Basil Sweet Corn Ice Cream Recipe

Between the corn kernels and cobs in this recipe, there's no shortage of corn flavor. As written, basil and corn are equal partners. If you want your corn to shine as the star, cut the basil back by half.

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Photograph: Max Falkowitz

This recipe needs no lede, no cute opening to get you intrigued. Let's be real here. It's about corn, one of the most perfect, delicious things on Earth. Summer's greatest treasure. Corn needs no Lorax. It speaks for itself just fine.

Okay, so maybe you're skeptical about corn in dessert. Think about it: what vegetable is more sweet than corn? Sweet potatoes, you say? Well those are turned into pie. So why not corn? Perfectly ripe sweet corn has an unparalleled depth of flavor, more complex and heady than the darkest caramel. Even savory corn dishes are often powerfully sweet. The real question to ask is why we don't make corn desserts more often.

Not sold on the basil pairing? Think about a ripe ear of corn. What do you smell? A rich sweetness, sure, but also a profound grassy element. Now imagine your nose plunged into a bunch of basil. Once you make your way through that herbal perfume, the same grassiness awaits. These plants are made for each other. Look at your basil. Now back to your corn. Now back to your basil. This is the dessert your dessert could smell like.

Between the corn kernels and cobs in this recipe, there's no shortage of corn flavor. As written, basil and corn are equal partners. If you want your corn to shine as the star, cut the basil back by half.

Options for toppings are limited only be your imagination. Corn kernels are a given, but I'm also partial to toasty brioche croutons, silky crema, or a pinch of smoked paprika.

Recipe Facts

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Active: 45 mins
Total: 0 mins
Serves: 6 to 8 servings
Makes: 3 1/2 cups

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Ingredients

  • 3 cups half and half
  • Corn kernels shucked from 3 cobs (2 cups), cobs reserved
  • 1 cup basil leaves, washed
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, combine half and half, corn kernels, and corn cobs (cut in half) over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Add basil and cook for another 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until lighter in color and slightly thickened.

  2. Transfer mixture to a blender and blend on high for two minutes or until smooth. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer back into saucepan. Tip: If your blender comes with a plastic stopper insert in the lid, remove it and cover the opening with a few folds of paper towel. This will prevent hot liquids from bursting out the top.

  3. Quickly whisk yolk-sugar mixture into corn-basil base, and cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until mixture coats the back of a spoon and a finger swipe leaves a clean line. Add salt to taste. Strain into in an airtight container and let chill overnight, then churn the next day according to manufacturer's instructions.

Special equipment

ice cream maker, blender