Like anybody else with good intentions to occasionally unplug from online media and all that, I have a stack of
leather-bound books on my nightstand of rich mahogany.
Most of them are there to be read, and stay there longer than I’ll ever admit. One, however, is a most special little snowflake that I need within arm’s reach when my mind wanders the most: when I’m supposed to be sleeping, of course. I have indeed sprung out of bed and gone searching for the Flavor Bible often enough to necessitate keeping it close by. It’s an encyclopedia of flavor pairings, essentially, that inspires me with recipe ideas and helps me out when I almost have an idea cookin’ but need an extra shot of good-idea juice.
It’s great for those times I’m basically Lou Pearlman assembling the next hot boy band and I’ve already got the Cute One, the Bad Boy, and the Shy One. The Flavor Bible sometimes brings me the wild card (i.e. The One With Dreadlocks).
Sometimes, though, it stuns me with something entirely fresh–something I’d never think of. When I was recently scanning it for ideas on what to do with plums, I saw a suggestion to combine them with bay leaf. What/huh/yes. I’m so into it.
I’m starting to think that that kind of bedtime reading is way too electrifying. I might have to switch to those Game of Thrones books.
Naturally, I ran with this plums-and-bay-leaves idea and made us ice cream.
Ice cream and soup are my go-tos for trying out new flavor combinations–at least the ones I can’t put on a sandwich. It’s a little painful for me to admit, but not everything can go between two slices of bread.
A quick-ish infusion of your ice cream base with bay leaves will make this magic happen for you. Give bay leaves a chance to stand out on their own and they’ll show you exactly why they deserve better than to just be thrown into a pot of chili once in a while. These things are really lovely–woodsy, warm. Like a hug from a lovable lumberjack with a beer belly.
Plums, on the other hand, even when roasted to hell and back, are tart and bright. Red or black or somewhere in between–all will give up plenty of gorgeous, delicious juice.
And there it is: creamy, cold, and interesting enough to keep you going for spoonful after spoonful, just to register this delightful combo and remember it well. For future use. Let me tell you guys… This works, and it works very well. The Flavor Bible does not lie. I’d take an oath on it.
Funny thing about making ice cream in the most sweltering days of summer: it is also the worst time of year to photograph ice cream. For a minute there I thought I was going to have a serious talk with whoever is in charge of the weather (Beyonce, I assume). I’ve even shot ice cream at 6 in the morning to get around this problem (again, the things I do when I should be sleeping).
IT’S HOT, you guys.
The good news for most of you is, you don’t need to take pictures of your ice cream. Just eat it fast. Freeze that brain…. It’s summer. It needs a rest, just like the rest of you.
- 2 cups milk
- 4 teaspoons cornstarch
- 8 fresh bay leaves, roughly chopped
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
- 3 plums, halved, pits removed
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon neutral-tasting oil, such as grapeseed
- 1 tablespoon vodka
- Combine 1/4 cup of the milk and the cornstarch until smooth and set aside.
- In a large saucepan, whisk together remaining milk and the cream along with the sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Add the chopped bay leaves, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 4 minutes, then remove mixture from heat, cover, and steep for 30 minutes.
- Return mixture to a boil, add the corn starch slurry (stir it first to get it smooth again), and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes.
- Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl and discard bay leaves.
- Pour 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into a small bowl with the cream cheese and whisk until completely smooth, then whisk this into the rest of the milk mixture. Cover mixture and chill completely.
- To make the roasted plum sauce, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Toss plums with oil and sugar in a baking dish and roast until juices are running and the plums are very soft, about 25 minutes.
- When cool enough to handle safely, puree the plums in a blender or food processor with the vodka, then strain through a fine mesh. Discard solids, cover and chill.
- When both mixtures are completely chilled, churn ice cream according to manufacturer instructions, then alternate layers of ice cream and plum sauce in a storage container before freezing. Makes a quart.