Plombir, Russian Ice Cream

You might remember seeing plombir ice cream in some of my restaurant reviews, such as Mari Vanna and Ariana, and wondering what makes it different. Plombir takes its name from the French glace Plombières, a vanilla ice cream mixed with bits of candied fruits marinated in kirsch. However, it bears little resemblance to the original. As explained in Russian standard ГОСТ 31457-2012, plombir is defined by its nutrient composition, not its flavor. Indeed, for an ice cream to be called plombir, the fat content must be between 12% and 20%, and the sugar content 14% or above. There’s also a threshold for the total “dry substance” content, which, I assume, represents the total amount of solids: it must exceed 37-42%, depending on the fat content. In other words, it’s much richer than your typical ice cream, especially if you err on the side of the upper bounds.

Of course, I have my own set of ice cream formulas, courtesy of Frozen Desserts. Putting it all together, I chose a fat content on the higher side, and worked backwards to find the perfect sugar content, which still turned out to be equally massive — this is definitely no diet ice cream. Next came the question of flavor. Although one can be make a plombir with pretty much anything, the most typical flavors in my experience are vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, with vanilla leading by a wide margin. So I stuck to vanilla but I also added honey, to make all that sugar somewhat more flavorful. There are no alcohol-macerated candied fruits here, but in the Russian tradition, my plombir is topped with a preserve-like sauce laced with Armenian brandy (a soviet-inspired nod to the kirsch in glace Plombières), thus creating something that’s almost half plombir and half Plombières. You can use any fruit you like, and I’m presenting both an apricot-brandy sauce (its acidity helps cut the fatty richness of the ice cream), and a booze-free strawberry sauce (because a sauce made with ripe strawberries is always delicious). The key is to go easy on the sugar.

Plombir, Russian Ice Cream

Plombir ice cream
Yields about 800 g (20 scoops, or 10 servings)

65 g egg yolks
60 g sugar
250 g milk
15 g non-fat milk powder
100 g honey
6 g pure vanilla extract
310 g heavy cream

  • In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar.
  • In a small saucepan, combine the milk with the milk powder, honey, and vanilla extract. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then pour onto the sugar and yolk mixture while whisking. Transfer back to the saucepan over low heat, and stir with a spatula until it reaches 185 F.
  • Remove the custard from the heat, and pass through a chinois into a container over a bowl of ice water. Add the heavy cream, and let cool. Transfer the container to the freezer and wait until it is completely cold.
  • Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to the freezer for at least 24 hours before serving.
  • Below is the detailed composition of the ice cream, with all the amounts measured in grams.
Ingredient Weight Fat MSNF Sugar Other solids
egg yolk 65 21 / / 11
sugar 60 / / 60 /
milk 250 10 22 / /
non-fat milk powder 15 / 13 / /
honey 100 / / 80 2
vanilla extract 6 / / / /
heavy cream 310 112 17 / /
Total 806 143 52 140 13
Percentage 100% 17.7% 6.4% 17.4% 1.6%

Apricot-brandy sauce
Yields about 400 g (10 servings)

550 g pitted apricots, halved
140 g sugar
60 g Armenian brandy (such as 5-star Ararat)

  • Toss the apricots, sugar, and brandy in a bowl, and let rest for 45 minutes.
  • Transfer to a saucepan, and simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring regularly. Let cool for 5 minutes.
  • Drain the apricots, and peel them. In a food processor, process 2 or 3 apricot halves with their syrup. Mix in the whole apricots, let cool, and refrigerate.

Strawberry sauce
Yields about 400 g (10 servings)

330 g hulled strawberries
165 g sugar

  • Toss the strawberries and the sugar in bowl, and let rest for about 4 hours.
  • Transfer to a saucepan, and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Let cool for 5 minutes.
  • Drain the strawberries. In a food processor, process about 1/3 of the berries with their syrup. Mix in the whole strawberries, let cool, and refrigerate.

Plombir, Russian Ice Cream