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Pistachio Ice Cream From Scratch

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Starting with raw pistachios from Istanbul, I made delicious pistachio ice cream from scratch using directions from French pastry chef honcho Pierre Hermé. Nothing like industrial ice cream!

Commercial pistachio ice cream is even more artificial than you think, but the only way to realize what you're missing is to make your own. But we warned, the end result looks and tastes much different than what you are used to. And much better too!

Pistachio Ice Cream
A recipe by Pierre Hermé, king of French pastry
75 gr (2 oz) pistachio paste
100 gr (3 oz) white sugar
25 gr (1 oz) glucose (fruit sugar)
Almond extract
50 gr (1.5oz) blanched pistachios
500 ml (2 cups) milk
100 ml (3 oz) full fat cream
6 egg yolks

Homemade pistachio paste is perfect for ice cream - I made my own from pistachios bought in Istanbul's spice market .

Pierre Hermé recommends to start by lightly toasting 50 gr blanched pistachios in the oven (picture) for 15 minutes at 180°C, then to chop them coarsely (article). This will add crunchiness and make the ice cream more interesting. Be aware that toasted pistachios taste a lot like toasted almonds, so if you are after unadulterated pistachio taste, toast lightly or not at all.

Remove the pistachio paste from the freezer where it ought to be stored and chop 50-70 gr off the block.

Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan and melt the frozen pistachio paste. Bring to a boil and remove from the fire. Cover, add one drop of bitter almond extract, the glucose and the chopped pistachios and leave to infuse for at least 10 minutes. The bitter almond extract will quickly overwhelm the delicate flavor of the pistachios so be sure to add only a very minute almond. Industrial ice creams makers use gallons of it but not discerning home chefs.

Meanwhile separate the eggs. In a large bowl beat together egg yolks and sugar until the sugar is well dissolved. Do not beat until the mixture turns white (what in French we call blanchir) as this would incorporate air bubbles which later will make your pistachio custard foam and prevent you from looking at the liquid. Pour the warm milk into the beaten yolks and mix vigorously.

Now for the tricky part. We need to thicken the milk to obtain ice cream. This is done by partly coagulating the egg yolks by heating them. If you heat too much, part of the cream will freeze into a custard and there is no way to go back. I recommend you put your saucepan into a larger one filled with water to ensure gradual, even heating with no hotspots. A precise temperature probe immersed in the custard will help you know when you draw near to the ominous 83°C mark. Beyond this mark lies the kingdom of frozen custard, the pastry chef's valley of tears. Do not exceed 83°C and above all, keep on beating the custard.

As soon as the cream has thickened, pour it off into a cold bowl. Immediately. The saucepan is still hotter than the custard and if you wait even 15 seconds, the custard closest to the bottom will start to set and nobody can save you.

Professional chefs are supposed to plunge this custard bowl into a larger one filled with ice cubes to shorten the time the custard spends in the 15°C-50°C temperature range that gets bacterias horny. Home chefs like myself usually just put it in the fridge and hope evil bacterias won't have enough time to procreate.

Pierre Hermé recommends you leave the ice cream to rest in the fridge for at least 12 hours before churning, but clearly you can churn it as soon as it's cold, even though the taste might be improved by a longer rest.

Churn it in your ice cream machine until ready. Did I forget to say you need an ice cream machine? You do. It's just a slow beater with a freezer around it. While the cream slowly freezes, the constant churning prevents water crystals from forming and gradually introduces millions of tiny air bubbles that will make the ice cream light and airy. Add the full fat cream when the ice cream starts to set.

Here is the result, with bits of toasted pistachios with some red skins as well as the original green pistachios from Istanbul I pounded in my mortar. Delicious!

One could obviously add green food coloring and I think everybody but blind guests will find its taste better. On the other hand, people in the know do know you can tell pistachio ice cream was made from scratch because it isn't all that green. You choose!


