Apricot Kernel Ice Cream

Every apricot pit conceals an intensely aromatic kernel. Eaten raw, this kernel is unpleasantly bitter, but once toasted its taste gets somewhat milder, reminiscent of almond. This should be no surprise, since it can contain up to 5% of amygdalin. In fact I just learned while writing this post that apricot kernels are sometimes used to make amaretto! I figured these potent nuts would be perfect for ice cream, as the cold tends to tone down the flavors.

You may wonder if you’re really going to have to spend your summer eating apricots, and then half of your fall breaking pits with a hammer, all so you can enjoy a cup of ice cream. An assholish chef once had me do just that for an entire evening, and it is indeed no fun — not to mention the many times when the hammer hits your fingers rather than the pit. Luckily, there’s a much simpler solution: buy the kernels by the pound at Apricot Power (love the name). Just don’t pay attention to their vitamin B17 mumbo jumbo: the claims aren’t backed up by any clinical evidence, and there is no such thing as vitamin B17.

You may also wonder, no matter how delicious it may be, what this peculiar ice cream is doing on this blog. Simple, too:

  • A lot of apricot kernels come from Central Asia, Uzbekistan in particular. Uzbeks don’t eat a lot of ice cream, but things are changing (read: refrigeration is coming).
  • It’s the perfect match for my Sachertorte! The combination of the Austro-Hungarian apricot-chocolate cake with this ice cream makes for a more complete dessert visually, texture-wise, and flavor-wise. I would also consider brushing the plate with a line of saffron syrup.

For the ice cream geeks, here is a breakdown of the formula, using the method from Frozen Desserts (all weights are in grams):

ingredient weight fat MSNF sugar other solids water
apricot kernels 99 46 5 40 7
milk 680 27 60 593
egg yolks 80 27 14 40
superfine sugar 113 113 0
heavy cream 198 75 11 112
non-fat milk powder 43 41 1
honey 99 80 0 19
total 1312 176 112 198 54 771
percentage 13.4% 8.5% 15.1% 4.1% 58.8%

Apricot kernel ice cream
Yields about 1 qt

3.5 oz apricot kernels
1/8 tsp salt
24 oz milk
4 egg yolks
4 oz superfine sugar
7 oz heavy cream
1.5 oz non-fat milk powder
3.5 oz honey

  • Place the apricot kernels on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with the salt, and cook in a 300 F oven for 45 minutes.
  • Bring 1/3 of the milk to a boil, and transfer to a blender with the toasted kernels. Let steep for 5 minutes, then process until smooth. Pass through a chinois, and reserve.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar to a pale ribbon. Place the rest of the milk with the heavy cream, milk powder, and honey in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Pour into the bowl while whisking, add the apricot kernel and milk mixture, then place the bowl over a pot of simmering water, and whisk the custard until it coats the back of a spoon. Pass through a chinois into a container over a bowl of ice water, and let cool. Transfer the container to the freezer and wait until it is completely cold.
  • Churn the custard in an ice cream maker, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to the freezer for at least 2 hours before serving.
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