18 August 2007
Day 7: Quince Ice Cream with Almond Praline
The idea for this ice cream came from a traditional Lebanese ice cream, which I’ve reinterpreted with a Spanish theme. Throughout the Middle East you’ll find a thick apricot fruit leather called qamr al-deen, which literally translates as “moon of the religion.” The apricot paste is used in all kinds of desserts, most often wrapped around marzipan or paired with nuts, and it even finds it’s way into a classic Lebanese ice cream.
I was inspired to recreate this ice cream using Spanish ingredients: rather than the apricot paste, I used membrillo, a Spanish quince paste. Membrillo is the Spanish word for quince, a remarkable fruit that is inedibly hard and astringent when raw, and turns a wonderfully deep orange color when cooked. It is called marmelo in Portuguese (the root of the word marmelade) and sfarjel in Arabic, and is often made into a paste (dulce de mebrillo) that can be sliced and served with manchego cheese. In this dessert, the quince paste is dissolved in the milk, giving the ice cream a lovely orange hue (the color was actually so bright I was suspicious the quince paste I used had dye in it). Instead of the traditional orange blossom water and pine nuts in the Lebanese version, I flavored the ice cream with sherry and speckled it with crunchy almonds. The result came out beautifully, and would be a perfect ending to a tapas party, or really, anytime you feel like making ice cream.
Quince Ice Cream with Almond Praline
Inspired by Spanish flavors, this ice cream is made with the sweet quince paste known as dulce de mebrillo. Look for membrillo next to the gourmet cheeses or in flat tins in the Latin foods section of your grocery. Though you can make it with heavy cream, I think it's best when made with creme fraiche, and you'll find directions for making your own below.
1 1/2 cups whole milk
8 oz membrillo (quince paste), chopped into small pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups creme fraiche* or heavy cream
2-3 tbl sherry
for the almond praline:
2/3 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
pinch sea salt
1. Place the milk and sugar in a saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring so the sugar dissolves. When the milk mixture just begins to boil remove it from the heat and stir for a minute to allow it to cool slightly (do not pour the boiling milk directly over the quince paste or it may curdle). Pour the warm milk over the quince paste in a bowl. Stir the mixture gently until the quince paste has melted completely, this may take several minutes. Stir in the creme fraiche and the sherry. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, at least 3 hours or overnight.
2. Meanwhile make the almond praline: Prepare a greased foil-lined baking sheet. Place the almonds, sugar, water and salt in a saucepan and cook over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture boils. Lower the heat slightly and continue to cook. The mixture will become granular and you’ll think you’ve done something terribly wrong. Fear not. Continue to cook until the sugar melts again, gently stirring it from the edges. When all the sugar has melted again (but before it burns), tip the almond praline out onto the prepared baking sheet. Allow to cool completely, then break into pieces.
3. Churn the ice cream in your machine according to the manufacturer’s directions, then fold in the almond praline (you can reserve a few for garnish if you’d like). Pack into containers and freeze until serving.
*To make homemade creme fraiche: In a bowl, combine 1 cup heavy cream and 2 tablespoons buttermilk. Cover with a clean kitchen cloth in a warm, draft-free place and let sit until thickened, but still a pourable consistency, 12 to 16 hours. Stir and refrigerate until ready to use. (Can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.)
Perfect Pairing: Make a manchego or mahon cheese ice cream to go alongside for a classic combination.
More on membrillo:
Homemade Dulce de Membrillo