Maple Walnut Ice Cream (our turn)

Well, we promised that we would try to make this delicious Maine dessert once we returned, and this weekend we think we may have pulled it off.

DISCLAIMER: Learning to make ice cream at home is dangerous.  And we don’t mean in the cut yourself kind of way.

This was our first time making ice cream, so we did a little bit of research.  There are tons of websites out there with tips and recipes, like Smitten Kitchen, from which we borrowed some of our ideas.  There are also great books, like David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop, which inspired the details of our method.  In the end, our recipe ended up being a hodge-podge of ideas from these two sources and many others that we can’t even remember.

We also learned that there are two basic types of ice cream: Philadelphia-style and French-style, the latter of which is a custard-based ice cream, adding eggs as emulsifiers to give a smoother, creamier texture.  The ice cream we made was a custard-based ice cream.

It’s also worth saying a word about the Maple Syrup we used.  Pure Maple Syrup comes as either “Grade A” or “Grade B.”  Most of the recipes we saw on the internet that used Maple Syrup called for “Grade B,” to which bit of information we of course responded, “Well, we don’t settle for second best in the shoe box – we’re gonna use Grade A.”

However, what we learned is that the Grade of Maple Syrup has nothing to do with the quality, but rather when during the season the syrup was harvested.  Grade A syrups tend to be lighter in color with a milder flavor while Grade B syrups tend to be darker and robust in flavor.  To pack the maple flavor without having to overdue the sweetness, Grade B works best in cooking applications.

So, here we go:

Maple Walnut Ice Cream

  • 1.5 cups heavy cream
  • 1.5 cups whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 cup Grade B Maple Syrup (reduced to 3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts

Toast the walnuts in a pan under the broiler for about 5 minutes, or until you smell them and see the juices start to sizzle out of a few of them.  Chop down to the size of a large chocolate chip, then set aside.

Next, pour 1 cup of the Grade B Maple Syrup into a sauce pan and simmer over medium-high heat to reduce to 3/4 cup.  Set aside.

Now for the custard.  Okay.  There are lots of methods out there for making a custard successfully without ending up with scrambled egg milk.  Rather than talking about them all, we’ll just tell you what worked for us, pretty easily and repeatably (we made two test batches of custard).   Just a note: we used temperatures, some folks use sights and smells.  So to follow our recipe you’ll need a candy or instant read thermometer.

Also, there won’t be a lot of pictures of the process (sorry) – everything is very time/temperature sensitive and we were willing to sacrifice photos for a successful custard.

First, prepare an ice bath using two mixing bowls, one of which is slightly smaller than the other.  Fill the larger bowl with two ice trays of ice and about half-way with water.  Place the smaller bowl inside the larger bowl (a picture of this will be shown further down).

Pour the heavy cream and whole milk into a large saucepan and start heating over medium heat.

While the cream/milk mixture is heating, separate the four egg yolks into a mixing bowl.

Beat the yolks until they turn a pale yellow color, about 3-4 minutes.

Now, once the cream/milk mixture has started to steam, add the syrup and salt, and stir well.  Keep heating the mixture, stirring occasionally, until an instant read thermometer indicates 175 degrees.  At this point, remove the saucepan from the heat and remove about a shot glass amount of the mixture and pour slowly into the egg yolks while stirring continuously and vigorously.  Once well mixed, pour the now-diluted egg yolks into the cream/milk saucepan slowly while stirring continuously and vigorously.  Place the saucepan back over medium heat and continue to stir the mixture until an instant read thermometer indicates 180 degrees.  Immediately remove the saucepan from the stove and pour the mixture into the bowl that is sitting in the ice bath, continuing to stir the mixture in the new bowl.

We stirred the custard until it was cooled to about room temperature, then we poured it through a fine mesh into a new bowl.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 24 hours (we left it in the fridge overnight).

The next day, we placed the bowl of custard in the freezer for about 5 minutes to cool it down just a bit more, then poured it into our borrowed Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker (thanks, Wamsteds).  We then just let the ice cream maker do it’s job for about 25 minutes, at which point we added the chopped, roasted walnuts, and then let the ice cream churn for another 2-3 minutes, just long enough to incorporate the walnuts.

This was the hard part.  The ice cream is still pretty soft at this point.  Of course we tasted it (yum!), but we had to scoop it into another container and put it back in the freezer to fully harden.  One of us was REALLY impatient at this point, ready to stage the final photo.  But we managed to wait until the next day so the ice cream would scoop perfectly.

This was the moment we had been waiting for.  Just look at that creamy deliciousness.

We served it first in a bowl – with blueberries, of course.

Then we just had to put a couple of scoops on a sugar cone.

How did we do?  We have to admit, we were really pleased with this first attempt at homemade ice cream.  The maple flavor was deep and intriguing, inviting you back for another bite, then another.  The occasional roasted walnut added just the right amount of saltiness.  And the texture . . . very smooth and creamy – so different from the Philadelphia style we were more used to eating out of a home churn.

Try this.  You won’t be sorry.  The custard is at first a bit intimidating, but seriously, if we can do it the first two tries without a hitch (and we can’t even poach an egg), then you can too.

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9 Responses to Maple Walnut Ice Cream (our turn)

  1. How stunning is this? I especially love the photos with the blueberries! Superb

  2. cookbookchick says:

    Looks wonderful, but how did the roasted walnuts add “just the right amount of saltiness”? They were not salted walnuts, were they?

  3. Good comment, cookbookchick. Something about roasting the walnuts adds a more complex flavor to them – maybe it’s not exactly “saltiness” but it’s certainly a similar taste bud stimulation. Perhaps our brain is just associating “nutty” flavors with salt.

    So you’re right – there was probably a better way to describe the contribution of the roasted walnuts. Maybe we should have just left it as “walnuts add a nice texture.” 😉

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  8. i have made many batches of cuisinart ice cream. i always google a recipe and go from there. i chose yours. i haven’t made it to completion yet to see how it is, but i felt compelled to suggest you rewrite your recipe. i would like to suggest that you omit the toasting of the walnuts from the beginning of the process and re-insert at the 3 hour or 24 hour point in which your custard is cooling. despite having mis en place in order, i burnt all the walnuts i had while dealing with the pot and maple syrup, milk and egg yolks. then i burnt all the pecans i had. we will settle for maple ice cream. hope this suggestion helps.

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