I know, I know—we are not exactly in “ice cream season,” but this is not an ordinary, warm weather ice cream, and I found it so interesting, I could not wait until next summer to share it!
My inspiration for this ice cream came very naturally, in the course of conversation with dear friends after a feast that concluded with one of my homemade ice cream recipes. Our friend, Charlotte, casually mentioned that she had once had a chance to try a most unusual ice cream flavor, and that she had lingering regrets over passing on that opportunity so many years earlier. It was bleu cheese ice cream, she said, and she had never stopped thinking about it.
I’ll be honest—my brain could not imagine it. Bleu cheese? In ice cream? Yikes.
But my taste buds took the wheel, reminding me that I have enjoyed many charcuterie boards with the combination of bleu cheese with fresh and dried fruits, and bleu cheese drizzled with honey, and both were fantastic! So if I’ve enjoyed bleu cheese with sweet flavors in other ways, why wouldn’t it be possible—or potentially even good—in an ice cream?
Many years ago, I made a honey and goat cheese ice cream that was fantastic, so it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. Before long, I joined Charlotte in wondering if bleu cheese ice cream would be amazing—or just weird.
That was about two years ago, and as time rolled along, I moved on to what seemed to be more “normal” ideas for ice cream, including several that I have posted here on Comfort du Jour, but a few weeks ago, Charlotte and her partner, David, joined us for pizza night at our house and she clearly had not forgotten about this most unusual frozen treat, and she put it right out there as a challenge:
“So, what do you think about doing the bleu cheese ice cream?”
And all at once, my brain connected the dots.
The bleu cheese would need a sweet base to carry it, and I remembered the jar of specialty honey—a local one, infused with lavender—that sat mostly untouched in the back of my cabinet. Of course! That would infuse the base of my ice cream, and I would embellish it with additional dried lavender buds, steeped in the cream mixture and strained out before churning. With or without bleu cheese, I knew that would be a delightful dessert, and when I tasted the base, I let go an audible moan. It was, OMG, perfect.
There could be no vanilla in this ice cream because I didn’t want a distraction from the honey or the lavender. Sweetened condensed milk would provide structure to the base, and something else would have to run through the ice cream to split the difference between the sweet, floral background and the salty, funky bits of bleu cheese. Something tart and unexpected (as if bleu cheese wasn’t unexpected enough)—yes, it would have to be balsamic vinegar!
Now, if you had told me a few years ago that I would one day make ice cream with vinegar and bleu cheese, I would have decided then and there that you were completely off your rocker. But this balsamic is not ordinary vinegar—it’s a specialty product, infused with lavender. Something in my subconscious had already predicted this moment, because I found an unopened bottle of the stuff in my pantry overflow. I poured some into a pan and reduced it to a thick, syrupy consistency, which concentrated both its sweetness and its tang, and I drizzled that syrup through the churned base as a ribbon—no, more like a thread—that literally streaks through each scrumptious scoop, accentuating the positives of the warm honey, the fragrant lavender, the sweet cream and yes, the funky bleu cheese.
For this recipe, I recommend a bleu cheese that is not too funky or overly vein-y. I actually picked up three different bleu cheeses to determine which one was right. The first turned out to be too pungent and heavy on the funky veins— better for chunky bleu cheese dressing, and that’s exactly what I ended up making with it. The second bleu cheese had great promise, as the woman in the specialty cheese department at the market described it as being “smoked over hazelnut shells,” but in one taste, I knew that it would overwhelm the delicate lavender (It’ll be great, though, on a charcuterie tray). My third option turned out to be just right, with a classic, salty flavor and nice blue-color veins running through creamy-looking white cheese. I layered crumbles of it over the churned ice cream, which was streaked with a fine drizzle of the balsamic reduction.
I’m not so naïve to think that everyone reading this now would enjoy this ice cream because not everyone has a strong sense of adventure. Frankly, not everyone even likes bleu cheese. If you’d rather have a reduced-guilt vanilla ice cream or a homemade Cherry Garcia, I’ve got you, and you can skip over to those posts for the recipes. No judgment here. But for those of you who do have that adventurous side—you read this to the end, after all—you’re gonna be telling your friends about this one!
Charlotte was thrilled to finally have bleu cheese ice cream, and just in time for her birthday. ❤ 🙂
Honey-Lavender Ice Cream with Bleu Cheese
Not for the unadventurous, but a sophisticated combination of flavors in an elegant, indulgent ice cream.
- 3/4 can sweetened condensed milk (about 10 ounces)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 3 Tbsp. lavender-infused honey* (see ingredient notes)
- 1 tsp. edible dried lavender buds*
- Pinch kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp. vodka (optional, added at end of churning for improved texture)
- 1/3 cup lavender-infused balsamic vinegar*
- 1/3 cup mild bleu cheese crumbles*
- Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When it begins to steam around the edges, whisk in the honey to dissolve it. Add the lavender buds to the pan and turn off the heat. Allow the buds to steep until the milk has cooled to room temperature.
- Pour 3/4 of a can of sweetened condensed milk into a pitcher bowl. Pour the lavender-infused milk through a mesh strainer into the bowl, discarding the spent lavender buds. Whisk the milks together until evenly blended. Add heavy cream and half and half, whisking to combine but taking care to not whip air bubbles into the mixture. Cover and refrigerate several hours until completely cold.
- Heat the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it reduces in volume and takes on a syrupy consistency. Cool to room temperature.
- Set up ice cream machine. Gently whisk ice cream base mixture to reincorporate any ingredients that have settled. Freeze ice cream according to manufacturer’s instructions. In the final minute of churning, add vodka to ice cream and allow it the machine to churn it all the way through.
- Spoon about 1/3 of frozen ice cream mixture to an insulated freezer container. Use a whisk to carefully drizzle a slight ribbon of reduced balsamic over the layer of ice cream, and use a toothpick or thin knife to gently marble the balsamic down into the ice cream, but be careful not to “muddy” it. Scatter half of the bleu cheese crumbles over the balsamic, and then repeat with another layer of ice cream, balsamic and bleu cheese. You probably won’t use all of the reduction, but you can use the rest of it to drizzle over the ice cream at serving time. Finish layer the last of the ice cream base on top. Smooth gently, cover with parchment or wax paper and freeze until firm (about 8 hours).
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