Churn, Baby, Churn: Real Peach Ice Cream

Scoop
Peach ice cream, for real.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg-rich ice cream?

When your tiny, Fibber McGee’s freezer is full of put-up fruits and veggies—and three picked-over chickens—the chicken has to come first. Meaning, it has to come out first.

With those bulky birdframes reduced to two jars of very concentrated stock, there was finally room for my ice-cream maker’s canister, a chunky 5-1/2″ x 7″ cylinder that requires 12 hours in the freezer (with plenty of head- and side-space) before it becomes, itself, an effective freezer.

Early in the season, I’d dabbled in a few of Nigella’s no-churn ice creams, but now it was High Peach Season, and I needed the texture of the real thing.

Chips & dip
Animal crackers + ice cream = chips & dip.

Here’s a well-tested version (I’ve made it at least a dozen times with different fruits) that yields a truly creamy, silky end product but doesn’t require full-on, double-boiler custard production. Admittedly a splurge—it does have less sugar than many ice creams, but it’s long on egg yolks and heavy on the heavy cream—this recipe fills a standard loaf pan. Perfect for sharing with family and friends. Or for a scoop a night for a week, which is about as long as it’ll stay fresh.

Real peach ice cream

This method is a bit of a mash-up, cadging bits from the booklet that came with my Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker, the Williams-Sonoma Ice Cream cookbook, and a page ripped out of dearly departed Gourmet magazine that’s so stained and creased I can’t even tell when it was published. Once you master the base, you can mix in just about any fruit that gives up a bunch of juice during maceration.

  • 2 cups peaches, peeled and diced small (4-6 peaches, depending on size)
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • juice of half a lemon (add a little zest if you’re so inclined)
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • pinch of kosher salt

Prep the fruit

Combine the peaches (I do peel mine, since I’m not a fan of the texture of frozen peach skin), 1/2 cup of the sugar, and the lemon juice/zest in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for several hours and up to overnight. If you think of it, give it a stir every so often so you avoid getting any brown, oxidized bits (those’d be perfectly edible, by the way – just not so pretty).

Peach bits
Get the juices flowing: the liquid’ll go into the custard, and the fruit pieces get churned in at the end.

Make the custard

In a medium saucepan, stir together the cream, milk, salt, and 1/8 cup of sugar. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out as many seeds as you can, and add both the pod and the seeds to the pot. You could, of course, use a splash of vanilla extract instead.

Bring the liquid to a simmer, stirring frequently to ensure the sugar dissolves fully. Remove from heat, cover, and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Whisk the egg yolks and the remaining sugar a couple minutes, until pale.

Temper the yolks by streaming in a ladle-full of the warm cream mixture while you whisk. Once it’s fully incorporated, whisk the yolk-cream mixture back into the remaining pot of cream. It sounds complicated, but it’s not. The scoop of warm liquid raises slightly the temperature of the yolks so you can safely port the eggs into the big, warmer pan without shocking them into a curdle.

Over medium-low heat, stirring vigilantly, cook until the custard thickens. Use a wooden spoon; you’ll know you’re done when the custard coats the back of your spoon such that when you draw your finger across the back of it, the “trail” stays visible for a few seconds. Sorry, I didn’t think to snap a photo of the spoon, but depending on your heat and the size of your pan, this’ll take about five minutes, plus or minus a couple.

Custard chillin'
One quart of pre-ice cream.

Chill

Pack a large bowl with ice. Set a medium bowl inside that, and put a fine-mesh sieve atop the medium bowl. Strain the custard through the sieve. Stir the mixture occasionally so it cools evenly.

Remove the macerated peaches from the fridge, and strain the liquid into the cooled custard. Whisk, and then pour it all into a one-quart mason jar or sealable bowl, and refrigerate for another few hours. Put the peach pieces back in the fridge, too. Most recipes don’t call for that extra chill step, but I find my ice cream maker works best when all the ingredients are very cold.

Churn

Process the chilled custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Toward the end, while it’s still a bit sludgy, add the peach pieces (reserving a few spoonfuls for garnish), and let them churn in for a couple minutes.

Churning
I let mine churn for 20 minutes, adding the peach bits at the 16-minute mark.

Transfer into an airtight container and freeze to harden off. Enjoy within a week.

Ice cream loaf
Makes about a quart, which fills a standard loaf pan.

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