Thyme Flower Ice Cream – glace aux fleurs de thym

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There is something magical about herb flowers.  Don’t you agree?  They are like a softer, more feminine, and altogether prettier version of the herbs themselves.  It’s a pity they are not used more often in the kitchen.  That might perhaps be because they are not easy to come by, if you buy herbs at the store you probably wouldn’t see the flowers.  Most commercial growers – or even the more diligent of home gardeners – snip them right off as soon as they appear, to prevent the herbs going to seeds and die.  But if you’re one of the lucky ones with an herb pot or two growing by the window, or better yet a patch of herbs in your garden, try letting a few go to flower, you’ll love the results.  Rosemary flowers are great sprinkled over meat dishes, especially the ones cooked with the herb already.  I love using cilantro flowers in salads, they work wherever I’d use regular cilantro leafs.  And my current favorite, thyme flowers.

Most people think of thyme as a rather strong herb, suitable for something equally strong, like lamb chops.  I beg to differ, use judiciously, thyme can be subtle and don’t overpower more delicate dishes like fish or even -wait for it- ice cream.  Yes, ice cream.

I’d take credit for coming up with this brilliant idea but, as Goethe purportedly said, there’s nothing new under the sun.  I remember having an ice cream made with thyme flowers in France years ago.  I also remember tremendously enjoying the deliciously creamy, old-fashioned custard-based ice cream and being delighted by the unexpected and savory flavor of thyme in it.

So, when my thyme bloomed this year, I set out to replicate that ice cream.

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I use a recipe for ice cream base that I adapted from one in David’s tattered old notebook.  I’m not sure even he knows where it came from anymore.  It calls for cooking only half the amount cream, adding fresh cream at the very end just before churning.  This is great if you could find superb quality cream, as it retains the fresh flavor of uncooked dairy.  I especially love it when I have spare raw cream from making butter to use in the recipe.  If you could find a source for raw cream, definitely use it.

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Thyme flower ice cream - glace aux fleurs de thym

Part 1

8oz whole milk

8oz cream

10 yolks (yes, ten, I don’t eat ice cream on a diet)

160g sugar

about 10 sprigs of thyme flowers, rinsed and dried thoroughly

salt to taste

In a medium pot over low heat, bring the milk, cream, and half the amount of sugar to a simmer.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the rest of the sugar and the yolks until well blended.  When the milk/cream/sugar mixture comes to a simmer, pour about half a cup’s worth into the sugar/yolk, whisk again to incorporate, then pour the mixture from the bowl into the pot.  Stir to blend and bring the mixture back to a simmer, stirring continuously.  This last bit shouldn’t take more than a minute.  Remove the pot from the heat immediately.  Add the thyme flowers into a clean, large bowl and pour the hot ice cream base over it.  Add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt (more or less as you like it).  Cover and let stand until completely cooled.

Part 2

16oz cream (superb quality raw cream if you could find it)

When the custard base is ready, pour the second amount of cream (16oz, cold and direct from the fridge) over it, stir to mix.  Cover and let rest in the fridge until it’s cold before churning.

Strain the ice cream base into the bowl of your ice cream maker.  Churn according to the manufacturer’s directions.  This recipe makes just over 1qt of ice cream.

P.S. Just before the ice cream finishes churning, I like to add a big pinch of fleur de sel, I like the crunch and the burst of flavor when you bite into a flake, and I love salt.  This is, however, entirely optional.

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63 Responses to “Thyme Flower Ice Cream – glace aux fleurs de thym

  • Kamran Siddiqi said:
    July 13th, 2009 at 11:50am

    I would have never thought of putting thyme flowers in my ice cream, but I definitely need to try this! So creative. And the photos are phenomenal. Great post!

  • Ciaochowlinda said:
    July 13th, 2009 at 12:46pm

    What a divine idea! I just finished making frozen lemon yogurt and I think these might have made a nice addition. I’ll have to go see if my thyme has flowers on it at the moment.

  • Pim said:
    July 13th, 2009 at 12:54pm

    Frozen lemon yogurt and lemon thyme flowers should be divine. Or even just lemon thyme alone – I’d use fewer springs if using the herbs and not the flowers.

