Maple walnut ice cream (no chunks!)

The other day I tasked my husband with buying “Organic Grade B Maple Syrup, but only if you can find it for cheap,” and he came home with this enormous jug for something like $12. Yahtzee! Clearly, I needed to use it for everything. Including ice cream. But while maple walnut was the first obvious choice, I wasn’t so sure about that…

See, thanks to growing up with my nut-obsessed dad, I finally developed a taste for the flavor of nuts, even though I didn’t care for the texture as a kid. I’ve figured out how to tolerate the texture as a grown-up  — both the texture of nuts themselves, and the fact that chunks of nut would ruin for me the texture of an otherwise perfectly creamy and smooth dessert (think fudge or ice cream). However, I generally prefer to avoid them unless I’m having a weird protein craving.

Hence, I desired to make maple walnut ice cream that tasted like maple walnut, without actual pieces of walnut in it. I remembered that I had come across a recipe that involved simmering the maple pieces in milk and then straining and using that milk to make the custard, so I decided to do the same. I Googled around and loosely based my concoction on this About.com recipe, but I swapped around the proportions a bit. Here’s roughly what I used:

1 1/2 c 2% milk, non-homogenized (this may have been a mistake)
1 cuppish chopped walnuts, covered in butter and sea salt and toasted in the oven for a while
3/4 heavy cream, which I whipped and folded in later
4 eggs, separated — I used the yolks in the custard but beat the whites and folded them in later

Well, I didn’t read the recipe so closely, and I wound up combining the maple syrup with the milk and walnuts to simmer. (Fun fact: if you Google “Does maple syrup curdle milk?” the first hit is this. Confusing, yet helpful.) That was an awful, ugly, curdled-up mess! But I managed to salvage it somehow, though the ice cream had a weird texture in which the fat sort of stood out from the other liquid. I think this is a function of both the curdling and the fact that my milk wasn’t homogenized. (I’m trying to only buy the hippie milk in the glass jars on which you pay a deposit, but I might reconsider for certain purposes after this adventure!)

Either way, it all turned out OK in the end! (And I’m omitting photos of the nasty curdled nutty mess because it looked kind of like someone threw up in a saucepan.) Thank goodness for eventual ice cream success — and no added sugar!