Chestnut Ice Cream
Posted December 16, 2009on:
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire….”
You can finish the rest, I’m sure! This ice cream might seem unconventional to anyone from America, but it’s a staple in France and all over Europe. Sweetened chestnuts in desserts in general are very common in the old country. And for good reason- they taste delicious! I wasn’t sure how this ice cream was going to taste but I ended up loving it. It ended up being an interesting, sweet and nutty flavored ice cream with great Chestnut flavor. Chestnuts are also so deeply evocative of the Christmas season. They spark warm memories of Christmas eves spent by the fireplace singing Christmas carols- even if those memories never happened! It’s just the perfect ice cream flavor for Christmas.
I recently found out a interesting piece of history on chestnuts in America. The reason why they are so ubiquitous in Europe and foreign here is that in the early 1900’s there was chestnut blight that effectively wiped out every American chestnut tree. The blight was accidentally introduced through imported chestnut lumber and by 1940 there were no surviving chestnut trees left. If the blight hadn’t happened, who knows, chestnuts might be as popular here as they are in England, Italy and France. In fact, when looking at recipes from before the blight, chestnuts were a commonplace ingredient.
This recipe calls for pureed, unsweetened chestnuts which can be a bit of a devil to locate. I found mine at a specialty food store. I’m pretty sure they carry them at Whole Foods, so you should check them out too. I’d used marrons glaces, or candied chestnuts, previously when making this recipe, but comparing the two I prefer the use of the unsweetened puree. I think it gave the ice cream a stronger and cleaner Chestnut flavor while allowing me to be in control of the sweetness levels.
This ice cream flavor surprised me by really standing out as one of my favorite flavors. I think I’m going to have to make it a new Christmas tradition, actually. I also think I might start cooking with chestnuts more in both sweet and savory applications. It’s flavor you just have to try for yourself, and what better time than Christmas!
Chestnut Ice Cream
1 ½ cups whole milk
1 ½ cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
¾ cup unsweetened chestnut puree
1 tablespoon rum
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1.) Combine heavy cream and milk in a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Heat until bubbles appear near the rim of the saucepan and steam begins to rinse, but do not let it boil.
2.) Meanwhile whisk the egg yolks together in a large bowl and gradually add the sugar. Whisk the mixture until the yolks look fluffy and turn a pale yellow color.
3.) All the while whisking the egg yolk mixture, slowly and gradually add milk mixture and when fully emulsified, pour the mixture back into the medium saucepan. Over low heat constantly mix the base with a spatula or wooden spoon until it thickens slightly and can coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 5-7 minutes.
4.) Immediately remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Add the pinch of salt and chestnut puree and puree until smooth in blender, making sure lid is on very tight. Transfer to a bowl and add rum and vanilla extract, refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Freeze according to your ice cream machine’s instructions. Enjoy!
Make it a sundae!
If you’ve never tried chocolate and chestnuts together than you’re in for a great treat! It’s a classic combination that’s a Christmas tradition in many European countries. Try this ice cream with this delicious Salted Milk Chocolate Sauce from Food and Wine Magazine and Chef Matthew Rice:
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup high quality milk-chocolate chips, such as Ghiradelli or Scharffen Berger
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, such as Maldon
1.) Make the milk-chocolate sauce: In a small saucepan, bring the brown sugar, corn syrup, heavy cream and cocoa powder to a simmer. Cook over moderately high heat until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Stir in the chocolate chips and vanilla until smooth. Pour the sauce into a small pitcher and let stand until cooled slightly, about 30 minutes. Stir in the salt just before serving.
Lighten up!– To lighten this recipe you could easily convert this recipe into a gelato by reducing the heavy cream to a ¼ cup and filling the rest in with whole milk.