the freezer. Once it's reached a more frozen-solid state you can get it to a good scoopable texture by leaving it on the counter for 5-10 minutes (depending on the container and the amount left).
In order to get the best results from your ice cream maker, you'll want to make sure you pay attention to a couple of tips:
- Make sure the drum of your ice cream maker is properly frozen. Check the instructions for your machine and follow them carefully - mine requires that you freeze the bowl for a full 24 hours before using.
- Get the basic mixture fully chilled before putting it into the machine. If you put warm, or even room temperature cream into your machine you're making it work harder than it has to. Let everything chill in the fridge well before you're ready to run your ice cream maker.
- Don't overload the ice cream maker. This is a pretty big batch of ice cream, and it can be really tough to get it sufficiently frozen if you put it all in the machine at once. Instead, pour 2/3 in to begin with, then empty the finished ice cream out before adding the remaining 1/3. This way you'll have more of the ice cream in contact with the cold sides of the ice cream maker drum, and a smaller pocket of warmer ice cream pooling in the middle.
Note: Nutritional Information is given for a single serving/large scoop (1/12th portion of the total recipe) and does not include a cone.
No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
Strawberry, Basil and Goat Cheese Ice Cream
- 1.3 lbs strawberries preferably very ripe
- 1 cup sugar (see note)
- 2.6 oz goat cheese
- 1.5 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 0.35 oz basil (~15-20 medium leaves)
- Freeze the bowl of your ice cream maker per the manufacturer's instructions.
- Combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until well-combined.
- Chill the mixture for an hour, or up to overnight.
- Add about 2/3 of the chilled mixture to your ice cream maker and run until thick and well-set. Scoop out the ice cream and run the ice cream maker with the remaining 1/3. Combine the finished ice cream and freeze until the ice cream reaches the desired thickness.
- Freeze for an additional hour or so to achieve a creamy, scoopable consistency. Alternatively, freeze longer and remove the ice cream from the freezer about 5-10 minutes before serving.