Rosemary Ice Cream- The Math and Science

Rosemary Ice Cream

This Rosemary Ice Cream with Pine Nut Pralines was inspired by a cookie, a rather well-known cookie that is served with butterscotch budino at Pizzeria Mozza here in Los Angeles. Which of course means this rosemary ice cream could have been an utter disaster. Get it “udder” disaster?

Anyway. One of my dirty little kitchen secrets is that I spent years making crappy ice cream. I could never understand why I made crappy ice cream. I mean I came up with some fantastic flavor combinations. I bubbled and boiled and broke new ground. I came up with culinary concoctions that would make any self-obsessed foodie proud. But it turns out being a self-obsessed foodie was exactly why I made crappy ice cream. I spent more time and energy coming up with the ideas for my frozen oddities than I did concentrating on making good ice cream.

What I’ve learned is that my artistic sensibilities were not enough. I needed to understand ice cream. I needed to know the science behind the magic of transforming cream into a lusciously lickable frozen confection. Oh, and the math too.

Because science and math are behind the transformation. All the good intention and artistic acumen in the world won’t help you one lick when creating flavors like this rosemary ice cream on your own. Get it one “lick”?

Anyway. Ice cream is water, butterfat, protein, sugar, starch, air and art suspended in a seemingly magical emulsion. It requires a deft balance of molecular science to make the mixture meld. It seems that all my creative additions were throwing that balance off. That’s why I made such crappy ice cream. You see when the proportions of water, protein and fat are out of sync your ice cream sucks.

All of this changed for me a couple of summers ago when I went to Columbus, Ohio and briefly met with Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Spendid Ice Creams. Her enthusiastic introduction to what makes great ice cream made me curious. I went home from that meeting with her book in my hands. The book explains the molecular balance of good ice cream in amazing detail. It’s also the book that helped me find several building block bases for making good ice cream at home. I am now better able to choose a base method for ice cream that is compatible with all my artistic additions.

Which means my cookie-inspired Rosemary Ice Cream with Pine Nut Pralines became more than just another lofty idea. It become a lusciously lickable frozen confection that you can reproduce yourself at home. GREG

Rosemary Ice Cream

Rosemary Ice Cream with Pine Nut Pralines 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 1 quartSource Inspired by Jeni Britton BauerPublished
rosemary ice cream with pine nuts


  • 1 ½ ounce pine nuts (about ⅓ cup)
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoon unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 3/8 teaspoon kosher salt divided
  • ice cubes as needed
  • cold water as needed
  • 2 cup whole milk divided
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 3 tablespoon cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoon light corn syrup


Make the pralines: Place the oven rack in the center position and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Combine pine nuts, brown sugar, honey, butter, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Stir to combine.

Spread the nuts in a single layer onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes. Move the nuts around with a fork to keep them from clumping. Bake 2 more minutes, move the nuts around again, then cook 2 or 3 more minutes. The nuts will look bubbly. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Move them around several times during the cooling process to keep them from sticking to each other as much as possible. Once cooked break any large clumps up with your fingers. Set aside with as few of the nuts touching as possible.

Make the ice cream: Half fill a large bowl with ice and water; set aside.

Mix 2 ounces milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl. Stir until completely and smoothly incorporated; set aside. 

In a separate medium bowl whisk the cream cheese, minced rosemary, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt together until well incorporated; set aside.

Combine the remaining milk, cream, granulated sugar, and corn syrup in a 4‑quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium high heat. Remove from heat and gradually mix in the cornstarch mixture. Return to the heat and allow it to come back to a boil, whisking the entire time. Remove from heat and let cool about 2 minutes then gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the medium bowl with the cream cheese mixture. Keep whisking until it’s very smooth. Allow it to cool about 5 minutes.

Pour the mixture into a 1‑gallon Ziplock freezer bag. Seal the bag and submerge it in the bowl of ice water. Let the bag become well chilled, about ½ hour. Replace the ice cubes as needed to keep the water very, very cold.

Freeze the ice cream: Pour the chilled mixture through a fine mesh sieve directly into the bowl of the ice cream maker. This not only removes the minced rosemary, but it improves the texture of the ice cream. Follow the manufactures direction on the machine until the ice cream is smooth, thick and creamy. It should be pulling from the sides just a bit as it churns.

Pack the ice cream into a 1‑quart storage container, folding the pine nut pralines in intermittently as you go. Seal with an airtight lid. Freeze the ice cream until very firm, at least 4 hours.