Sunday, July 20, 2014

Toasted almond ice cream & the NYT master recipe

Toasted almond was one of the first ice cream flavors I wanted to make. Just imagine fresh black and tan sundaes at home! TPS didn't have a recipe for toasted almond ice cream, though—just one for toasted almond and candied cherry ice cream. That's a totally different beast.

When a friend pointed me to the New York Times master ice cream recipe, I had to try its toasted almond variant. A friend's birthday request for ice cream gave me the perfect excuse. I decided to also make vanilla three ways: plain, with cookie dough mixins, and with malted milk ball mixins.

The base for the NYT master recipe is similar to TPS's vanilla ice cream base, minus the vanilla, and with a bit less sugar. I'm all for that sugar reduction, as many of TPS's recipes are a little sweet for my taste. Another difference is that TPS uses one less egg yolk in most of its recipes (though not the vanilla). Also, the NYT recipe doesn't bother will cooling off the base quickly: no ice bath, no cup of cream reserved to help cool down the custard.

Considering all this, I made the toasted almond ice cream using the ingredients listed in the NYT recipe but the techniques from TPS (except for reserving the cup of cream, which I plum forgot to do).

The recipe starts with cooking some almonds with sugar, always a dicey proposition, but I managed to do it without burning the almonds or the sugar. (Some almonds did end up very dark, but I culled them. With my mouth.)

The recipe then says to use the same pan to toast more almonds. Right. The pan that has hardening sugar on the verge of burning? I don't think so. I switched to another sauce pan, pouring boiling water into the original pan to clean it out.

The recipe isn't clear about when to steep the flavorings. Maybe the video made it clearer, but I didn't feel like watching it again, and really, you shouldn't have to watch a video in order to follow a recipe. The recipe seemed to say that I should steep the almonds in the cooked custard base, but it seemed weird to leave out hot eggs for an hour. I ended up steeping the almonds the TPS way: in the heated milk-cream-sugar mixture, before adding the eggs.

I was similarly bemused by the vanilla ice cream directions. I seemed to remember the video mentioning one vanilla bean, but the recipe called for two. Expensive! Also, I'd liked TPS's vanilla ice cream flavor, which used one bean and some vanilla extract. So I went completely TPS for the vanilla ice cream recipe, except for reducing the sugar a bit.

Whatever. Both ice creams were delicious.

Each of the 5 people at the birthday celebration had a warm brownie with 2 scoops of ice cream, resulting in the following ice cream distribution:

Toasted almond: 5 scoops
Vanilla with cookie dough: 4
Plain vanilla: 1
Vanilla with malted milk balls: 0

Wait! Here's the perfect excuse to try out the Google visualization API! Voila the distribution, charted:

Make your own pie charts at

Before leaving, I asked the birthday girl if she wanted to keep any of the ice cream, and she opted for the remains of the cookie dough pint.

The "cookie dough", by the way, is made from a TPS recipe. It has very little flour and no eggs—mostly just butter, brown sugar, and chocolate chips. Yum. It usually has a huge amount of nuts, but I omitted them since the birthday girl isn't a huge fan of gilding the lily. (Also, I'd made cookie dough ice cream before, and Nathan had thought that the nuts overwhelmed the dough—although I was very happy with the flavor and crunch.) The recipe makes more cookie dough than you need for an entire batch of ice cream, but it was hard to divide, so we have lots left over that I put in the fridge with a big EAT ME sign.

Other random notes:
  • The vanilla ice cream froze rather hard. I wonder if this was because it was in uninsulated paper containers. Or perhaps it's because we overcooked it a bit, leaving some scrambled eggs in the strainer. (I had an assistant who's a great baker but new to stovetop custards.)
  • The toasted almond ice cream had less cream than the vanilla ice cream but still had a great consistency and was easier to scoop. The nut fat seemed to more than make up for the missing cream. Also, using an insulated container might have helped.
  • Interestingly, TPS's toasted almond (and candied cherry) ice cream doesn't reduce the amount of cream. Wow, that's rich.
  • TPS's recipe includes a whole cup of chopped, toasted almonds as a mixin, instead of half a cup of slivered, caramelized almonds. The caramelized almonds were delicious and subtle, but I want to try the massive amounts of chopped almonds next time.

The remains of the toasted almond ice cream

Still here? Here's the code that drew the chart:

function drawVisualization({
  // Create and populate the data table.
  var data google.visualization.arrayToDataTable([
    ['Flavor''# of eaters'],
    ['Toasted almond'5],
    ['Vanilla with cookie dough'4],
    ['Plain vanilla'1],
    ['Vanilla with malted milk balls'0]

  // Create and draw the visualization.
  new google.visualization.PieChart(document.getElementById('visualization')).
      draw(data{title:"What ice cream did we eat?"is3Dtrue});

(My real job is not making ice cream, but writing about Google APIs. I edited an early version of the charting API docs, and I've always wanted to use them.)

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