I love to experiment with odd combinations of flavors, and have really begun to explore more spices/herbs. I also have been tumbling around the idea of a fennel seed-inspired ice cream flavor in my brain for quite some time. Fennel and black pepper, fennel and strawberry, fennel and ouzo…(my culinary imagination can really run wild sometimes!). Then low and behold, the talented Miss Orangette posted a straight-up fennel ice cream recipe! So, I thought, well I should give this a try just plain and taste my way through different combinations with this fennel seed that has been captivating my attention for some time. However, being the procrastinating type that I am, I had yet to make this ice cream when I found and impulsively bought (and proceeded to impulsively eat) a lavender-fennel goat cheese from my local Whole Foods. Aha! I found my combination! I had been perfecting my lavender ice cream recipe for a few months now and have finally found one that is a cut above the rest. So, why not just add some fennel seed to that? So I did. The combination of the aromatic lavender and the subtly pungent fennel seed is just plain delicious. I know it sounds a little odd, but the fennel is rather subtle sly in this combination. The lavender is the first taste you get and the strongest, but if you close your eyes and think fennel, you get a soft ending to your bite of the mildest licorice. And for those of you not crazy about fennel, or a licorice of any kind, you will probably not even know it’s there. It’s sweet, refreshing, and oh-so-summery.
So now that I found my simple yet complex ice cream, I needed to flair it up a bit. So I whipped up a batch of what I like to call “crookies”. It’s kind of a cross between a cracker and a shortbread cookie. I took a basic shortbread cookie recipe and made it savory with lots of black pepper and more fennel seeds. Just in case you didn’t taste it the ice cream, you’re sure to get a punch of the fennel in the crookies. To eat with afternoon tea, made into ice cream sandwiches, or gobbled up straight out of the cookie jar!
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons dried lavender seeds
2 Tablespoons dried fennel seeds
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon raw honey
1 cup granulated sugar
10 egg yolks
1. Combine the whole milk, lavender, fennel, and vanilla in a saucepan over medium-high heat until milk begins to boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks, sugar, and honey in a non-reactive bowl and whisk until well incorporated and the mixture begins to lighten in color.
3. Strain the lavender-fennel seeds from the milk and slowly begin to temper the warm milk mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly.
4. Return the mixture to the large saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture begins to thicken, 5-8 minutes. You will know it will be thick enough when you draw a line across the back of the wooden spoon and it holds those borders.
5. Remove from the heat and stir in the whipping cream. Let cool, cover, and refrigerate until well chilled, preferably overnight.
6. Follow manufacturer’s directions on an ice-cream maker and freeze until firm, at least one hour.
Fennel-Black Pepper Shortbread “Crookies”
1 stick butter, at room temperature
½ cup shortening
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
½ teaspoon dried fennel seeds
1 egg white + ½ teaspoon water
freshly ground black pepper and crushed fennel seeds for rolling
1.Combine the butter, shortening, and sugar in a large bowl and beat on low until well combined.
2. Add the flour, salt, black pepper, and fennel seeds and beat until mixture begins to ball up.
3. Turn dough out onto plastic wrap and roll into a log, covering entire log with the wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least one hour.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
5. Place the black pepper and crushed fennel seeds onto a cutting flat surface, such as a cutting board or large plate. Brush the outside of the log with the egg white and water mixture and roll in the pepper and seeds. If the log is too soft after rolling in the seeds, re-wrap in the plastic and refrigerate until firm again.
6. Cut into 1/4” slices and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until slightly golden-brown around the edges, about 20 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes, transfer to cooling rack and let cool completely.
Serve cookies and ice cream together, as a sandwich, and enjoy!