Friday, 26 April 2019

Hazelnut Ice Cream

I've made some very pleasant ice creams over the years but I wanted to write down this particular recipe because quite simply it's the one that I like best (at least, it is this week). On the whole, there's nothing revolutionary or unusual about this recipe. It's essentially a classic, creamy, custard-based ice cream but there are two ingredients that give it the edge: the hazelnut paste and the ice cream stabiliser.

You could use a supermarket hazelnut butter or a hazelnut spread of some kind for this ice cream and it would work very well but using a smooth paste made solely from hazelnuts gives a much better result in my opinion. You can make your own paste if you have a tough blender and a fair bit of patience or you can buy a pure paste that's intended for baking and desserts. Good quality, pure hazelnut paste isn't cheap but it really is worth it for the ultimate flavour. (If you do use a hazelnut butter or spread for this recipe then you may also need to reduce the amount of sugar in the ice cream because they're often sweetened).

The ice cream stabiliser might be a bit more controversial and there are some products available that use a very strange combination of artificial ingredients that I wouldn't touch with a very long barge pole. The product that I use is based on natural extracts that thicken the ice cream a little and prevent the formation of ice crystals. The effect of a small amount of stabiliser is to produce an ice cream that feels silkier and smoother when you eat it. Please treat the instructions on the use of stabiliser here with great caution, though, since all such products seem to have different characteristics and recommendations for use. Always follow the instructions for your particular product. (Of course, if you'd rather not trust any such product, even one based on natural plant extracts, then this recipe will still produce fine ice cream without it).

I've used this ice cream to fill a hollowed out pandoro as well as enjoying it as an affogato or just on its own. As usual with this type of ice cream it's advisable to allow it to soften in the fridge for a while before serving.
Hazelnut Ice Cream
A really cheap and simple ice cream machine, such as one with a freeze-ahead bowl, will be fine for this recipe - that's what I've got - and the amounts given here should fit comfortably into most of the simple machines that I've come across.

4 egg yolks
A generous pinch of vanilla powder or a drop or two of vanilla extract
80 g golden caster sugar
60 g pure hazelnut paste
540 ml whole milk
4 tbsp double cream
50 g skimmed milk powder
(optional) 1 tsp ice cream stabiliser (or the amount recommended on your chosen product)

Put the egg yolks into the bowl of a food mixer with the vanilla powder or extract. Add the sugar and whisk on a high speed until the mixture is pale and increased significantly in volume. Don't rush this stage: you'll probably need to whisk for somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes.

Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan and add the skimmed milk powder and ice cream stabiliser, if you're using it. (Some stabilisers may need to be added to the mix at different times, so check the instructions for your chosen product carefully). Stir thoroughly and bring to a simmer before pouring it into the egg mixture while beating with a wooden or silicone spoon. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, and place on a low heat, stirring continuously, until the custard has thickened slightly. The old test of running a finger along the back of a spoon is still the best. If the line drawn on the spoon stays there rather than closing up, then it's ready. 

Stir in the hazelnut paste and pour the custard into a clean bowl (thin stainless steel is ideal for this cooling stage) and place the bowl in some ice water. Stir the custard until it's cold, cover the surface of the custard with cling film and place in the fridge. Keep in the fridge until the custard is very cold (2 hours or so should be fine). Once thoroughly cold, churn and freeze in the ice cream machine.