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If you do this recipe at home please let me know how it worked for you by submitting a comment or send me a picture if you can. Thanks!


  • #1
  • Comment by Vicky
Isn't fructose fruit sugar?
  • #2
  • Comment by ronald kent
A fine and well illustrated recipe. read before breakfast today and I wonder where I can get a bitter almond. I will make a raspberry ice cream instead since the season is on us in Seattle.
  • #3
  • Answered by fx
Ronald thank you for your comment. The pastry chef at Lenôtre Pastry School in Paris recommends using one apricot stone to substitute bitter almond if you need to. Don't eat more than one as the bitter almond taste comes from Potassium Cyanide, a deadly poison beyond the most minute quantities. The one Goering had in his hollow tooth until he used it.
  • #4
  • Comment by roba
Hi... excellent recipe, but I used to make pistachio ice-cream with a different recipe, that was not based on a custard. I simply used cream, sugar and pistachios... half were balnced and the other roasted... sadly i lost the recipe and cannot seem to find any not based on custard! I think I will give yours a try!
How much cream is used? I see two listings of cream but only one has an amount next to it.
  • #6
  • Answered by fx
Jason, I updated the list and included Imperial quantities for a royal Pistachio ice cream. Have fun.
Fantastic recipe! I made this last night and it is divine!
  • #8
  • Comment by Sally
hi! thanks this is great, but can i just mention:
you do not actually need an ice cream maker. you can put the mixture in the freezer in a shallow container. then, after two hours of freezing, you can beat the ice cream again (to remove ice crystals) and freeze for another two hours. repeat twice, then it is ready. though you may want to keep the ice cream for 20-30 mins in the fridge for it to soften before serving. so those of you who do not have such a machine (like me) don't worry, there is an alternative. unless you don't have a freezer, in which case i can't help you =D hope i helped
  • #9
  • Comment by joanna
Greetings! First off, this blog is very enjoyable. I'm a french-english speaking californian and I really appreciate the pictures, they are a delight to look at. I also appreciate the meticulous details in the recipes. I would rate this blog to be simply the best. Its pleasantness reflects a gentleman's character. We need more of such good fun so please keep it up!
I really would like to make this recipe soon, but I see only one amount of cream needed. This is the cream to mix with the milk and make the custard? what about the amount of cream needed to add the ice cream maker?
Best regards. Joanna
  • #10
  • Comment by Griselle
Great recipe, I'll try this one as soon as possible.
  • #11
  • Comment by love pistachios
I would love to make this, but how much cream do you need at the end of the process to pour into the ice cream maker. A few people have asked about 2 mentions of cream, and only 1 amount listed. Can you please clarify? I cannot make until I know. :-)
  • #12
  • Comment by NateW
Thank you for this spectacular recipe.  I love pistachio ice cream, yet have never tried anything as real as this.  While I'm not sure I possess the technical expertise to pull off this recipe, I am going to give it a shot.  I feel more confident with your wonderful directions.  Thank you again good sir.
  • #13
  • Comment by mikey
hey, thanks for that, made it at the weekend and well me and the wife had a good time, if you know what i mean, gigidty
  • FX's answer→ Good for her!

  • #15
  • Comment by John
Hi, Thanks very much for this excellent article. The images and text are excellent. I am making this tomorrow for my wife and her friends. I am certain that my popularity will soar.

Just one little thing. The text that reads "Do not beat until the mixture turns white (what in French we call blanchir) as this would incorporate air bubbles ... " is a tad confusing. It appears that you're instructing me to wait until the mixture turns white before beating. I think what you mean is:

"If you beat the mixture too long, it will turn white (what in French we call 'blanchir') and the resulting bubbles will be incorporated, causing the custard to foam and preventing you from seeing the liquid. Therefore, beat only until the sugar is dissolved and no further."
  • #16
  • Comment by Joel Slotnikoff
What exactly is meant by "glucose (fruit sugar)"?  Wikipedia says fruit sugar is fructose hence the name.

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