  • Pim said:
    July 13th, 2009 at 12:54pm

    Why thank you. Try and let me know how yours turn out.

  • katiek said:
    July 13th, 2009 at 1:14pm

    So simple yet so elegant.

  • Taylor Young said:
    July 13th, 2009 at 1:31pm

    What a fantastic idea. I totally agree.
    Thanks for posting!

  • Vallen Queen said:
    July 13th, 2009 at 1:33pm

    Well, this is “thyme-ly”. I best get out to the garden and harvest those little buds before they go to seed. Lemon thyme is my favorite.

  • Josh said:
    July 13th, 2009 at 2:52pm

    I don’t know whether or not Goethe said, “There’s nothing new under the sun.”
    But I do know that if he said it, he was quoting the Bible.
    “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
    - Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV translation from the original Hebrew)

  • Pim said:
    July 13th, 2009 at 2:57pm

    …which evidently proved his point

  • Pim said:
    July 13th, 2009 at 2:58pm

    thyme-ly indeed. Come back and tell us how yours turn out please.

  • Pim said:
    July 13th, 2009 at 2:58pm

    Thanks katiek and Taylor, and you’re welcome.

  • The Spice Doc said:
    July 13th, 2009 at 4:39pm

    Wonderful!!! I have been planning to do my chocolate sea salt sorbet soon but I might start with an herb-y ice cream instead. I saw a wonderful recipe in the magazine Healing with Herbs that did a tarragon sorbet that looks delectable as well. Thanx for sharing.

  • Nutmeg Nanny said:
    July 13th, 2009 at 4:55pm

    I have never had thyme flowers but they look beautiful. I bet this ice cream is refreshing and super tasty:)

  • Kamran Siddiqi said:
    July 13th, 2009 at 5:27pm

    Will do!

  • Simon Food Favourites said:
    July 13th, 2009 at 5:27pm

    very interesting combination. glad it worked out well. lavender would work nicely too i guess.

  • Witwala said:
    July 13th, 2009 at 9:39pm

    If you could, would you reccomend a good ice cream maker.
    The one I used to own didn’t get me right (could be my mistake but I loved to blame it on the machine :) )

  • lickedspoon said:
    July 13th, 2009 at 9:44pm

    Such beautiful pictures and a delicious-sounding and unusual ice cream. I can’t wait to try this with the thyme flowers in my garden.

  • veggiebelly said:
    July 13th, 2009 at 10:32pm

    I have some thyme out in the garden, but hasnt flowered (yet)! this is such a beautiful and luxurious recipe!

  • Chrystel said:
    July 14th, 2009 at 12:25am

    I’m discovering your great blog. What a marvellous idea of using thyme flowers in an ice cream !
    Have a nice day !
    Chrys

  • Guindilla said:
    July 14th, 2009 at 4:54am

    I have tried this ice cream in a restaurant with a peach tarte tattin. It was just… great! I did think about doing it myself, but felt lazy to look for the recipe. Thanks to you I have it!
    Another “strange tasting” ice creams is capsicum (or red pepper, as you say in the US), that goes perfectly with duck breast – the way I tried it.
    Cheers.

  • codfish said:
    July 14th, 2009 at 5:12pm

    I had thyme lemon ice cream at Gotham Bar and Grill and was sorry to find it not to my liking. I think, maybe, the lemon flavor was too strong with it, or there was too much sugar.
    I imagine it would be lovely if very creamy and only subtly sweet. And served on peaches…. mmm

  • Pim said:
    July 15th, 2009 at 9:47am

    Tarragon can be pretty powerful, so I suggest going a bit easy on it. Alain Ducasses does a strawberry dessert with a hint of tarragon, which sounds an unlikely union but turn out quite well.

  • Pim said:
    July 15th, 2009 at 9:48am

    Yes, lavender should. Like the comment about tarragon just above, I also suggest going easy on lavender. Using too much makes everything smell like soap (or body lotion) in my opinion.

