Sunday, October 7, 2012

Pistachio Ice Cream

I recently wanted to make Neapolitan ice cream for an Italian-themed party. Neapolitan is most often found as layered chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream, but I had a vague recollection of having "fancy" Neapolitan at a restaurant when I was little, and it being made of chocolate, cherry and pistachio. I have no idea if this is real or concocted in my brain. Nonetheless, I set out to make these three flavors. I ran out of time to do the more involved work of actually layering the ice creams, so I made them in separate batches and left it to the diners to take a scoop of each. While all three came out pretty well, the pistachio was my favorite. I love pistachio ice cream, and this was as delicious as any I've had before. The secret is careful roasting of the pistachios to draw out their flavor. As with all ice creams, you will also notice the difference with free-range eggs and organic milk and cream. Enjoy!

Pistachio Ice Cream
(makes about 1 quart)
1 cup shelled, raw pistachios
1 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1-1/2 cups whole milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, with convection (if available). Spread the pistachios in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Roast the pistachios until just starting to brown - about 30 minutes. Do not let them over-brown or they will become bitter. Let cool completely.

When the pistachios are cool, place about 2/3rds of them in a food processor with all of the sugar and pulse repeatedly until they are very finely chopped. Do not over-process, or they will turn to butter. For the last 3 or 4 pulses, add the remaining pistachios (these will stay in larger pieces to give some crunch to the ice cream). Set aside.

In a 2-quart saucepan heat the milk and cream over medium heat until scalded but not boiling, stirring frequently. In the mean time, whisk the egg yolks, almond extract and salt until slightly frothy. When the cream mixture is hot, remove from heat and ladle out about a cup, very slowly drizzling it into the egg yolk mixture while whisking continuously (so as not to cook the yolks). Slowly pour this yolk mixture into the pan with the cream while stirring constantly. Add the pistachio-sugar mixture. Return to the burner and cook until a custard forms. Do not boil! The custard is ready when it thickens slightly and it coats the back of a spoon.

Remove the custard from stove and allow it to cool somewhat - so that the pan is warm but not hot to the touch. Stir regularly to avoid allowing a film to form. Either leave the mixture in the pan or transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until very cold - preferably overnight. Transfer to the basin of your ice cream maker and follow its instructions to freeze the ice cream to a thick consistency. Transfer to a plastic storage container and freeze until firm in your freezer. It will retain its flavor for several weeks if kept frozen...but it's unlikely you will need to worry about that!

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