Since we moved into our new home we have been wanting to put an herb “garden” on our back deck. We just love cooking with fresh herbs, and there’s just something about walking out your back door to gather them.
You see now why we put garden in quotation marks above. Hey, it’s a start, right? We’re not sure how green our thumbs are, so we went the safe way and started with potted herbs. Pictured above are pineapple sage and rosemary. We also have sweet basil, spicy globe basil, german thyme, lemon thyme, and peppermint. It’s a lot of fun tending to the herbs – granted, Jason obsesses a bit (checks on them about every three hours).
If you’ve read our blog from the beginning, you may recall this post in which we recapped the dining adventure that was our honeymoon. During our favorite meal in Maine (pictured above), we tasted some pineapple sage sorbet that was served as a palate cleanser between courses. It was so extraordinary – we just couldn’t stop thinking about it. Did they mix chunks of pineapple and sage leaves? Who knew?
Then we got home and discovered that pineapple sage is actually an herb all by itself. So when we found it for sale in the garden section of Home Depot a couple of weeks ago, you can imagine how quickly we put two little pots of it into our cart.
So, we guess you could say that this little Test Kitchen experiment was inspired by that little taste of heaven from our honeymoon, coupled with David Lebovitz’s recipe for Fleur de Lait, which can be found in The Perfect Scoop.
Wait. What is fleur de lait? How did we go from sorbet to something so pretentious sounding as fleur de lait?
We’re not sure. Jason stumbled upon this recipe in Lebovitz’s book and quickly became intrigued. Fleur de lait, which literally translates as “flower of milk,” is closer to a Sicilian gelato than ice cream (and in no way resembles a traditional sorbet). It is typically made with no flavorings (not even eggs – corn starch is used to thicken it instead), so what you are tasting is simply creamy, frozen milk.
So, we thought, why not use this pure simplicity as the backdrop for a flavor as delicate as pineapple sage?
Then Jason decided to add coconut. Why? It seemed to go with pineapple (sage).
So, without further ado, here is our first crack at:
Pineapple Sage & Coconut Fleur de Lait (adapted from Lebovitz’s Fleur de Lait)
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons (approx.) pineapple sage leaves, chopped
- 1 coconut, cracked open (but not on your dining room table or hearth – oops), pulp removed and shredded
Go ahead and shred your coconut and chop up your pineapple sage leaves.
We’re not going to show you the process we used to end up with these coconut shavings. Just take our word for it: it wasn’t pretty. Perhaps we should have read some online tutorials first.
Now that you’ve done the hard part, warm the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan, whisking until the sugar dissolves. Whisk the cornstarch into the cold heavy cream until dissolved, then whisk the cornstarch/cream mixture into the warmed milk. Also throw in your pineapple sage and coconut at this time.
Heat the mixture, whisking constantly, until it begins to bubble, then reduce to a simmer for a couple of minutes, continuing to whisk. Strain the mixture into a bowl and place into the fridge until chilled completely. (Yes, you are straining out all of the coconut and pineapple sage – we were hoping that the steeping would transfer enough flavor because we didn’t want our finished product to have chunks and bits in it.)
Whisk the chilled mixture one last time before dumping it into your ice cream maker. Churn until frozen, then transfer to a chilled container and place into the freezer to harder further. (This fleur de lait will harden more than ice cream, so you may want to set it out for about 5 minutes before scooping).
We were a bit skeptical when we tasted the still warm pudding stage of this concoction, but the frozen version won us over completely. The best word that came to mind when trying to describe the flavor is “exotic.” Pineapple sage just tastes like nothing else – sure, it does have the essence of actual pineapple, but there’s a more complex (earthy?) background to it.
Then, if you really pay attention, there is another layer of flavor there – ever so subtle – and that’s the coconut. But we’re not sure you would ever guess that if you didn’t know there was coconut in there. In fact, we may leave out the coconut the second time around.
Oh, and the texture – we must talk about the texture. It definitely more closely resembles gelato than any egg-based gelato we have attempted. It’s almost, well, chewy. And thick. In other words, heavier than an ice cream, but in a very pleasing way.
We loved this fleur de lait served on top of oatmeal cookies.
It was also very delicious in a waffle cone.
If you can find pineapple sage, give this a try. At a minimum, try to make a fleur de lait, especially if you like gelato.