When I moved my way up from Expo (one who manages the ticket line in kitchen) to Pastry Cook at The Ravens Club in A2, the first challenge that the chef gave me was to make an ice cream flavor. Luckily, this was the spring of 2013, before I became lactose-intolerant.
I knew that I wanted to create an ice cream flavor that was unexpected and interesting. I thought about what would fit with the season of spring. What‘s the first thing that you picture when you think of spring? The answer is flowers. And flowers have excellent aromatics, which is a big part of taste, so I thought that a flower ice cream flavor would work out really well.
There were some dried lavender flowers in the pantry at the Ravens Club, and I decided to go for it. Turns out, I was 100% right. This ended up being an absolutely amazing ice cream. It’s light, creamy, sweet and you really can taste the lavender! I was so proud of myself when I created this ice cream that I presented it to the chef like a #MicDrop, “What’s next, chef? Bring it!”. I think that I surprised chef with my first attempt being pure gold.
Since then, I have never gotten a complaint or even anything less than an “Oh, dear God…” on this ice cream. We had a restaurant reviewer from the Detroit Hour come in to the Ravens Club, and after losing his shit for about 5 minutes, chef sent me out to the reviewer’s table with a bowl of my lavender ice cream (I was still doing some Expo shifts at night after working in the kitchen in the afternoons). When I came back to pick up their dessert dishes a while later, I asked how they liked the ice cream and the reviewer’s wife loudly exclaimed, “I am an ice cream *whore*! I loved it! It was diviiiiine!”. Direct quote. I will never forget what that woman said that about my ice cream. I like to think that my lavender ice cream was the cherry on top of the restaurant reviewer’s dining experience that night, that made him want to write an article about the Ravens Club in the Detroit Hour magazine, but I’m not actually that cocky…
To make this perfectly springy and crowd-pleasing ice cream, I combine a quart of heavy cream, a quart of ½ and ½, 1 cup of lavender flowers and 1/2 cup of sugar together in a saucepan. I bring it to a simmer, whisking occasionally to avoid burning. I also like to stir it to make sure that the flowers get fully mixed around and all of their oils are released into the mix from the heat.
While the cream is steeping with the lavender, I separate 14 egg yolks (yes, 14!) like so, cracking it into my hand and letting the white run out between my fingers:
And plopping them into a large bowl. The picture below shows the egg mixture in a medium-sized glass bowl, but as soon as I had mixed all of the eggs together, I remembered that I was supposed to fit 2 quarts of hot cream in the bowl for the next step, so I switched the mix into my giant silver one. When all of the yolks are ready, I add ½ cup of sugar, a pinch of salt and whisk it together. Then, I set it aside until the steeped cream is ready.
Once the cream mixture is simmering, I take it off of the stove and use a fine sifter to drain the cream from the lavender flowers. Be really careful here, that cream is hot AF.
Here is the tricky part: tempering the hot cream into the eggs. You can’t just pour the hot cream into the bowl of eggs and sugar because the heat will immediately curdle the eggs. Tempering is the process of slowly adding a hot mixture into a cold one so that the temperatures essentially even out. To temper ice cream, slowly pour the hot cream into the bowl of egg yolks and sugar while whisking it. The easiest way to do this is to place a wet cloth towel underneath the bowl of egg yolks so that it won’t spin as you whisk with one hand and pour with the other.
After the egg yolks and cream have been tempered, I put the mix into the fridge to cool. You don’t want to try and churn the warm mixture, because even if your ice cream churner if fully frozen, it will warm up quickly with the hot mixture inside.
When the ice cream mix is fully cooled, I assemble my ice cream maker. The biggest aspect of the process of making ice cream is the frozen cauldron. The cauldron has to be frozen for a full 24 hours before it can properly freeze ice cream. It’s a plastic basin filled water that gets frozen and inserted into the center of the ice cream machine. Another piece fits inside of the frozen cauldron to act as the churner as the cauldron spins in the ice cream machine. If the cauldron isn’t completely frozen, the ice cream will only reach a certain consistency, depending on how unfrozen the cauldron is. Sometimes it’s not terrible if you skimp a few hours from the 24, it’ll turn out more like soft-serve, but anything less than 20 hours or so will just leave you with cold cream. It’s not a big deal, just pour the ice cream mix out and store it until your churner is fully frozen.
Lastly, I flip the switch on the machine and let it spin like a whirling dervish for about an hour. You can also see how well the ice cream is freezing through the process, and decide when it’s reach your desired consistency – soft-serve vs. hard scoops. The pictures below were taken about halfway through the churning process (left) and just before I stopped the ice cream machine (right).
Once the ice cream reached my desired consistency, I turn the machine off and pull of the top and the churner piece, and then scoop out the ice cream in giant spoonfuls. I like my ice cream to be just a step above soft-serve texture. I put the container of fresh ice cream into the freezer for another hour for it to finish firming up. This ice cream makes about 2 quarts, and can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for 2-3 months.
I have never had this ice cream come out badly, ever. I really think that this ice cream might be impossible to truly fuck up. The hardest part would be tempering process, but if you focus on pouring the hot cream into the eggs slowly, you’ll be fine! Remember the wet towel trick! Get a cloth towel wet and place it beneath the bowl with the egg mixture, that way the bowl won’t spin while you whisk with one hand and pour with the other.
You’ll end up with a delicious and unexpected ice cream flavor that will surprise and delight everyone around you. Turn your friends into ice cream whores!
Recipe for Lavender Ice Cream
1 quart cream
1 quart half n half
¼ cup lavender flowers
½ cup sugar
1 ½ cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
Pour cream, 1/2 and 1/2, lavender flowers and first part of sugar in saucepot and bring to a simmer. Place yolks, second part of sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk together. Drain lavender and temper hot cream into yolk mixture. Let mixture cool completely before churning. Freeze churning cauldron for 24 hours before churning. Pour into ice cream maker and let churn for 40 minutes to an hour, until it reaches desired consistency. Transfer to an air-tight container and place in freezer for 1 more hour.