Sometimes I don’t know what the heck to cook, and other times I have all these ideas for recipes floating around in my head. Last week, there was one I couldn’t wait to make: Vanilla ice cream with The Fresh Market’s almond pillow cookies as mix-ins.
Those almond pillow cookies are my nemesis. I bought one box to leave on the counter for my family and me to inhale, and I crumbled the other box up and put them in the freezer so they’d be there when I was ready for them.
Well, if you follow me on Twitter, you may already know that frozen almond pillow crumbles are really, really good.
So the day I’m finally ready to give this almond ice cream recipe a try, I drove to my local Fresh Market only to discover…they were out of almond pillow cookies! This was a tragedy, to be sure, but I wasn’t going to give up. I decided that, instead of using pillow cookies as a stir-in, I’d use frangipane, an almond cream filling that has a suspiciously similar texture to whatever’s inside those addictive almond pillow cookies.
My recipe for almond ice cream
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 mini bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream (optional: I just happened to have one sitting around)
- 1 tbsp almond extract
- I vanilla bean
- Pinch of salt
- I cup frangipane (I used almond flour instead of almond meal)
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- Heat the sweetened condensed milk, the cream, the half-and-half, the sugar, the brown sugar, the Bailey’s (if using), 1 tbsp. almond extract, and a pinch of salt in a heavy pan. I always use one of my Le Creuset pans, which are made of cast iron covered with enamel. I’m head-over-heels in love with my “Le Crusties,” as my daughter nicknamed them, but they are kind of pricey. Their main competitor is Staub, and there are also more affordable lines of enamel-coated cast iron cookware, like Lodge. Whatever cookware you use, don’t let the mixture boil! A few bubbles around the edges is OK, but nothing more than that.
- As the mixture begins to heat, slice open the vanilla bean, scrape out as many of the seeds as you can, and add both the seeds and the pod itself to the cream mixture.
- In the meantime, beat 6 egg yolks in a small bowl. (I use this handy gadget to separate the eggs, and it’s so much cleaner than trying to separate them by hand!)
- A little bit at a time, ladle about a third of the warm cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. (For you food enthusiasts, this is called “proofing,” and it keeps the hot cream from cooking the egg yolks.)
- Add the egg mixture back into the pan with the remaining cream mixture. Cook and stir until you can see a path when you drag a spatula or spoon across the top — or, if you have a candy thermometer, until it reaches 175°. (This is the one I own, since it can be used for a lot more things than candy!) And don’t walk away to do something else “just for a second”; curdling can happen quickly.
- At this point, most recipes say to press the mixture through a strainer into another bowl. Unless there’s been some curdling, I skip the strainer part and just put it in another bowl with a lid.
- Most recipes also say to put the bowl in an ice bath, but I just put it in a bowl with a lid and put in in the freezer for a couple of hours. Just give yourself enough time to soften it up a bit before you churn it.
- Now comes the fun part: Put the mixture in your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s directions.
- Transfer the churned ice cream from your ice cream maker to a bowl with a lid (I usually put it back in the same bowl I stored it in, since the mixture was already cooked at the point and you don’t have to worry about cross contamination.)
- If you have any of Fresh Market’s almond pillow cookies, crumble them up and stir them right in. If you don’t, stir in 1 cup of frangipane. Or, if you’re feeling really decadent, do both!
- If you like soft serve, you can go ahead and grab your ice cream scoop. If not, put the ice cream in the freezer until it’s your desired consistency.
Ice cream is different from most desserts. Baking is all about chemistry and food science, and you don’t have a lot of room to experiment. With ice cream however, you have lots of room to be creative. If you’re not happy with the “mouth feel,” you can juggle the amount of fat in a recipe by experimenting with different amounts of cream or milk. If you think it’s too sweet, stir in some salted caramel sauce.
It may seem weird to suggest that you may not love my recipe for almond ice cream, and, yeah, it would be great if you love it just as it is. But what I would love even more is for everybody to take away a strong enough understanding of what gives ice cream its different qualities to experiment on your own. (And, personal preferences aside, I don’t know to what degree Sjogren’s Syndrome has affected my taste buds.)
So, if you love ice cream half as much as I do, give this recipe a try. And I welcome feedback, so please use the comments section to tell me what worked and what didn’t.
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