If you are planning a dinner party or informal get together, offering something unusual that gives people a chance to try a dish that's new to them can stimulate conversation and make your party an occasion.
Dishes and ingredients that people might be reluctant to make for their small households, or order at expensive restaurants, can be a big hit when offered to them as guests. Even people who are reluctant to try new things will be more adventuresome when it comes to desserts in particular. I don't know why. Give a couple of these upcoming recipes a try, and don't forget to place a vase of cut lavender on the table.
For the recipe below, I infuse whole milk with lavender. The ratio is one heaping tablespoon of lavender for each cup of milk. If you are purchasing the lavender, it should be culinary quality. I use English lavender from my garden, and include flowers as well as a few leaves.
Making Lavender Milk or Cream
I tie dried lavender flowers and leaves into a coffee filter and place the little packet in cold milk or cream, bringing it slowly to a temperature of about 190 Degrees Fahrenheit in a heavy duty saucepan. (Don't let it boil.) I discard the filter after about an hour, and then let the milk cool completely in the refrigerator. I have also tried using lavender sugar to flavor ice cream, but like the stronger punch of the lavender milk better.
Caramel Lavender Ice Cream Recipe
This is a variation on the honey lavender ice cream that's been experiencing some popularity. My husband prefers caramel to honey, so I fashioned my own recipe. The lavender rescues the ice cream from cloying sweetness.
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1 ½ cups cream (not half and half)
1 cup whole milk (with lavender infusion above)
9 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
Boil water and sugar in a heavy-duty saucepan until the mixture turns reddish amber. This can be tricky, both because the mixture can be hot and sticky, and because it goes from ready to burnt and inedible pretty quickly. Keep a close watch on it, and push the ingredients away from the sides of the pan with a wooden spoon to promote even cooking, but otherwise, leave it alone.
Remove the pan from the heat and add cream in a steady, even stream, stirring constantly. Keep at it until all of the caramel has been completely dissolved.
In a large bowl, separate eggs and reserve the yolks, add salt and blend until smooth.
Return the saucepan to the stove and add milk, stirring until the caramel mixture simmers. Remove from the heat.
Whisk the caramel into the egg yolks a little at a time until completely blended. Start SLOWLY.
Return mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat until thickened. Never allow to boil.
Strain if necessary. Cover and refrigerate until cool.
You can now prepare the mixture according to the directions provided with your ice cream maker.
Serve with lemon wavers.
Photo courtesy of J. Skrepnek. You can see other photo collections by this photographer at: flickr.com