There’s something especially fitting about eating maple walnut ice cream in early spring. The little blooming crocuses and daffodils remind us that warmer days are ahead, and meanwhile, the sugar shacks have been boiling off this year’s batch of syrup. Maple walnut ice cream is a New England classic — so much so that you’ll find it on both our list of 5 Favorite New England Ice Cream Flavors and 75 Classic New England Foods. Ever wanted to make your own? Here’s how to make maple walnut ice cream in step-by-step photos.
Just want the recipe? Head on over to the Homemade Maple Walnut Ice Cream Recipe.
Note: This ice cream recipe requires some patience, as all custard-based ice cream recipes do. You make your base with cream, milk, and egg yolks, bringing everything to a safe temperature, then chill that mixture down before it goes into the ice cream machine. This takes time. You can speed things along by stirring your custard base in a bowl suspended in an ice bath. Still, a few hours in the refrigerator does produce a more silken texture, so it may be worth the wait.
As for equipment, you can use any type of ice cream maker. I recommend an instant-read thermometer for cooking the custard. If you don’t have a one, you can gently cook the custard until it begins to thicken, but I like the precision that a thermometer offers.
HOW TO MAKE MAPLE WALNUT ICE CREAM
First, toast 2/3 cup of walnut halves until they’re lightly browned and fragrant. I like to do this in the oven at 325º, but a skillet works fine as long as you keep a close eye to prevent burning. Once toasted, chop the nuts and set them aside.
Next, pour 3/4 cup of “Grade A: Dark Color and Robust Flavor” maple syrup (formerly Grade B maple syrup — see Guide to Maple Syrup Grades) into a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer. You’re going to reduce the syrup down to 1/2 cup.
Reducing the syrup should take 8 to 10 minutes. Then add the cream and then the milk. A bit of salt, just 1/4 teaspoon, provides contrast to the sweetness. Let that mixture sit on low heat.
Now take a medium bowl and set a fine-mesh sieve over it. You’ll pour the custard through this when it’s done.
Put your egg yolks in a small bowl and beat them well. Scoop up a ladle-full of the hot cream mixture and whisk it into the eggs. This is called tempering. You’re bringing the temperature of the eggs up slowly so that they don’t curdle. Whisk in one more ladle-full of the cream mixture, then pour your tempered eggs into the pot.
Cook this mixture, stirring constantly, until it reaches 175° on an instant-read thermometer. At this temperature, the eggs will be safely cooked and the mixture will begin to thicken. But don’t rush this step. Bring the temperature up gradually over medium-low heat. If you go too fast, you’ll end up with scrambled eggs.
As soon as the custard reaches temperature, pour it through the sieve into your waiting bowl.
Now you have your base. You’ll need to put it (with plastic wrap pressed against the surface) in the refrigerator until it reaches 35°-40º. This will take up to 6 hours. To speed things up, set your bowl of custard in an ice bath and stir until it cools.
Now comes the fun part: the freezing! Set up your ice cream machine, then pour in the ice cream base and begin churning.
As the ice cream begins to firm up, stir in the walnuts.
Soon, the maple walnut ice cream will be finished. Eat it right out of the canister or freeze it in an airtight container for future feasting.
And there you have it — how to make maple walnut ice cream at home.
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This post was first published in 2016 and has been updated.