I do believe I’ve found my favorite ice cream. At least, until I make the next one. Still though, this one has just grabbed the #1 spot, and will definitely stay up in my top five favorite ice creams of all time. Any upcoming contenders will have to fight hard to knock this one off the top of the heap! I mean, come on--pistachio nut brittle? Made into a paste? Whisked right into the ice cream? I’m in love.
While thinking about what kind of ice cream to make next for Scoopapalooza, I had pistachio in mind. Since cherries are in season, it was a natural progression to add those in, too. Though I love the the pure flavor of pistachio ice cream--so light and fresh, and pretty much perfect--I wanted to do a twist on the classic. I just can’t leave well enough alone when it comes to my ice cream recipes. At least, not for now. I’m having way too much fun experimenting!
I was researching pistachio ice cream recipes, and many of them infuse the flavor of the nuts right into the ice cream base. Some soak the nuts (even ground nuts) in the base for a length of time, then strain them out and continue from there. I saw one that had ground nuts added in and left in there to be a part of the finished recipe. Reviews were that while the flavor of that one was incredible, it wasn’t smooth. It was gritty from all of the nut pieces. I wanted creamy, but I needed a way to infuse the ice cream to give you a full on pistachio experience.
So. I had a flash of brilliance. I think so, anyway! I remembered making a pistachio praline brittle for a Daring Bakers Challenge. It was amazing! The cake was supposed to be made with hazelnuts, but--we were hazelnutted* out at the time, so I’d decided to go with pistachios. (*Heck yes, that’s a real word.) We had to make a nut praline, which in this case is a powder made by grinding up sugar coated nuts--think nut brittle, not the creamy, chewier ones usually found in the South. Once you grind the brittle to a fine powder in the food processor, let it keep going, and it turns into a lovely, smooth paste, much like a nut butter. It’s not hard to make at all. It takes a little time, though, because you have to wait for the sugar to start melting. Over low heat. Which takes time. And watched sugar never melts. So they say. Once the brittle is done, it cools quickly, and the paste is super fast to make. You DO however, need a food processor to make the paste, unless you have something like a Super-Mega Vita Mix.
Once you have the paste, it gets whisked right into the ice cream base. Yeah, this is where the full on flavor comes in! The brittle makes just over 1/2 cup of nut paste, and I used all of it. ALL of it. Except for the 4 or 5 or 6 bites that I ate before I measured it out. In the interest of taste testing, of course. Ha!
Pistachio Praline Cherry Ice Cream
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup half and half
Generous 1/2 cup of Pistachio Praline Paste (Recipe below)
Generous 1/2 cup of pistachios
Approx 1/2 cup fresh, pitted cherries--diced (optional)
Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl for 1-2 minutes.
Add the sugar a little at a time, whisking after each addition, then continue to whisk for about a minute more.
Pour in the cream and half & half, whisk to blend.
Pour about 1 cup of the cream mixture into a separate bowl and add the pistachio paste. Carefully whisk until it's all incorporated, then add this back to the rest and mix to combine.
Keep this mixture cold until you're ready to use it.
Freeze according to manufacturers guidelines. In the last few minutes of freezing, add the nuts and cherries.
Mine took a little longer to freeze up in the machine, but it was a very warm day, and the paste is stirred in at room temp. So chilling before freezing may be a good idea in this case.
Transfer to an airtight container and let the ice cream freeze for at least a few more hours, but overnight is best.
Pistachio Praline Paste
1 cup pistachios (I used dry roasted and unsalted-cheap at Trader Joe's if you've got one nearby!
2/3 cup Sugar
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly butter the parchment.
Pour the sugar in a heavy 10-12 inch skillet, and heat it over low heat for about 20 minutes.
The sugar should start melting around this time. If you're impatient like me, you can turn the heat up a little, but watch it carefully.
Swirl the pan around if the sugar seems to be getting too dark.
If the sugar isn't melting in the center, stir it just a but with a wooden spoon. Whatever you do, don’t use plastic spoons!
When the sugar is all melted and caramel colored, remove from heat and stir in the nuts, again--using a wooden spoon.
Return the pan to low heat and stir to coat the nuts.
Heat until the caramel starts to bubble.
PLEASE remember that this is extremely hot, so be careful.
Pour it out on to the parchment, and separate the big clumps. Let it cool completely.
When it's cooled, break the brittle into pieces and add it to your food processor. (Of course, you should reserve a few pieces just to eat!)
Pulse the brittle until it's a fine powder. Continue processing until the powder starts to come together in a smooth paste. This will take a few minutes.
Store at room temperature in an airtight container.
- The flavor of this one is like a cross between your favorite pistachio ice cream, and a deep caramel. Sweet, but not too sweet.
- It’s truly creamy--no grit from ground nuts! This has the mouth feel of a premium ice cream. You don’t even need to soften it to scoop it. It scoops like a dream!
- I only had a small amount of cherries, so I took about 2 cups of the just frozen ice cream, and added the cherries and some nuts to that. I love that version, but the one without them is equally as wonderful--so don’t sweat it if you don’t have cherries!
- While the directions seem wordy and long, this is really a very simple ice cream to make. Don’t be scared off, because you will be rewarded with a truly heavenly ice cream. The most time you’ll spend on this is waiting for the sugar to melt, and the ice cream to freeze. That’s not hands on work.
- My husband and #1 Taste Tester has declared this THE best pistachio ice cream he’s ever had. And he’s tried a lot!
- Just like my Peanut Butter Candied Bacon Ice Cream? You could also rule the world with this one, I swear.
These two photos are from that Daring Bakers post I mentioned above. I didn’t feel the need to photograph them again this time. I will say, though, that my praline--or brittle--came out darker this time, and not as green, so that’s why the ice cream has no green hue. No matter, because I could still eat the brittle or nut paste as-is. They’re that good. So if you’ve never made a nut brittle or praline paste--try it! Add a new skill to your repertoire and impress yourself, and your friends.