  • Pim said:
    July 15th, 2009 at 9:49am

    Try it and let me know what you think.

  • Pim said:
    July 15th, 2009 at 9:49am

    worth the wait I promise.

  • Pim said:
    July 15th, 2009 at 9:49am

    Thanks!

  • Pim said:
    July 15th, 2009 at 9:50am

    Capsicum ice cream sounds intriguing. Serving this thyme flower ice cream over stone fruit tarts is a great idea.

  • Pim said:
    July 15th, 2009 at 9:51am

    This is very creamy, yes, thanks to the 10 yolks in it.

  • Valisa said:
    July 15th, 2009 at 1:02pm

    Pim,
    oh my this looks really good!!! I love the idea of using 10 yolks… and the addition of fleur de sel! Definitely will give this a spin!

  • Gourmet Chick said:
    July 16th, 2009 at 2:51am

    Any ideas for parsley flowers – mine has just bloomed?

  • Jennifer said:
    July 16th, 2009 at 10:00am

    I planted cilantro and thyme in my garden this season and was surprised by their dainty flowers. I never knew, or rather, saw…Ice cream is a splendid idea to showcase the herbal beauty and taste. I also adore your fleur de sel preference too!

  • malathip said:
    July 16th, 2009 at 10:06am

    I just started making ice cream with a few attempts and sometimes i get an “egg smell” in the ice cream. I’d like to know how to fix it.
    Thank you

  • riya said:
    July 17th, 2009 at 2:39am

    just got your book. i am looking forward to reading it. as you are my fellow Thai, I am so proud of you.
    Riya

  • Pim said:
    July 17th, 2009 at 11:52am

    I haven’t seen parsley flowers yet but I think they’d be really good on a salad, or maybe tossed with pasta with a goat cheese+sauteed eggplants+pine nuts?

  • Pim said:
    July 17th, 2009 at 11:52am

    I’m a salt lover, and I just love the surprise crunch when you get to a flake of salt in the ice cream.

  • Pim said:
    July 17th, 2009 at 12:16pm

    I think that comes with overcooking the custard. Most people cook it longer than it really needs because they’re afraid of germs. I’d try the same recipe but cook it a bit less than before. It should be better.
    You can also try reducing the amount of egg yolk in the recipe. The texture might suffer a bit with the reduction in fat content, but it’ll still be good. If you reduce the yolks, you might try substituting part of the sugar in the recipe with corn syrup or honey, which could help the texture.

  • Pim said:
    July 17th, 2009 at 12:16pm

    Thank you! Let me know how you like it.

  • Pim said:
    July 17th, 2009 at 12:17pm

    I love salt, and adore the crunch you get when you get to flake of salt in the ice cream. Yum!

  • Jean said:
    July 17th, 2009 at 1:02pm

    I have definitely noticed a trend of savory ice creams hitting menus and hope kitchens. What a refreshing idea. — Jean

  • malathip said:
    July 17th, 2009 at 5:56pm

    Thank you. I’ll try that. :)

  • Carol Peterman said:
    July 17th, 2009 at 7:48pm

    I made all kinds of herb ice creams and love them, but never considered using the flowers. It looks like the cilantro flowers that are currently dominating my plant will end up in my salad bowl tomorrow rather than the compost bin. It never occurred to me to eat them. Thanks.

  • Ziggy TheWineGal said:
    July 17th, 2009 at 10:28pm

    Love the fresh ideas!
    Cheers~
    Ziggy, The Wine Gal
    Radio & Television Personality
    Sommelier to the Stars

  • lauralulu said:
    July 18th, 2009 at 5:57am

    Now this is a real treat! My herb garden is covered in lemon thyme flowers…I have some poulet eggs – sounds like I have a project on my hands for today.
    Pim – Thank you for taste memory. I use to use herb flowers in a salad that I use to make at a four start kitchen in NYC. It was all the rage at the time. I once had a salad sent back because there were flowers and petals in it. Chef marched out of the kitchen and insisted that the customer try it. Let’s just say he had a persuasive personality.
    I also know at tea rooms herb flowers are often combined with butter – yum!

