We hired a landscape architect to draw up plans and for the last two months we've been living with mounds of dirt, mounds of gravel, and lots of workmen. They got rid of the driveway, the front steps, and lots of sad, spindly plants. One thing I wouldn't let them touch, though, was my lavender. It's wonderful. I grew it from seed and it's survived transplants and has even had baby plants which have been adopted around the neighborhood.
I put three lavender plants into an arid area that we'd ripped prickery bushes out of and it's the only thing that was able to live there. I am not a good gardener. My gardening speciality is being wooed by the bright flats of flowers at the home center while my husband is buying boring things like boards and insulation. I bring the delightful flowers home and put them outside so they'll get sunshine while waiting to be planted. They wait. And wait. And wither and die from neglect in their little plastic condos. So when I'm able to get a plant to grow and stay with me, year after year, I am thrilled. And if the same plant imparts a heady fragrance to the area and sends out dainty little flowers, too, I jump up and down with joy.
It was not until this year, though, that I'd considered the culinary uses of lavender. I saw several posts of other bloggers who'd baked with lavender and the idea intrigued me. But it was my love affair with The Perfect Scoop that motivated me to finally cook with lavender. David's Lavender and Honey ice cream called to me. All summer, it sang a persistent song to me, begging to be made. When I did, it was one of those, "Dang, why did I wait so long to make this?" moments. It's fabulous. Smooth, creamy texture and a subtle, rich flavor that spreads gently in your mouth. I think it's an adult flavor, not in the XXX sense, but in the sense that you wouldn't want to waste it on a child who'd rather have hot pink bubble-gum flavored ice cream. Let them have their nasty, brash flavorings and sit down with a small dish of this beautiful ice cream and savor every spoonful.
Lavender-Honey Ice Cream
adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
1/2 cup (125 ml) good-flavored honey
1/4 cup (8 g) dried or fresh lavender flowers
1-1/2 cups (375 ml) whole milk
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
1-1/2 cups (375 ml) heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
Heat the honey and 2 Tbsp of the lavender in a small saucepan. Once it's warm, remove it from the heat and set aside to steep, covered, at room temperature for 1 hour.
Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Pour the cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. Pour the lavender-infused honey into the cream through the strainer. Press on the lavender flowers with a rubber spatula to extract as much flavor as possible, then discard the lavender and set the strainer back over the cream.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Place the bowl on a rubber glove to keep it from dancing around the counter and slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp of lavender flowers and stir until cool over an ice bath.
Chill the mixture overnight in the refrigerator. The next day strain the mixture, again pressing on the lavender flowers to extract their flavor. This will also impart a subtle purply-grey color to the mixture. Discard the flowers, then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.