In a past life, and by that I mean at my last job, I worked with a woman, let’s call her Ann, who would make, on a person’s birthday, his or her very favorite dessert in the world.
My favorite dessert in the world is not pistachio ice cream. My co-worker’s, however, was. Let’s call him Peter for convenience sake. Peter is how I became introduced to the world of homemade ice cream.
On Peter’s birthday, Ann brought a huge tupperware container of pistachio ice cream into the office along with homemade chocolate sauce. They were unimaginably wonderful, the ice cream especially, and a whole other dimension of how amazing food can be was revealed to me. I liked the stuff even more than Peter, so much so that for about a month after the day he was initiated into his 27th year (and I was initiated to homemade ice cream), I would sneak into the office kitchen late in the afternoon and serve myself a small bowl of the leftovers that Ann had conveniently forgotten in the freezer because she was on to me.
Once, she walked in on me in the middle of this devious act, and informed me that the chocolate sauce was sitting in the upper shelf of the fridge and I could help myself to it if I pleased. She then proceeded to heat it up in the microwave and ladle it onto my ice cream and after that day, I unabashedly claimed what was mine: (by then) freezer-burned pistachio ice cream.
All of this is of course to say that I never did get that ice cream out of my mind. The taste has haunted me for ages, but due to not having access to an ice cream machine (or a kitchen even. I quit my job shortly after and spent the next half year traveling), pistachio ice cream has been out of reach.
So how did my attempt to replicate Ann’s mind-blowing ice cream hold up? It was… a SUCCESS. The pistachio flavor is strong, but it’s tempered by the cream so that the combination is sensual, not too sweet. My ‘buds are fondled ever so smoothly—”hey baby,” the ice cream goes as it melts in my mouth. I also love its color, soft brown with the barest touch of green, and its texture, which is ever so speckled with pistachio dust. (Of course, that’s completely up to the maker—if you like your ice cream chunky, go for it. I’ve always been a smooth peanut butter kind of girl.) In short, this is the best homemade ice cream I’ve ever made.
PISTACHIO ICE CREAM
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes 3-1/2 cups
1 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Optional: 1/2 cup roughly chopped pistachios
Finely grind pistachios in a food processor with 1/4 cup sugar (but not too finely unless you want a lot of granules in your ice cream). Combine this mix and the milk in a large heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and mix in vanilla extract and salt.
Whisk egg yolks and remaining half cup of sugar in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in about 3/4 cup of the hot milk mixture. (the point of this is that you want to slowly heat the egg mixture to the same temperature as the milk mixture so that the eggs don’t cook when you add them fully to the milk mixture.) Stir the now warm egg mixture into the saucepan, turn the heat back on to low and add the heavy whipping cream. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens (a path should be left behind when you draw your finger across the back of the spoon). Don’t let it boil.
Strain the custard through a sieve (and save the ground pistachios! They make a great topping for anything breakfast-y like yogurt or pancakes). Chill overnight if possible, but at least 2 hours.
Pour the custard into your ice cream machine. If you wish, add the chopped pistachios into the machine in the last 5 minutes of churning. Freeze it further in a container in your freezer until it’s at the consistency you like.