More than a decade ago, before several flavours in unusual range flooded Indian markets, I remember each of us in our family had ice cream flavor of choice. As a kid, I was addicted to classic vanilla or occasionally the vanilla-chocolate combo (a scoop of each) just the way my little sister was. Dad’s huge fetish for dry fruits and nuts in his scoop of ice cream always left us amused, while for mom it was undoubtedly the butterscotch that made it to her plate.
Dining out on Sunday nights wasn't a rule on the book, but whenever we did, which was often once a month, it was followed for sure by an ice cream for our dessert. As we tucked ourselves comfortably onto the rattling chairs waiting for the orders, dad would head over to the ice cream kiosk, crane his neck to take a peek over the glass counter displaying their varieties in vivid colours and flavors to order the scoops speckled with roasted nuts and dry fruits. I guess his choice was often pistachio or badam pista ice cream. Of sheer joy each of us would proclaim our choice of ice cream and happily dig into them as they were served. Choices in terms of flavourings were limited to vanilla, chocolate, butterscotch, pista badam that ruled the roost. For the more exotic ones, there was anjeer, shahi kulfi, casatta… but then that’s about it.
Back in 80s and early 90s, ice cream came served in small paper cups with a tiny wooden spoon to scoop them from. We would fish out scoops of ice cream much larger than the spoon, only to fill our mouthfuls, more often spilling out the melting ice cream. The candid moments of the ice cream dripping off the tiny spoon on to our pretty frilled frocks, followed by mom’s howl deliberating the pain she took to rub the stains off while washing still taunt my memories! We had personal choices of flavours. And we always stuck by those choices. By 90s, chocolate coated vanilla ice candies, aka the Choco-bars entered Indian market a huge way and made way into our preferences too. I still admire Choco-bars.
The boom in Western market and their brands in early 2000 have brought out huge assortment and today, and as I walk into a Baskin Robin’s or Swensen's outlet, I am astounded by the variety they have to offer. I am elated by the choices, but at times I step back thinking there is too much to choose from, fearing the ones across the counter may be more delicious than the one on my plate, that I am unable to make a convincing choice. The guys over the counter are often generous enough to help me with a few scoops of flavors to try from, but by the end of test tasting session I run in to flurry of complete confusion. Somehow the test tasting session seems more stimulating exercise than the choice of ice cream itself. My taste buds can’t relate to a winning choice. Mint, Oreo, Chocolate chip, Berry, Cookie dough, Peanut butter, Belgium chocolate and so much more… I am spoilt for choice and that confusion happens way too often!
Honey and Roasted Almond Ice cream stands out of all. My love for Honey and Roasted Almond Ice cream dates back a few years ago when I tasted its first scoop from a BR outlet at namma Bengaluru airport. While waiting at the lounge, my husband made a random pick on my behalf and got me a waffle cone loaded with a big dollop of this BR’s Honey and Roasted Almond Ice cream. It was an instant love since that first bite. It’s brilliant taste still lingers strong.
Remember I made some Honey ice cream a while ago with flavours so similar to the BR one? That was a small batch good enough for two servings, so I promised I would make them again, not to disappoint anyone who requested a second or third helping. In a bid to experiment a little more, this time around, I played a slight variation using Coconut cream instead of milk or cream and the resulting ice cream was extremely creamy and delicious with a hint of coconut flavour. This is one of those ice creams that is simple to make and uses barely few ingredients and for sure needs no ice cream maker because the fat in coconut cream will help in whipping it to soft peaks, making the ice cream light and creamy. Honey will further curb freezing the ice cream into a rock solid stage.
Coconut cream, Vanilla Bean and Roasted Almond Ice cream
200 ml coconut cream* (I used 1 pack of first pressed Dabur Homemade coconut milk)
1 pod vanilla, split and seeds scraped
½ cup roasted chopped almonds
80 gm / ¾ cup honey* (replace with maple syrup or agave syrup or vanilla sugar for a vegan version of this ice cream)
Roast ½ cup almonds on a medium low heat till they begin to change their color and turn aromatic. Switch off the flame and keep aside. Once they cool down, chop them roughly.
Chill the coconut cream along with the bowl and beaters overnight or at least for 6-8 hours. To prepare the ice cream, take the chilled coconut cream in a chilled bowl. Connect the beaters and whip the cream till it fluffs up and holds soft peaks. Add in vanilla honey and whip further till it's all well combined. Split a vanilla bean and scrape the seeds off them into the prepared ice cream. You can skip this, however I used it for an intense vanilla flavor. It’s optional.
Whip the cold cream till it begins to form soft peaks. Taste your ice-cream at this stage. Commercially available honey tends to be sweeter and thicker as compared to the organic fetch. Hence I suggest you taste the ice cream batter and add more honey if preferred. Transfer to a freezer proof bowl/loaf and freeze it for an hour till it just begins to set. Once it's almost set on the edges, remove and churn it briefly. Repeat a couple of times. This helps ice-cream to be creamy. After the final churn, add in the roasted almonds (or almond pralines) and freeze till it's completely set. Remove from the freezer and place the ice cream in the refrigerator compartment for 15-20 minutes before serving. This way the ice cream should have softened a tad bit and will make it easier to scoop out.
*For a vegan version replace the honey with maple syrup or agave syrup or vanilla sugar.
*Similarly, you can replace vanilla beans with vanilla extract. I used slit beans for an intense vanilla flavor and for that million-dollar speckled look. Again, it’s optional.
*If coconut cream is not your flavor of choice, replace it with regular milk cream, however it will no longer be vegan. It works fabulous!
That's my little toddler's tiny fingers sneaking in to grab some more scoops of ice cream!