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Monday, 9 January 2012

Praline Ice Cream

Just after Christmas my Dad gave me a container of hazelnuts from the tree in his garden, “Apart from eating them as they are we don’t have a way of using them” he said thrusting the container into my hands.

Straight off I thought of making Praline, some to go with chocolates, some to be an ‘added ingredient’ in a crumble topping but mostly in Ice Cream.

After an hour of hot nutcracker action I had around 300 grams of fresh nuts – so much better than the shop bought version which can go rancid during storage – ready for use.

First off they got roasted at 180c until the skins began to peel back. The roasting serves two purposes intensifying the flavour and making skinning them very easy. Once roasted the nuts went onto a clean tea towel and were rolled around until most of the skin had flaked off and golden nuggets of goodness were left.

Mixed with granulated sugar the nuts went on to a low heat in a heavy bottomed saucepan until the sugar melted and turned into caramel. It is important not to stir the pan during caramelisation to avoid re-granulation and to keep an eye on the pan to stop the caramel darkening to much – a dark caramel will taste bitter, not the result you are looking for.

Once all the sugar had melted the pan was shaken a little to ensure that all the nuts were coated and the whole poured onto a Silpat Mat. Baking parchment on a baking tray will achieve the same result and, though some cooks will tell you that this operation should be carried out on top of a marble slab I have never found it necessary

Once cooled the mixture can be peeled off the mat or parchment in one piece and set aside.

Blitz it in a food processor to a dust of your preferred texture and seal in plastic containers.

So, Praline made, it was time to tackle the ice cream.

As a regular visitor to Italy I have a great fondness for Gelato and have made my own for some years. Again it was my Dad who gave me the start with a small ice-cream maker which lasted me about 20 years but which died in the summer. Good though it was ice cream could only be made after the bowl had spent 12 hours in the freezer so to make two flavours was a three day operation.

I took the death of the machine as a sign that I should upgrade to a freezer/churner model, and persuaded Mrs K that she would benefit from nicer textured ice cream and a faster production and that around £250 was only the cost of a decent Magimix. In the end we found an ‘end of season’ bargain, a De Longhi machine reduced from £250 to £70 (barely more than a bowl freezing model).

But I digress.

Some years ago in Dingle I came across Murphys Ice Cream. Two brothers, sons of ex-pat Kerryfolk, left New York to return home and make the best ice cream in the world. This meant using the best cream in the world and none comes better than Kerry Cream – sorry for any offense to residents of Jersey and Guernsey.

Once set up Sean and Kieran opened a small shop in Dingle followed by one in Killarney ( there’s now a Dublin outlet and their ice creams are sold in major retailers and historic buildings too).

It was in Dingle that I first tried their wares and was absolutely blown away by the texture, creaminess and flavour. It may not quite be the best in the world yet (there are many I have still to try) but it is the best ice cream north of Milan!

I could wax lyrical about their sea salt ice cream (made with sea salt distilled by themselves from buckets of water collected in Dingle Bay) the Titanic Banana Split (with chocolate funnels) or the Tasting Plate (several ice creams of your choice and three sauces to mix and match) but this is a serious food blog and gastro-porn is not encouraged.

Luckily the brothers had collected their recipes in the Book of Sweet things which I rapidly purchased and Kieran kindly signed for me.

This is my Ice Cream bible, covering Ice Cream, Gelato, Granite and Sorbets and their accompaniments and is always to hand.

Anyhow, though I do not have Kerry Cream I do have Calon Wen milk, organic, not homogenised and the only milk produced and bottled in Wales, Green Saffron Vanilla and a proper Gelato maker, with home-made Praline this should be a triumph.

Egg yolks and sugar are combined and then milk warmed just to the ‘shivery’ stage is whipped in before being returned to a very low heat and brought up to 73c. The milk is held there for about 3 minutes until the eggs are pasteurised and a silky custard has been made. Heating above 75 degrees will produce sweet scrambled egg so a jam thermometer is a must.

The custard is cooled and the placed in the fridge to come down to 5c and then cream is whipped until it doubles in volume and mixed through before being whipped again. A soft mixture is achieved without the addition of lots of air (the commercial process developed by a research chemist called Margaret Thatcher!) and the whole put into the ice-cream maker and freeze churned for about 20 minutes.

At this point add the Praline, I used 2 dessertspoons, any earlier and it will just sink to the bottom rather than mix through. Churn for another 15 -20 minutes and then put into containers and thus into the freezer. Take out 10 minutes before serving to ensure easy scooping.

So how did it taste?

I asked Mrs K who normally rates things from “Alright” to “Yum”, but on this occasion she remained silent with a beatific smile on her face.

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