When I was a little girl, we lived in house made of pale gray stone. It was the only stone house on our street. All of the others were made of red brick. The front and back flagstone porches were connected by a cobbled path, and the whole property was encircled by a white picket fence. Yes, a white picket fence. Really. Ivy and morning glory trailed up the outer walls like dark green veins It was our very own country cottage in the middle of the urban jungle. I wonder who lives there now. Do they love it as much as I did? Oh, how I still sometimes yearn for that house!
Our small back yard contained three huge lilac bushes, two Japanese cherry trees and a few other things that frankly, paled in comparison and don’t bear mentioning. After each winter’s thaw, I’d wait with excited anticipation for them to bud. When they finally did bloom, the profusion of color and intoxicating scent were a feast for my young and tender senses. The yard became a fairyland of lavender and pink, and I was the resident fairy princess who reigned supreme. All too soon the flowers would fade and fall, covering the ground with a soft, plush, pastel carpet that was perfect for lying on as I pondered the meaning of life – and waited for the roses.
Ah, the roses! I’ve always been in love with roses. The ones I love best aren’t the sterile, scentless, long stemmed, barely opened blooms that come in a box, although I’ll take them in a pinch. My favorites are the tangled, unfussy, multi-hued clusters of fragrant blossoms that crown thorny, twining bushes. The ones that climb and creep and flaunt their velvety, unfurled petals as if they’re smiling at the sun. These are the roses that, to me, are the loveliest. With their slightly ruffled, imperfect edges, they are perfection.
Once the lilacs and cherry blossoms were spent, it was time for the roses to make their appearance. We had over one hundred rose bushes of varying types and colors lining the perimeter of our yard – right along that white picket fence I told you about. When the roses were in bloom, it was spectacular! Each year around this time, there were masses of vivid crimson, coral and yellow roses mingling with blushing, watercolor pinks and creamy whites surrounding the house. It was a kaleidoscopic masterpiece! Perhaps that is where my love affair with roses began.
Sometimes, I would try to count the flowers, wandering from bush to bush, stopping to sniff each one. Did you know that different varieties of roses have different scents? Some smell slightly sweet, with a touch of spice. Others have a warm, musky scent. Some even give off a fruity aroma, like that of lemons, apricots and peaches. It’s no small wonder that roses are a popular ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, and have been since ancient times.
The Romans used roses petals in cooking, especially desserts such as puddings and ices. They even used the petals to flavor wines. Other cultures, influenced by the Romans, also embraced the use of roses in their cooking. To this day, tasty rose flavored treats are popular in many European and Middle Eastern countries. So, when I was looking for an unusual twist to add to my luscious honey chevre ice cream, roses came to mind.
This ice cream is absolutely lovely all on its own, with the subtle tang of fresh goat cheese laced with earthy tones of honey. But, I wanted to make some kind of topping to go with it. I thought about doing something with roasted strawberries, but then I remembered a dessert I had once at a fancy, schmancy restaurant that I absolutely loved. It was also an ice cream made with chevre, and it was served swimming in a sea of lavender-scented caramel. I decided to swap out the lavender with roses and see how it turned out.
There’s a wonderful little spice shop a few blocks from my house that carries an assortment of culinary grade dried flowers, including rosebuds. Most people buy them to use in teas, but I thought they would work well for making my “rose kissed” caramel sauce. Don’t they look pretty?
To make the caramel, I first combined the rosebuds and some heavy cream together in a small saucepan and brought them to a gentle simmer. Then, I removed the pan from the heat, covered it and let the roses infuse the cream with their delicate, floral essence.
After that, I made my caramel sauce using a recipe from the fabulous new cookbook, Sugar Baby, by Gesine Bullock-Prado. Instead of the plain heavy cream called for, I added my rose-infused cream, and crossed my fingers.
By the way, Gesine’s publisher was kind enough to send me a copy of the book to try out - and it is wonderful! I plan to share a few more recipes from Sugar Baby soon, and there might even be a giveaway in it for you.
Anyway, I was very pleased with the way this caramel turned out. It was smooth and silky, with a deep, but not burnt, caramel flavor. The essence of rose was definitely there, but not in an “in your face” kind of way. It was delicate and refined, just like an actual rose. I loved it!
For the chevre ice cream, I again took my inspiration from David Lebovitz. David’s version doesn’t include honey, but I really wanted to have those earthy, floral notes in the ice cream to play off of the caramel. It was a good call on my part, because I really think that the whole combination was heavenly. The ice cream all by itself was wonderful too. It had a lovely, creamy texture, and just the right amount of sweetness. The honey balanced out the tanginess of the goat cheese perfectly. This was one sophisticated ice cream!
Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get a decent photograph of ice cream with warm caramel sauce on top? Setting it in front of a bright, sunny window didn’t help either. Oy!
I stuck this one back in the freezer for a few minutes first. Better.
Indulging in this creamy, dreamy treat isn’t quite the same as luxuriating in a field of gorgeous flowers, but it’s certainly worth the effort. Making it conjured up many magical memories for me of an unfettered time filled with unbridled joy. Too often we busily rush through our lives, scrambling to keep up with jobs, deadlines and family obligations. Our lives can become so cluttered! We forget about, or just don’t have time to really enjoy the exquisite beauty that surrounds us, often in the simplest things – like one perfect rose. Sometimes, we need to just stop and smell the roses.
Honey Chevre Ice Cream with Rose-Kissed Caramel Sauce
inspired by The Perfect Scoop
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons honey
8 ounces fresh goat cheese
6 large egg yolks
Rose-Scented Caramel Sauce (recipe follows)
Heat the milk, 1 cup cream, sugar and honey in a medium saucepan until the mixture just begins to simmer.
While the milk/cream mixture is reheating, crumble the chevre into a large bowl with a mesh strainer set on top.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour half of the hot milk/cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Then, scrape it all back into the saucepan and put it back on the heat.
Using a wooden spoon, stir the custard mixture constantly over medium heat until the it thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Pour the custard through the strainer to catch any bits of cooked egg. Stir it into the goat cheese until the cheese has completely melted. Add the remaining cup of cream. Stir over an ice bath until the mixture has cooled. Chill the custard in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
Freeze the custard base in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Scoop into a freezer safe container and freeze until the ice cream reaches the desired consistency.
Serve drizzled with Rose-Kissed Caramel Sauce.
Makes approximately 1 quart.
Rose-Kissed Caramel Sauce
adapted from Sugar Baby
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup dried culinary rosebuds
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
Put the cream and the rosebuds together in a small saucepan and heat to just simmering over medium heat. Remove from the heat, cover and let steep for about 1 hour. Discard the rosebuds and set cream aside.
Combine the sugar, salt, water and lemon juice together into a large, high-sided, heavy bottomed saucepan (at least 3 quarts). Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar liquefies and begins to simmer around the edges. Continue to cook, without stirring, until the sugar turns a medium-dark copper color.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and slowly pour in the infused cream. It will bubble up furiously, so stand back and be careful! Add the butter and stir until the cream and butter are completely incorporated and the sauce is smooth.
Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, put the pan back over medium heat and bring to a boil. Cook the caramel until the candy thermometer reads 240 F. Remove from heat and allow the caramel to cool before using.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Note: The sauce can made ahead and stored in the fridge for at least 2 weeks. Before using, rewarm the sauce for about 30 seconds in the microwave