Thick and Creamy Cherry Almond Ice Cream

Thick and Creamy Cherry Almond Ice Cream | A Sweet Spoonful
This past week we’ve had quite a heat wave in Seattle. I’ve been getting into the bakery early in the mornings so as to avoid the afternoon heat + hot oven combination, and it turns out the upstairs of our new house is quite a little hot box. I bought some aggressive blinds and a new fan and am hoping both will help cool things down a bit. The wool blanket is in the linen closet for the season, and Sam’s been making iced tea like it’s his job. Summer has arrived! A few nights ago, the thought of actually doing much real cooking seemed a bit overwhelming, so I figured it was time to dig out the ice cream maker and get to work.

I’d wanted to do something with the beautiful strawberries we have in the markets right now, but it seems every time I get a little pint it’s gone before I have the chance. They are just so incredibly sweet, and it seems a shame to do anything other than eat them right out of the container, preferably while sitting on the Moroccan picnic blanket you brought back from honeymoon on the lawn in your new backyard trying not to stress out about the incredible, insurmountable number of weeds. So. Many. Weeds. But cherries: somehow the bag of cherries made it safely through the weekend, so I set about to find a great cherry ice cream recipe. 

Thick and Creamy Cherry Almond Ice Cream | A Sweet Spoonful
When you live in Washington state, the arrival of local cherries can be a pretty exciting thing. We always get California cherries first and they’re sweet and glorious, but the just-picked cherries you can get at our farmers markets beginning in June is something to wait for. This spring and summer, Sam has been working the Sunday farmers market for me (I’ve needed to take a little break), and as I’ve mentioned before, one of the big bonuses of working markets is trading with other vendors at the end of the day. In the winter, this is a little less exciting as the produce is often limited to kale, cabbage and brussels sprouts but in the summer, it can feel overwhelming when thinking about who to trade with: berries? tomatoes? fresh herbs? This past week, it was all about the berries and cherries.

Thick and Creamy Cherry Almond Ice Cream | A Sweet Spoonful
As I was flipping through one of my favorite ice cream “cookbooks” I came across a recipe for a Cherry Almond Ice cream that didn’t rely on extract, but instead had you heat and steep finely ground almonds into the milk to infuse it with flavor. While the process does have a few steps (prep the cherries, infuse the milk, and make the custard base) it was well worth it in the end … and you could do a few of these steps in advance to make life simpler.

Thick and Creamy Cherry Almond Ice Cream | A Sweet Spoonful

Megan’s Notes: I made a few tweaks to the recipe that I’ll quickly mention: The original recipe calls to cook down the cherries in 2 1/4 cups to 1 1/4 cups water. I felt like my cherries were so sweet to begin with and this seemed like a lot of sugar (even though you don’t actually use the syrup in the ice cream recipe itself), so you’ll notice I did end up decreasing the amount of sugar. The only downside to this is that you’re not left with as thick a syrup at the end, so I cooked our syrup down for just a few minutes to thicken it once I’d removed the cherries (I made a few notes for what to do with your leftover syrup at the end of the recipe). Second, because I always buy whole milk, I used it for this recipe and I think 1% really would’ve been more fitting in this case: the fat ratio was HIGH in my version so the ice cream came out super thick and decadent — more like a frozen custard than a light, smooth ice cream. I actually loved the texture, but it’s worth noting that the type of milk you use will greatly impact the texture here (in the recipe below I indicated for you to use 1% as this is what I’ll do the next time around).

I hope your summer is off to a good start, that you’ve made some time in your schedule for ice cream, and that your backyard has far fewer weeds than ours.

Oh! And if you live in Seattle: I’ll be doing a talk and a book signing at the always-amazing Swanson’s Nursery this Saturday June 13th at 10 am. Come join us for a chat on Whole Grain Mornings, summery breakfasts, and how to incorporate more whole grains into your seasonal cooking this year. I hope to see some of you there!

Thick and Creamy Cherry Almond Ice Cream

Thick and Creamy Cherry Almond Ice Cream

  • Yield: About 1 Quart
  • Prep time: 10 mins
  • Cook time: 30 mins
  • Inactive time: 2 hrs 40 mins
  • Total time: 3 hrs 20 mins

The authors of the cookbook note that the type of strainer you use greatly impacts the texture of your ice cream: a regular fine-mesh wire strainer will yield a more rustic ice cream whereas a superfine-mesh strainer like a chinois will give you a very smooth, silky ice cream. Next time I make this, I wouldn’t be opposed to folding in a little chopped dark chocolate — never a bad idea.

