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velvety vanilla ice cream with strawberry-basil-rhubarb sauce

Ice cream is delicious in a cup or a cone
on top of a cake, or beside a scone
on a hot summer day, it’s refreshing and cool
at the beach or beside a pool
in a sandwich or on a stick
bring us both and make it quick
smooth and creamy, a heavenly treat
a tasty way to beat the heat
in a car, on a boat
or simply inside a root beer float
by yourself or on a date
in a bowl or on a plate
breaktime at work or lunchtime at school
doesn’t matter where, there’s not a rule
from an ice cream truck in the afternoon
to a starlit night under a full moon
in layers of clothes or none at all
in the spring or in the fall
standing, running, or lounging in a chair
anytime, any place, anyone, anywhere,
so sit back and relax wherever you may be
and join us as we share this divine recipe!

For those of you still with us, the reward lies here within. The smoothest, creamiest, and most intensely-flavored vanilla ice cream we have ever tasted comes from an amazing cookbook called Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones. The cookies and cream bars in September were inspired by them. Their famous store, Bi-Rite Creamery in San Francisco, just a six hour drive north of here, is a place we have been longing to visit ever since we first made this unbelievable vanilla ice cream recipe a few years ago. Today we are sharing it with a delicious sauce highlighting some of Spring’s tastiest produce that makes the perfect tart and sweet companion to the rich ice cream: a pound of fresh strawberries simmered in a pot with tangy rhubarb until soft and bubbly, stirred with melted butter and sugar, sprinkled with ground black pepper, and brightened with a hint of chopped basil.

The strawberry-basil-rhubarb sauce is simple to make. Everything is stirred in one pot for fifteen minutes, then a delicious ruby red sauce with soft pieces of sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb will be ready to pour. Ever since getting an ice cream maker, this house has seen a variety of flavors, but our favorite, even more than chocolate, is this recipe. It combines real vanilla beans and extract giving this smooth ice cream an extra potent vanilla flavor. Combined with this gorgeous Spring sauce, your spring hasn’t sprung till this recipe has sung.

Velvety Vanilla Ice Cream with Strawberry-Basil-Rhubarb Sauce
Ice cream recipe adapted from Sweet Cream & Sugar Cones
makes about 1 quart of ice cream, and 2 1/2 cups of sauce

For the ice cream:
1 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 vanilla bean
5 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the strawberry-basil-rhubarb sauce:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound strawberries, stem removed, cut into quarters
6 ounces rhubarb, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
3 pinches kosher salt
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves (about 4 leaves)

For garnish:
chopped strawberries
basil leaves

Make the ice cream base:
In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, milk, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the salt. Slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and use a small paring knife to scrape the black seeds from the bean. Add the scraped seeds and the split vanilla bean pieces to the cream mixture, and stir to combine. Place the pan over medium-high heat, and cook until the mixture just begins to bubble around the edges. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let rest for 30 minutes to infuse the cream with vanilla flavor.

When 30 minutes have passed, give the mixture a stir, and place it back on medium-high heat. While the mixture is heating up, place the egg yolks in a medium heatproof bowl, add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, and stir to combine. Once the cream just begins simmering, lower the heat to medium. Take a ladleful of hot cream, and while whisking the egg yolks constantly, slowly pour the cream into the egg yolks. Continue whisking, and repeat with another ladleful of cream (This tempers the eggs, so they do not cook immediately when you add them to the pan). Now slowly pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan, stirring as you pour. Cook, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until the mixture thickens slightly and will hold a clear path if you lift the spatula out and run your finger across it, about 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat, then pour mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean medium-sized heatproof mixing bowl. Place the bowl into an ice bath, and stir occasionally with a clean rubber spatula until room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Make the strawberry-basil-rhubarb sauce:
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then add the strawberries and rhubarb. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is quite soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the sugar, vinegar, black pepper, salt, and stir to combine. Simmer for another 3 minutes, then remove from heat, add the chopped basil, and stir to combine. Let cool, then transfer to a container and refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour.

Assemble the dessert:
Remove the chilled ice cream base from the refrigerator, and stir in the vanilla extract. Pour into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For a soft consistency, serve right away, or transfer to a container and freeze for at least 4 hours for a firmer ice cream. Serve with the strawberry-basil-rhubarb sauce either warm or chilled, and additional strawberries and basil leaves if desired, and enjoy!

note:
— To make an ice bath, place your ice cream bowl in a much larger mixing bowl. Put ice cubes around the inner bowl, then pour cold water over the ice until the water reaches halfway up the inner bowl, being careful to not get any water in the ice cream mixture. This creates an ice bath, cooling the mixture quickly.
— Ice cream makers are available in kitchen supply stores or online.