sesame rose water ice cream with peppered broiled figs


Nik Sharma

Hey Friends, I’m a multi-award-winning and best-selling cookbook author and photographer.

Last weekend, I finally got enough tomatillos off my plant to make a quart of salsa. It felt rewarding and thankful and also timely, since the plant now looks like it’s off to meet its maker. So there at least, I can say I got some salsa out of it. To be honest, unless you have several plants growing at the same time, you probably won’t be making tomatillo salsa all summer. So next year, I’m going to grow fewer vegetables but more of the same variety so it’s not a one time thing. 

Sesame seeds are a big deal in Indian sweets as much as they are in the Middle East and Africa to make tahini and other tasty things. From sesame (til) ladoos, and hard candies like gajak and chiki. Sometimes, they’ll be seasoned with a little green cardamom or rose water or saffron. But what if all this became an ice cream, one as nutty in taste, one as sweet with the floral scent of fresh roses and one with a cool grey tone speckled with the tiniest spots of fragmented black sesame seeds. Serve this with a few warm, broiled fresh figs, a little hint of black pepper and a splash of maple syrup.

With a little help from Jeni Britton Bauer, this ice cream was born into existence using her cream cheese – cornstarch method that obviates the needs for eggs to prepare the custard base. 

Kitchen Notes: 

  • Because I’ve used black sesame seeds, knowing when to stop toasting them is a little tricky if you want to use visual cues, instead rely on the seed’s aroma. The heat will help volatilize the aromatic compounds inside the seed and as soon as you start to smell the fragrance, take the pan off the stove and immediately, transfer the seeds to the blender. 
  • If the ice cream is too hard once it comes out of the freezer, leave it out for 5 to 6 minutes on the counter to soften a little. 

sesame rose water ice cream (adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home – Jeni Britton Bauer)

makes about 1 quart


2 cups whole milk

1/4 cup black sesame seeds (I used toasted)

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon rose water (1 tsp if you want it stronger)

Mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to form a slurry and keep aside. 

Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.

Place the milk and sesame seeds in a high-speed blender and pulse on high-speed for a few seconds until the seeds are completely pulverized and the milk takes on a light grey color. It will look a little speckled. 

Transfer this milk into a medium saucepan along with the heavy cream, and sugar. Stir with a silicone spatula and bring the contents to a rolling boil on medium-high heat. Remove from heat and whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Return the saucepan to the stove and boil over medium-high heat and cook for about 1 minute until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. 

Add the rose water and transfer the ice cream base into a resealable gallon ziptop bag and submerge it in an ice-water bath too chill completely. Once chilled, pour this into the bowl of your ice cream maker and prepare according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Store in a freezer-safe container with a lid and freeze for at least 3 to 4 hours to firm up before serving. 

Peppered broiled figs

makes 6 to 8 figs

6 to 8 figs

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon toasted black sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)

maple syrup, as needed (optional)

Cut the figs in half and toss them with the olive oil in a small bowl. Place the figs skin side down in a small cast-iron dish that’s been lightly brushed with a little extra olive oil. Set the oven to broil and place the dish in the oven for about 10 to 12 minutes until the figs start to caramelize and the juices start to bubble on the surface. Remove from oven, garnish with black pepper and keep warm. 

To assemble: Place one or two scoops of the sesame ice cream on a serving dish, garnish with a few toasted black sesame seeds (if desired) and two to three halves of the broiled figs. Drizzle with a little maple syrup if desired. 

Note: to toast black sesame seeds – heat a small dry skillet on medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot add the sesame seeds and toast until you just start to smell the seeds. Be careful as this will happen quickly in about 20 to 30 seconds as the seeds are black and it will be difficult to see them darken.

5 Responses

  1. This looks divine! Can’t wait to try it! Did you end up incorporating the rose water? I don’t see it in the recipe… thanks!

  2. Nik, this sounds amazing!!! I’ve made some of your other ice cream recipes, and I’m gonna be all over this one too!😁

  3. This looks simply dreamy…I can’t wait to get started. I will try arrowroot instead of cornstarch as I try to avoid corn products unless of course it’s fresh summer corn! Happy feasting.

  4. I had the same question about the rose water — the amount used is not listed on the ingredient list. This sounds delicious; I prepare Persian dishes frequently and love incorporating rose water. I would be interested to hear how much rose water you used.

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