This is a fragrant, luscious, creamy custard-base ice cream made with the most expensive spice in world, saffron. And yes, it tastes just that rich. Short of crossing an ocean or two or hopping a plane to the second best alternative, Persian prolific Los Angeles, it is virtually impossible to get this delectable rose water anointed and saffron speckled Persian ice cream worth the caloric splurge. Until now, that is. While creating this recipe, my goal was to capture the purity of the ingredients in a culturally authentic manner that would be accessible to all who would like to travel this culinary adventure with me. I truly hope that I have succeeded in that endeavor and “Nooshe Jan!” (This is a Persian phrase that literally translated means “may your soul be nourished.” It is said prior to an offering of food or as a reply to an expression of gratitude at the end of a meal.)
1 ½ cups (12 oz) whole milk (preferably organic)
1 ½ cups (12 oz) heavy cream (preferably organic)
¾ cup (161 grams) granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
Pinch of saffron threads, ground in a mortar and pestle
2 tablespoons rose water
3 large egg yolks (preferably, organic free-range at room temperature)
¼ cup of roughly chopped roasted, shelled pistachios (optional)
How to Use Them:Grind the saffron threads in a mortar and pestle, or rub in the palm of your hand until the threads turn into a powder.Pour the rose water into the ground saffron and set aside.Combine the milk, cream, sugar and salt in a saucepan and heat on medium-low heat. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon or heat resistant spatula until the sugar is dissolved. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the saffron powder and rose water mixture and stir until combined. Make sure that the mixture is warmed all the way through until it just reaches boiling point, but do not allow to boil. This is the stage where you see steam beginning to rise and small bubbles form around the edge of the pan.
While the milk mixture is heating, whisk the egg yolks for approximately a minute until thoroughly whisked. Once the milk is heated, temper the egg yolks by pouring a ladle full (approximately ¼ cup) of the milk in a slow, steady stream into the egg yolks while whisking constantly. Repeat this process 3 to 4 times until the eggs are warmed through, making certain to whisk as you are pouring the milk so you will not scramble the eggs. Take the tempered egg mixture and very slowly add it the milk mixture in the pan, constantly stirring the entire time.Continue to cook this custard over low heat for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. The technique used to test this consistency is running a finger along the back of your stirring spoon. If the custard remains on each side of the line you have created, than it is ready, yet if the part quickly runs back together, than it is still too runny and needs more cooking time.
When your custard is at the desired consistency, remove it off the heat and pour it into a glass container, passing it through a fine sieve as you are doing so. As you can see, I am using a small tea strainer, as it’s a fine mesh and therefore able to capture any bits of egg and saffron threads that may not have dissolved completely. Allow the custard to cool completely on the counter before covering and chilling overnight preferably, or at least 6 hours. Allow the custard proper time to chill to allow the flavors to truly marry and develop. When you are ready to make the ice cream, pour the chilled custard mixture into an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s directions.
Once the ice cream is ready, scoop it out of the canister into a frozen container and freeze. While the ice cream is ready to serve at this point, it will be soft and melt quickly. It is best served after it has been frozen for at least a few hours. I often freeze the container that the finished ice cream will go in so that it will be thoroughly cold and help keep the ice cream solid. Traditionally, this ice cream is served between thin, flavorless wafers that act more as a delivery system for the ice cream. I prefer serving this ice cream sandwiched between these pistachio medallions that are perfumed with cardamom and offer a crunchiness from the pistachios and demerara sugar which add a nice textural contrast to the creaminess of the ice cream. Nooshe Jan friends!