What is it about lemons and summer? If you happen to live in a citrus-growing region, you know that it's possible to find ripe lemons on trees year-round, but that they are actually in peak season in the dead of winter. I think it's thanks to the summertime tradition of lemonade stands that makes me associate the tangy flavor with the hot months.
We've been having plenty of lemonade stands this summer, but we've also been carrying on another summer tradition: making ice cream, and the favorite flavor this summer is lemony. I first had the idea to make ice cream with lemon curd while staying upstate with some friends from England. There was a half-used jar of curd in their refrigerator, so I stirred it into an ice cream base and froze it in sheet pan in the freezer.
The result was good, great in fact, but I wanted to tinker more. I switched the base recipe to one based on Jeni Britton's recipe, which is thickened with cream cheese and cornstarch instead of eggs. I always get a thrill out of decreasing the amount of sugar in a recipe, so in this case it's the curd that does most of the sweetening, with just a little bit of added sugar in the ice cream base.
I like to play up the sour-side of the ice cream by using more cream cheese, and I drop Britton's corn syrup, so what you have is a really rich, lemony ice cream that doesn't require too many ingredients.
While you're at it, try other citrus curds (lime!) and for that matter, anything that comes in a jar that you might spread on toast. Also try infusing the ice cream with herbs. Last weekend we made a rosemary version that took this summer flavor up a notch.
Lemon Curd Ice Cream
Makes about 2 pints
cream cheese, room temperature
fine sea salt
Pour the milk into a 4-quart saucepan. In a small bowl, mix a tablespoon of the milk with the cornstarch until dissolved. In a medium bowl, combine the lemon curd, cream cheese and salt whip until no lumps remain.
In a large bowl, make an ice bath and set a slightly smaller bowl on top, and set aside.
Add the heavy cream and sugar to the saucepan with the milk, and stir to combine. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and boil for 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the lemon curd mixture until smooth, whipping out any lumps as you go. Pour this mixture into the smaller bowl of the ice bath and let cool, stirring occasionally.
Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions, or use one of these no-machine methods.
For the herb-infused flavor, place a few springs of rosemary, thyme or basil in the milk as it boils, then strain it out through a fine-meshed sieve after you've cooled the mixture over the ice bath.
(Images: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan)