I love the taste of flowers. Sometimes people balk at the idea of a spicy nasturtium salad, or a violet crème brulée, but the way I see it, flowers are just another part of a plant. There’s nothing inherently scary about an apple (once a blossom) or broccoli (a cluster of unopened buds), and we often find floral notes in an almond or a glass of chardonnay. Vanilla, the world’s most popular flavor, is the pod of an orchid. And let’s not forget honey. One pound is bee-brewed from 2.6 million flowers’ nectar.
This rose ice cream is a variation on one of my favorites, rose-hibiscus ice cream. I didn’t have any hibiscus on hand, but I did have a lovely jar of Greek rose petal jam. Last summer I bought it on a trip to Brighton Beach and it’s been holding court in my Astoria kitchen ever since. (The irony of buying a Greek treat in a Russian neighborhood and bringing it back to the capital of Greek-America is not lost.)
The jam itself is very mild, with little preserved petals suspended throughout. The flavor and texture are very much like honey, which I suppose comes from cooking the roses. The petals have been cooked to transparency, and rather than being mushy as I expected, have a pleasant bite like the bits of peel in marmalade.
Keeping the sweetness of the jam in mind, I made my ice cream a little lighter than usual, and sweetened it with vanilla sugar and rose water. I used non-homogenized organic milk, which has a full grassy taste that couples well with rose. The rose petal jam brings a surprising depth to the dish, picking up the blossom scent and ending with rich honey. Rosy as this dessert is, no flower-fearing palate can fault it. The rose water ice cream is very subtle, and the petals in the jam cling to each spoonful. Lovely.
Greek Rose Ice Cream
makes 1 quart
- 1/2 c vanilla sugar (Plain sugar would be fine, too.)
- 3 c organic whole milk
- 1 1/2 tsp rose water (The flavor and strength varies by brand, so try a few to find your favorite. I used Chtoura Garden, a Lebanese brand, and found it has a more perfume-y taste than others I’ve picked up in little Middle Eastern and Greek shops in Astoria. It’s not my favorite, but it’s fine.)
Whisk the sugar into the milk until dissolved, then whisk in rose water. Pour into your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions (I have always wanted to type those words).
Store the completed soft ice cream in a plastic container in the freezer at least an hour before scooping. If it’s too hard when you try to scoop it, let it sit on the counter for five or so minutes. Serve in your prettiest cup with a swirl of rose petal jam.