Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pistachio Pumpkin Ice Cream Swirl: A dream in the making

If real life were the same as my dreams, my son's school's harvest festival last Friday would have sold sugar cones of this Pistachio Pumpkin Ice Cream Swirl. It would have had a three-legged-race for big people, bobbing for apples for everyone, a portable wood-fire oven for the Autumnal pizza I'm craving (with dried figs and hot pepperoni), and salty, buttered popcorn in wee paper bags. If real life were the same as my dreams, I'd be the master of the Cake Walk (think musical chairs, but with cake!) and I'd have brought a layered pumpkin delight with chocolate glaze. We would have raised a bazillion dollars and get to revamp the school garden and build an outdoor theater space. And Cedar, the kindergartener, would grow up to be the next Michelangelo, or Einstein, or Steinbeck, all because of this ice cream and the races and the layer cake and the wholesome, perfect fun.

Pistachio Pumpkin Ice Cream Swirl, melting in its serving dish

But that isn't quite how things went. The kids had fun, no doubt, but there was none of this ice cream. Instead, there were snow cones, hot dogs, pizza, and nachos - all of which, understand, have their time and their place, in my opinion, but not at the fall festival of my dreams. Also, the obstacle course was only for the kids. And though I brought a rather fabulous offering for the Cake Walk (a plate of homemade raspberry-rose macaron and a blackberry buttercream layer cake), both were seasonally defunct (berries and roses in October?). Truth be told, they were my attempt to clean out the freezer from this summer's edible research. (Don't tell.)

But (!) obviously, even though this ice cream was not present amidst the crowds of sugared-up elementary students and their bewildered, play-hungry parents, it has still churned its way out of my dreams and into reality. Some dreams do manifest. The day is not so cimmerian as I let on. There is hope.

Pistachio Pumpkin Ice Cream Swirl, served

I realize mid-October is not ice-cream weather in most of the northern hemisphere, but these flavors are spot on (like this cake from way back in 2011). What happens with the swirl is a kind of flavor mystification: there is the spice and the pumpkin that sets the tone, and then the pistachio whorls around like a mist. Kevin, who is not exactly palate-sensitive, couldn't make out the distinctions. It was all mole to him, as if the floral quality of the pistachio confused him into thinking it was just a spice, nutmeg's neighbor, perhaps. Tricky.

I did not have the same problem, but I do think I experienced the ice cream in a similar, topsy-turvy way. If we are talking dreams, the pumpkin is an orange sky, the spices the air between, and the pistachio is the clouds floating.

Dreams, indeed. Real life redefined. Enjoy!

Pistachio Pumpkin Ice Cream Swirl

Recipes adapted from David Lebovitz

At least one of the ice creams needs to be freezer-set and stable when you layer them so they don't melt and muddle together prematurely. I found it best to make the swirl over a couple of days. And, because I recommend starting with the pumpkin as a base layer, I recommend you make it first, like I did, and then churning the pistachio when ready to layer. 

For the Pumpkin Ice Cream:

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup cream
1/3 plus 2 tablespoons natural cane sugar
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
big pinch cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 yolks
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon brandy or rum
3/4 cup pumpkin or squash pure, refrigerated

Pour the cream into a medium-sized bowl and set a fine mesh sieve over it. In a separate, small bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Have both of these nearish the stove.

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, natural cane sugar, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt, and set on a medium heat. Stir until the mixture is quite warm, then, whisking the whole time, pour a small amount of the hot milk into the yolks. Keep whisking and add a little more. And so on until the eggs are tempered. Scrape the eggy milk back into the saucepan, set on medium heat, and cook until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon.

Remove from heat and pour through the sieve into the reserved cream. Stir in the brown sugar, and cool by setting the medium bowl of custard over a large bowl of ice water. Stir until completely cool*, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill completely - about eight hours. (Overnight is convenient.)

When your custard is cool, add the vanilla, the booze, and the pumpkin, and churn according to your ice cream maker's manufacturing directions. Transfer to a storage container, and store in the freezer until set, at least four hours.

*This, by the way, takes only a few minutes and keeps a skin from forming over the custard. If you are a skin-lover, skip this step and simply let it cool, then refrigerate. Savor the skin as you like.

For the Pistachio Gelato:

A big little note on the pistachio cream:  Mr. Lebovitz calls for 7 ounces of top-quality pistachio cream, with no less than 40% pistachios, as he should. I found a smaller jar of normal-quality pistachio cream at my local grocery. I approve of the swap. Next time I will try the homemade version, but as with the 4-Layer-Dessert from last year, I am rather addicted to the smooth, uninterrupted texture the store bought variety provides. Proceed accordingly.

2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup natural cane sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
6.3-7 ounces pistachio cream (aka paste), refrigerated
splash of orange lemon juice

Combine 1/4 cup of the milk and the cornstarch in a small bowl. I like how Mr. Lebovitz uses the word "slurry" here. Pour the rest of the milk and the sugar into a medium saucepan. Bring to almost a boil and then whisk in the milky cornstarch slurry. Stir over medium heat until the milk thickens, cool completely (using the above-mentioned ice bath technique) and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

(If you are making the swirl in a two part series, take out the pumpkin ice cream now, before you start to churn your pistachio ice cream, to soften enough for layering.)

Stir in the pistachio cream, add the splash of citrus juice, and freeze according to your ice cream maker's manufacturing directions.

For the Pistachio Pumpkin Ice Cream Swirl

Have at least one of the ice creams at a scoopable softness from the freezer, letting it sit out for at least 10 minutes. The other can be freshly churned.

Start with the pumpkin ice cream and mash/press/spread a layer about 1 1/2 inches thick in the bottom of a container with a lid that will handle the ice cream volume, about 6-8 cups capacity. Then pour and spread the pistachio to make a layer about the same thickness as the pumpkin. Repeat until both ice creams have been used up, taking care not to moosh them together too much. Freeze overnight.

To serve, let it sit out to soften for about ten minutes before scooping. If you want it to appeared swirled, be sure to spoon the ice cream into a ball with a rounded scoop as opposed to an ice cream paddle. Serve naked, on a cone, or in bowls, with more nudity, or maybe with some chocolate sauce. Enjoy! 


  1. I love your harvest festival. I want to plan one with you!

    1. Well, then, we are half way there already!