Bay leaf infused ice cream – yes it’s a thing!

There have been a few snowflakes floating in the bitterly cold wind today, so it may seem a strange time of the year to be posting a recipe for ice cream. However, I believe ice cream is for all times of the year, not just summer, and this particular beauty is the perfect accompaniment to  winter pies and crumbles.

As the amount of people who opt for a dairy-free or plant-based way of eating increases, so does the number of products available – ice cream being one of them. The choices on offer in supermarkets is increasing all the time. So why bother making your own at home?

One reason is the type of milk used as the base. The majority of the shop-bought ones use soya or coconut milk only. There are many people who cannot eat either of these, whether because of food intolerances or special diet restrictions for a health programme (the Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis programme for example omits coconut because of the high saturated fat content). And both soya and coconut can overwhelm other delicate flavours. I had never seen an oat milk ice cream and wondered if it would work – it certainly did and you would never know that it was dairy-free.

Bay leaf may not seem the obvious ice cream flavour, but trust me, it’s delicious. The idea just popped into my head whilst composing the menu for my last supper club. I had already decided on the dessert (a sumptuous quince crumble tart with pecan pastry) and wanted more than the standard vanilla ice cream to accompany it. I felt a rustic natural flavour would work, and suddenly bay was the answer, fresh though, not dried. Fortunately I have a bay bush in my herb patch in the garden, so I didn’t have to go far to try it out!

Normally used for savoury dishes, bay leaves do have a surprising range of nutritional benefits, although most of those come after ingestion of the whole leaf. In this recipe, the leaf is infused in the mix for a while and then removed. Some of the beneficial phytonutrients that help aid digestion and reduce inflammation, as well as the flavour, are absorbed into the mix, so you could still claim this ice cream is ‘good’ for your health!

Of course, ice cream is so delicious because of the combination of sugar and fat; this recipe does contain some refined sugar, but it is slightly reduced as oat milk and cream have their own natural sweetness. If you cannot tolerate sugar or on a low sugar diet, you could try substituting with a granulated sugar alternative. I haven’t tried this myself though, so I cannot guarantee its success.

I have a small, inexpensive ice cream maker that has never let me down (click here to see which one). I do have to pre-freeze the bowl though, so it’s important to plan ahead. You could make this by hand, but would need extra time to keep stirring it every hour to prevent ice crystals forming  (see below for how to do it). This process does take some time – that’s why I have my own ice cream maker!

So if you’re looking for a delicious and unusual accompaniment in the up-coming festive period that’s dairy free and delicious, then give this a go. I’ll definitely have a tub or two stashed in the freezer ready to be enjoyed!

Bay leaf infused ‘ice cream’ (makes 8-10 servings)
250ml oat milk (I used Oatly)
500ml oat cream
2 tablespoons ground arrowroot
100g sugar
6 fresh bay leaves, torn slightly
1 tablespoon vanilla essence

If your ice cream maker inner bowl needs to be frozen, put it in a plastic bag and place in the freezer the day before you want to make your ice cream.

First, pour 50ml of the oat milk into a small bowl and mix in the ground arrowroot. Put to one side. Pour the rest of the oat milk, oat cream and sugar into a medium saucepan and gently bring to the boil, stirring from time to time to make sure all the sugar has dissolved. Add the bay leaves and vanilla essence. As soon as the mix starts to boil, turn off the heat and whisk in the arrowroot mixture, stirring constantly until it starts to thicken slightly to prevent any lumps from forming. Once it starts to cool slightly and it’s thicker and glossy, pour into a plastic bowl with a lid and leave to cool. Place in the fridge for about 3 hours until it’s fully chilled (or overnight).

When you are ready to make the ice cream, assemble your ice cream maker as per instructions, remove the bay leaves and pour the mix in. Churn until ready, then transfer to a freezer-proof container (I use a 2lb metal loaf tin), cover with a lid or freezer bag and place in the freezer until you are ready to use it, removing it for 20 minutes prior to serving to allow it to soften slightly.

To make by hand –  once your mix is cold, pour it into a plastic container suitable for the freezer (if it’s not already in one) and place it in the freezer for 30 minutes to start. Remove it, whisk it with a hand whisker, and pop it back to freeze for another hour. The repeat this process until it’s firm and then either eat it, or leave it in the freezer until you’re ready to eat.



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