25 August 2007
Day 14: Baklava Ice Cream
She's finally gone nuts.
I have found some of the best inspiration for ice cream flavors comes from other desserts, for example, s'mores, cheesecake, and pecan pralines could all make great ice cream flavors. But, it wasn’t until long after I’d brainstormed my ideas and churned many, many batches of ice cream that I thought of baklava ice cream. Surprising because I adore baklava and I’ve eaten more than my fair share of it. I've also gotten to know some of the regional differences in baklava, from Greece, to Turkey, to Lebanon and Tunisia. Though similar, Greek baklava and Arab/Levantine baklava differ in several key ways: Arab baklava uses finely ground nuts, most often pine nuts, pistachios and cashews, and the syrup is simply sugar and water scented with orange blossom water; Greek baklava often has less finely chopped walnuts, and uses honey in the syrup. I generally prefer Arab and Turkish style baklavas, but I knew the sticky-sweet Greek-style would be perfect for turning into an ice cream flavor.
Inspired by the components of Greek baklava, this ice cream has a cinnamon custard base and a crunchy honey-walnut swirl. And yes, it’s just as good as it sounds! I didn’t have any baklava on hand, so I stirred up my own filling mix, but it’s probably easier to crumble purchased baklava into the cinnamon ice cream. I love how the buttery phyllo pieces melt into the ice cream; it’s reminiscent of butter pecan but with the warmth of cinnamon and depth of honey and nuts, I think it's even better. Certainly a keeper.
Baklava Ice Cream
If recipes had subtitles, this one would read "cinnamon ice cream with a honey-walnut crunch swirl," which I think sounds pretty convincing. Although I include a filling recipe, it's easier to just chop up some purchased baklava and fold it into the ice cream.
for the cinnamon ice cream:
2 cups milk
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
1 cup heavy cream
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
for the honey-walnut-crunch swirl:
1 cup chopped walnuts
4 sheets of fillo dough
6 tbl melted butter, divided use
2 tbl brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup honey
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring milk and cinnamon sticks to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then remove from heat and let steep, covered, 30 minutes.
2. While milk steeps, make nut swirl. Place the walnuts, cinnamon, and brown sugar in a bowl and toss together, drizzle in 2 tbl of melted butter and toss to coat. Working quickly, brush each sheet of fillo with some of the remaining melted butter and stack the fillo sheets on top of one another, fold the stack in half long-ways and brush again with melted butter. Cut the fillo sheets into small strips, match-stick size. Toss the fillo strips with the walnut mixture and spread on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake the mixture until the walnuts are toasted and the fillo pieces are crisp but not burned, about 10-15 minutes. Put the nut mixture in a bowl and fold in the honey. Set aside.
3. Meanwhile, strain the milk and discard the cinnamon sticks. Whisk together egg yolks, granulated sugar, and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Return milk to a simmer, then add half of the milk to yolk mixture in a slow stream, whisking until combined well. Add yolk mixture in a slow stream back to milk in saucepan, whisking, then cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not let it boil or it will curdle.
4. Remove from heat and immeditaely stir in cream, then pour custard through fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl. Quick-chill custard by setting bowl into a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stirring occasionally until cold, about 15 minutes. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.
5. Freeze custard in ice cream maker until almost firm. At the last minute of churning, dollop the nut mixture into ice cream (if using purchased baklava, chop it up and fold it in here). Transfer to an airtight container and store in the freezer.
Serving:Don’t be dissuaded by the title, the scent of cinnamon and honey mean that this ice cream pairs perfectly with apple pie or some sautéed apples.