Once upon a time, I used go to my best friend's country house and spend long, winter weekends with her and her family and their dogs, horses, and cats. She had her driver's license and that was a really big deal. Going to Walmart alone? Even bigger. We watched a lot of movies. We did each other's hair. Her mom was an amazing cook. She and I made french fries together.
All of these memories, and so many more, erupt in my mind in true tsunami-style every time I smell almond extract.
My best friend's mom loved this almond-scented candle that Yankee Candle sold (back when Yankee Candles were still popular), and, for that very special reason, so did I. Their house always smelled like almond cookies. I burnt said candle in my room for years, until it was discontinued and I was forced to hold on to my last, burnt-out jar for six years. It was my way of keeping a grasp upon those dear memories.
I threw that candle away recently.
I have been concerned about my manic nostalgia.
I already have so many memory boxes at twenty-three years of age, and I would like to avoid reaching hoarder status before forty-five.
Though I finally parted with the jar, the memories of those beloved days gone by did not accompany it to the rubbish bin. Each time I pop open my little bottle of almond extract, I am transported, and my romantic mind likes to believe that I always will be.
I cannot say whether my infatuation with almond flavoring is a product of those candle-related memories, or simply a coincidence, but regardless of its roots, I adore it.
My love affair with all things almond is consumated in this obnoxiously over-the-top ice cream. We are getting our almond fix in four different ways! Yep, four.
Here is the run down.
Almond paste - homemade, because we're fancy.
Almond extract - you saw that coming.
Amaretto - not only does it give us an extra special almond kick, the alcohol will keep your ice cream soft and scoop-able.
Candied almonds - a bit of crunch with our creamy.
The result is an unmistakably almond and perpetually soft-serve ice cream that is studded with the most wonderful crunchy bits of sugary almonds. This ice cream is essentially the Mona Lisa to almond lovers.
If that metaphor makes no sense whatsoever, feel free to keep scrolling. If it speaks to your heart, email me because we should probably be friends.
This might just be better than my dearly departed almond candle.
Now I know what you are thinking, and yes, it is February, and we are all hiding under blankets and snuggling by fireplaces. But this...this is something worth shivering for.
So here's an ice cream cone. Because I love you.
QUADRUPLE ALMOND CRUNCH ICE CREAM
makes about 1 quart / recipe adapted from The Ultimate Ice Cream Book
FOR THE CANDIED ALMONDS
- 6 ounces raw almonds
- 1 large egg white
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine egg white and water in a medium mixing bowl and beat on high speed with an electric mixer until thick and frothy, but not stiff. Toss the almonds in the egg mixture and use a spatula to coat thoroughly.
In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, salt, and spices. Pour the sugar mixture over the coated almonds and toss to combine.
Spread the almonds out evenly onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10. Allow the nuts to cool completely. Store in a zip-top bag until ready to use.
FOR THE ALMOND PASTE
- 2 1/2 cups raw, unsalted almonds
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 cup + 1 tablespoon filtered water
- 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
Place almonds in a medium mixing bowl and bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan. Pour the boiling water over the almonds and allow to sit for 2 minutes. Drain the almonds and allow to cool just slightly.
Using the tips of your fingers, gently pinch each almond out of its skin. This will be easier than it sounds as the skins will have loosened after the boiling water bath.
After all the almonds have been skinned, transfer them to your blender. Combine honey and 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon of water in a small saucepan and place over medium heat; bring to a boil. Pour the boiling honey mixture over the blanched almonds and blend until it forms a very smooth, thick paste. Blend in butter and almond extract and pulse until smooth.
Transfer the paste to a large mixing bowl and use an electric mixer to slowly incorporate the confectioner’s sugar.
Transfer the paste to an airtight container and refrigerate until cool and stiff.
Cook's Note: This recipe will make far more than you will need for the ice cream, but will last several weeks in the refrigerator and can be used in cookies, cakes, or these amazing croissants!
FOR THE ICE CREAM
- 7 ounces homemade almond paste (recipe above)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups half & half
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 cup amaretto
- 1 heaping cup of candied almonds (recipe above)
Combine almond paste and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Mix in almond extract and kosher salt.
Pour half & half into a 3-quart saucepan and place over medium high heat; bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.
With the mixer on low speed, slowly stream the hot half & half into the egg mixture, tempering the eggs. Pour all of the contents into the saucepan and set over low heat. Heat the mixture, stirring constantly, until it has thickened slightly and reads at 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.
Cook's Note: This step is likely the most crucial as it can make or break your custard base. It is really, really important that you keep a spoon or whisk moving around in that pot every second to keep the heat even and the mixture moving. If the mixture is allowed to boil, the eggs will scramble. To test the custard, dip a spoon into the mixture and run your finger down the center of the spoon. If the mixture stays in place and the line remains clear, your work is done!
Set a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and pour the custard through the strainer. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before stirring in the heavy cream and amaretto. Cover with plastic wrap and chill the mixture in the refrigerator overnight, or until very cold.
Prepare in an ice cream maker according to your manufacturer's directions. After the ice cream has churned, fold in candied almonds. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until solid.
Now, we eat! Enjoy!