Slightly adapted from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones

Ingredients

For the Cherries:

1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups water
1 3/4 cups cherries

For the Base:

3/4 cup whole raw almonds
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup 1% milk (or 2%)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
5 large egg yolks

Instructions

Poach the Cherries:
In a small non reactive saucepan, combine the sugar and the water and bring to a boil over medium heat. When it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, add the cherries, and cook until the cherries are soft and cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let the cherries cool completely in the syrup. Once cool, drain the cherries (save the syrup for other uses*) and squeeze the pits out of the fruit. Chop the cherries into 1/4 inch pieces. Refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

Prepare the Nut-Infused Milk
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread almonds on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. Let cool completely.

Combine the cooled nuts with the 3/4 sugar in a food processor. Pulse until very finely ground (about the consistency of sand). Don’t overprocess or the mixture will become oily.

Transfer the almond mixture to a heavy nonreactive pan and stir in the cream, milk and salt. Heat over medium-high heat until it just begins to bubble around the edges. Remove from heat and cover the pan. Let stand for about 20 minutes, or until a nice almond flavor has infused into the mixture (smell and taste to gauge!)

Make the Base:
In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks just to break them up. Set aside. Place the pan with the cream mixture over medium-high heat. When the mixture comes to a bare simmer, reduce the heat to medium.

Carefully scoop out about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture and, whisking the eggs constantly, add to the bowl with the egg yolks. Repeat, adding another 1/2 cup of the hot cream to the bowl with the yolks. Using a whisk and stirring constantly as you pour, add the egg-cream mixture to the cream mixture in the saucepan.

Cook carefully over medium heat, about 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until it’s thickened enough to coat the back of a spatula and hold a clear path when you run your finger across it. Strain the vase through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container. Set container into an ice water bath, and stir it occasionally until base is cool. Remove container from the ice water bath, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer instructions. While ice cream is churning, put the container you’ll use to store your ice cream into the freezer. Add the chopped cherries at the very end or fold in by hand. Enjoy very soft ice cream right away, or freeze for at least 4 hours for a firmer ice cream.

*Use leftover cherry syrup in cocktails, swirled into club soda, or drizzled over vanilla ice cream.

Comments

  1. Amy

    I'm so making this for Saturday night! A clarification: under "Make the base" the pan you're referring to is the one with the almond/cream/milk mixture, right? After it has done its 20 minute infusion?

    1. megang

      Hi, Amy: Yes, just looked at that wording and it was a tiny bit confusing, so tweaked. Thank you! You are right, you're putting the pan with the cream mixture on the oven and heating to medium ... Enjoy!

  2. Christina @ but i'm hungry

    OH boy, how did you know that I ADORE cherry ice cream!? And I just happen to love almond- anything, so I can't wait to try this! My ice cream maker sure earns its keep in the summer!

  3. Elle

    Are those sweet cherries? I live in tart cherry country so need to know.

    1. megang

      Hi, Elle- Good question. They are. Rainier cherries. I think you could do this with tart cherries though, no? I think it'd be great.

  4. Amy

    Thanks for the clarification. I poached the cherries last night, I'm making the base tonight, will churn tomorrow! My husband is always amazed at much advance notice making ice cream take, but I love the anticipation. We'll be sharing this will friends tomorrow night.

  5. Heather

    This looks so amazing! There are so many ice cream flavors I want to make this summer, and I love seeing everyone's ideas! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Lindsey @ a honey blossom

    This ice cream looks great, and I think you made the right choice for the farmers market swap (berries and cherries for the win, always!). I love that this recipe uses steeped ground almonds instead of almond extract. I often find almond extract to be too strong and overpowering, so this is the perfect solution to still have almond flavor!

  7. Mikelle

    Is it necessary to place the ice cream in the fridge for 2 hours prior to making or can you just put it straight in the ice cream machine if not what is the purpose of putting in the fridge prior to?

    1. megang

      It is necessary as you want the mixture to be very, very cold before putting it into the ice cream maker. ~Megan

  8. Mikelle

    Thanks!

  9. Angela

    Can you not skip a couple of things and use almond milk?

    1. megang

      Hi, Angela- Almond milk will definitely come out different and will be a bit icy. I've never made it with almond milk but sadly it's not a one-for-one substitution. I wish I could tell you otherwise! There is a great chocolate vegan sorbet on the site, and if you search vegan ice cream on The Kitchn, I've done a few recipes using coconut milk that are great. Good luck! ~Megan

  10. D. Gordon

    Hello,

    I saw this recipe mentioned in a list of no bake desserts, but wondered how many calories is this? I'm still trying to locate the original no bake dessert list. If you have any idea where I can locate that list again I would greatly appreciate it. Also, can this be made in an ice cream maker instead of a pan?

    Thank You,
    D. Gordon

    1. megang

      It can be made in an ice cream maker: the directions will tell you how to go about that. And sadly I don't have access to the nutritional information. Enjoy, ~Megan

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