A Lebanese restaurant near my house has the most delicious rose tea. It’s very sweet, with the wonderful floral notes of rose and orange blossom water. That tea is my most frequent encounter with rose flavor — I only sometimes encounter it other places, like in Turkish delight or macarons. I’ve cooked with rose water before, but I also had a bottle of orange blossom water that I had never tried. I smelled it last week and was in love. Since then I’ve been thinking of what to make. Since it’s getting warm here in Houston, floral ice cream came to mind.
The ice cream recipe I use most often is the New York Times Master Ice Cream Recipe. It’s a custard base that can be customized for whatever flavor you like. It can be made with fewer egg yolks than the six it calls for. And you can use regular milk instead of cream (your ice cream will be less creamy).
I happened to have 2% milk on hand and didn’t feel like using six eggs, so I made the recipe entirely with 2% milk and four egg yolks. The custard was noticeably thinner even after it cooked and after mixing and freezing it was still very thin. Not bad, but not the richness of ice cream. I think, due to the lower fat content, that technically I made “ice milk.”
Making half the recipe (the other half was made into peanut butter flavor for the non rose flavor loving members of the household), I added 3 tablespoons rose water and 1 tablespoon orange blossom water for flavor. This made a very strong floral scent and flavor, but I’ve noticed in the past that ice cream flavors tend to get a bit muted after freezing, so it was the right amount.
I really wanted the rose ice cream to be rose colored, so I tried an experiment — steeping fresh rose petals in the hot ice cream base. Sadly, while it looked very dramatic, zero rose color came off the petals. (Note: I have pesticide-free rose bushes in my garden. DO NOT do this with commercial roses or any rose treated with pesticide.)
As spring comes and flowers are blooming, get creative with homemade ice creams and try the flavor of flowers. Rose water and orange blossom water are often used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking and can be found in the international sections of some grocery stores.
Recipe: The Master Ice Cream Recipe, with 2% milk and 4 egg yolks, halved, with 3 Tbsp rose water, 1 Tbsp orange blossom water.
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