Homemade Hazelnut Kahlua Ice Cream

Homemade Hazelnut Ice Cream | Carla Gabriel GarciaOnce upon a time, I toted business cards that proclaimed me an “ice cream making enthusiast.” Never mind that I had only just recently purchased a $5 used ice cream maker from Goodwill and had no idea where to start my journey besides in a direction away from my very first attempt: an unpleasantly icy, rock-hard (yet well-meaning) mess that according to the perfect picture in Kinfolk magazine should have more closely resembled a light-bodied lemon-y treat.

What I really dreamed of churning out were creamy, fragrant and flavor-filled scoops à la Ici (quite possibly the most beautiful little ice cream shop ever come to life) and handing them out to admiring and appreciative friends. And me eating a good chunk of the loot too.

I can’t exactly remember if it was because I played the Six Degrees of Chez Panisse game (Ici’s founder Mary Canales is an alum) or I was Googling Paris (or food blogs, both regular activities), but I eventually found David Lebovitz and his cookbook The Perfect Scoop–now my ice cream-making bible. I’ve been jumping around the table of contents over the last year or so to modest results. Then I kind of got tired of washing out a bunch of utensils and the hefty ice cream bowl and the whole operation went into hibernation for several months.

Well folks, this week I threw caution to that fierce San Francisco wind and decided to have another go at it, because it’s summer somewhere in the country, which got me thinking about Italian vacations, which naturally led to gelato fantasies, and…hey I have an ice cream maker!

Note that this is a story about ice cream, not gelato, because although David led me down a delicious path with his Gianduja Gelato recipe, what resulted was not quite gelato, if one is being just a little purist about it. The amount of eggs used as well as the milk-to-cream proportions should have tipped me off (if only I had looked this up beforehand), but no matter. I am calling it a win and immortalizing it in my personal recipe book. Oh, which happens to be this blog. So here goes:

A Carefree, Boozy Version of David Lebovitz’ Hazelnut Gelato

Ingredients:

(for about 1 quart of ice cream)

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar (originally 3/4 cup, I toned it down as I would be adding in pre-sweetened hazelnut spread)
  • 1/4 tsp. coarse salt
  • 3 oz. hazelnut spread (this was my lazy bum substitution for David’s more sophisticated call to soak ground hazelnuts in milk and melt some fine chocolate down)
  • 5 large egg yolks (I followed this to the letter, but you can tone it down to 4 because this ended up being pretty “custard-forward”)
  • 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract (I never omit this…if no other flavors really “take,” at least you will have a base of good vanilla ice cream)
  • 3 tbsp. Kahlua (because I like to booze it up…and I thought the coffee flavor would contribute some subtle complexity)
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted hazelnuts (I got a self-serve bag at Whole Foods–I just used them as toppings instead of doing the whole milk-soak thing as David suggests, so it’s up to you how much you want to include)

Procedure:

  1. Most ice cream recipes do not start off like this, but I just want you to be super prepared in case you’ve never attempted homemade ice cream before. Making sure that your ice cream machine’s bowl has been in your freezer at least overnight is actually Step Zero. Step One is getting your ice bath ready NOW. Do not wait until you have an almost-boiling custard that needs to cool down IMMEDIATELY for you to throw a bunch of ice in a big glass or metal bowl and fill it with water.
  2. Okay, now you can warm up (don’t boil) the milk and half the cream (1 cup) in a saucepan to dissolve the sugar and salt. While that’s going, whisk 5 (or 4) egg yolks in a bowl.
  3. Temper the yolks with just a spoonful of warmed milk-cream mixture, whisk to combine, then add some more little by little until all of the warm mixture has been transferred into the yolks. Then put the whole thing back into the saucepan and heat up on very low heat once again, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until it thickens (takes me about 8 minutes, but could take you less or more. Keep an eye on it! If you have to ask if it’s thick enough, it’s not. Be patient and keep stirring.)
  4. Take just a few seconds to pour the rest of the cream (remaining 1 cup) into the bowl that used to hold the yolks. Now if you’re a total stickler and can stand to wash an extra bowl, by all means use a new bowl for the cream. But I’ve been totally fine with reusing what’s already there.
  5. Once your thickened milk-cream-yolks custard batter is ready, pour it through a strainer (do NOT skip this part, you will be aghast at how much of the egg turned into a scramble despite your diligent stirring) into the cold cream and mix together over the ice bath you so forward-thinkingly prepared in Step One. You want that mixture to stop cooking pronto.
  6. After about 15 minutes or so the mixture should have cooled down a bit. Scoop out 3 oz. of hazelnut spread and whisk it in. Just take a moment and smell that. Then add in the vanilla extract and 1 tbsp. of Kahlua or other coffee liqueur, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge for a good few hours. Trust me, you do not want room-temperature ice cream base in your ice cream maker–that stuff needs to chill.
  7. Finally, the easy part. Assemble your ice cream machine (my frozen bowl needs to attach to the motor and pouring lid) and grab your refrigerated base. Turn your machine on before pouring in any liquid as I’ve been told some machines can start freezing immediately and prevent your paddle from turning properly. Add a little bit of base and take pleasure in watching the paddle go round and round (kind of like staring at the clothes washer–wait, does nobody else do this?) and slowly turn your goop into a chunks of frozen goodness. About 20 minutes in, add up to 2 tbsp. of Kahlua. I let it go for the full 40-minute cycle, but you can stop it at 25 or 30 minutes if you want less air/more gelato-style. In either case, I would still give it a good freezing for at least 4 hours (or even better, overnight, if you can wait that long–I’m not a soft-serve kind of person so I do). Take the extra step of putting a layer of parchment paper or cling wrap between your container and lid to keep icy air out.
  8. Scoop and enjoy with chopped/pounded hazelnuts! Rejoice!

I’ll have to try this without touching the ice cream machine at all and see what happens with just sticking it in the freezer, though I suspect it would be a lot more on the popsicle side of the hardness spectrum if I didn’t whip at least some air in. I’m also still on the quest to perfect gelato–the real dense, chewy stuff–which I’ll probably do with fruit since the lower creaminess of gelato really allows that kind of delicate flavor to shine through. Let me know in the Comments if you have any questions or ideas for further exploration!

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