In the interest of full disclosure, I am sharing the whole story about how this pistachio ice cream came to be. Developing this ice cream recipe has been a couple months in the making. Back when I made the pistachio gelato that kicked off National Ice Cream Month in July my Chief Culinary Consultant tasted it and wasn’t really blown away. And since he is always 100% honest in his reviews of my concoctions (which I totally love since I know when something is REALLY good or still needs work), I know if he tells me my pistachio gelato needs an overhaul to become great pistachio ice cream, I need to head back to the kitchen with my mad scientist cap on. Since pistachio is one of his favorite ice cream flavors, I set out to perfect homemade pistachio ice cream.
I should note that some other people did try the pistachio gelato and liked it. It doesn’t have the same consistency as ice cream and is chock full of finely chopped pistachios so it is different than store-bought pistachio ice cream, so you can use your own judgment based on your personal preferences to determine which you’d like to try. Or try both and come back and let me know what you thought!
Now the problem that I ran into is that I couldn’t actually find many recipes for pistachio ice cream that were what I was looking for. So I set out on creating my own. I knew a few things from the start:
#1: Lots of little chunks of nuts = no good. I needed to get the pistachio flavor in the ice cream without all the ground up nuts in order to preserve a creamy ice cream consistency.
#2: Egg yolks. I knew that using egg yolks as the base of my custard would greatly enhance the texture of the ice cream.
#3: But where are the nuts? Even though I wanted to get rid of the ground nuts we still needed nuts in the recipe because, well, it’s pistachio nut ice cream.
Okay, so here’s how it all came together. I started reading cookbooks and looking at recipes online, even though I knew I wouldn’t use any of them in their entirety. I was looking for how the flavor was developed, and how ingredients and methods were used. I remembered back when I made vanilla ice cream, that the vanilla bean and seeds were steeped in the milk and cream to extract a lot of the flavor. Bingo! I still ground up the pistachios, but then steeped them in the hot milk/cream mixture, and then strained them out so that all of the flavor remained, but the ice cream wasn’t full of ground pistachio chunks. I basically proceeded with the rest of the recipe has I had with the vanilla, adjusting the flavors slightly and then folding in coarsely chopped pistachios at the end.
I am happy to report that I developed a winner. I used this ice cream as the pistachio layer in my Italian spumoni, which also got rave reviews from everyone who tasted it.
1. Grind the 1 1/3 cups of pistachios in a food processor until finely ground, but not to a paste. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup of the cream, and salt, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the ground nuts. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep for at least 30 minutes.
3. Strain the warm nut mixture, pressing on the nuts to extract as much liquid as possible, and discard the solids. Return the milk and cream mixture to the saucepan. Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
4. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Add the vanilla extract and almond extract and stir until combined.
5. Refrigerate until cold. Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. Once finished churning, fold in the ¾ cup pistachios with a rubber spatula.
**You’ll notice this pistachio isn’t bright green like you find in stores. I didn’t use any food coloring, so this is all natural, but you can add a couple drops of green food coloring if you’re looking for a deeper green shade.