  • Alta said:
    July 18th, 2009 at 6:15am

    I have considered herbs in ice cream, but haven’t tried it yet. Did try basil with lime in a sorbet though…would’ve been good but had too much sweetness to it. This sounds intriguing, and I might have to try it. I’m considering chocolate rosemary as well…

  • Megan Gordon said:
    July 19th, 2009 at 9:34am

    Beautiful photos and interesting recipe-can’t wait to try!

  • lisa said:
    July 21st, 2009 at 11:16pm

    looks so yummy…thanks for sharing..i will try that, I’m sure that my hubby and my kid will love that.. They love ice cream..

  • chef gui said:
    July 22nd, 2009 at 6:08am

    Tres jolies photos, comme d’habitude. Et la fleur de thym me rappelle ma Provence natale.
    Merci Pim.

  • Little Chi said:
    July 23rd, 2009 at 1:49am

    Saw n bought ur book at the Thai Kinokuniya. Is it out in the US yet? Anyways, just to let u know I love it! Congratulations!

  • Little Chi said:
    July 23rd, 2009 at 1:51am

    Ooops! Just read riya’s post. :P

  • Daniela Restrepo said:
    July 23rd, 2009 at 8:19am

    Lovely site, how about lavender flowers in ice cream? Would that be worth my trying?

  • Eli said:
    July 23rd, 2009 at 11:25am

    Great idea. I made a sage ice cream using a similar method last summer. I only used about 3 or 4 leaves in a quart of ice cream, because sage is so strong. I served it to some friends at a BBQ and it went over really well, but no one could identify the flavor…sage is so unexpected in something sweet.

  • nestor said:
    July 28th, 2009 at 3:11pm

    fijate that I try to make the ice cream but not me salio me salio a little last to a greeting

  • linhanyi said:
    August 5th, 2009 at 7:41pm
  • Leon Gregory said:
    August 9th, 2009 at 2:14am

    Thanks a lot! I’m also a gourmet and pastry enthusiast and this would really go to my compilation. I would also like to share. I came across a good site, http://swisscookbook.com , which also gives free sample family-secret European and Swiss recipes.

  • Mary Harris said:
    August 12th, 2009 at 10:09pm

    I infused some of my home made icecream with a lavender flower and it was delicious with rhubarb. One flower left in the cooling cream mixture for about 30 seconds is just enough to give the lovely taste.

  • Mary-Anne Durkee said:
    August 15th, 2009 at 10:29am

    Herb (bai Kaproa, lavender, rosemary flowers, bai magroot, etc) ice creams are so wonderful! Also love cardamon ice cream and white pepper ice cream-yum! As you say not to eat too often.

  • bev said:
    August 21st, 2009 at 6:18pm

    i just found your blog! you are so cute and i want to try your recipes..lalala time to spend money on ingredients..lalala =)

  • Melesha said:
    September 12th, 2009 at 11:08am

    That Thai cucumber salad looks yummy.

  • Edgard said:
    September 13th, 2009 at 10:40am

    Si entiendes español y te interesan compartir recetas de un estudiante de arquitectura que viajo 7 meses por 25 paises y variadas culturas estoy afin de intercambiar anecdotas gastronomicas y de viaje, ademas soy fanatico de la fotografia, en este viaje obtube una 15000 fotos
    Tu sitio y fotos estan muy sugerentes.
    te saluda atte. Edgard

  • Hilah said:
    January 31st, 2010 at 5:46pm

    Wow. This sounds totally good. And it reminds me of some thyme shortbread cookies I made a couple years ago and then never again. What is wrong with me? They were wonderful. Ooh, with some cracked black pepper? Sheesh.

  • Anne said:
    April 20th, 2010 at 2:32pm

    My thyme plant gave me enough blooms to try your thyme flower ice cream recipe -which I came across a few months ago. Sure was worth the wait! This is seriously one of the best thing I have ever eaten! Thanks a bunch for sharing!

  • Dmjass said:
    December 14th, 2010 at 3:10pm

    it sounds really tasty!

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