The Delight of Cherry Spumoni
It’s been ages since I last dined at an old-school Italian restaurant, the kind that sets down a brimming relish platter almost before you’ve ordered, and ends the meal sweetly with a frosty goblet of spumoni.
Thought to have originated in Naples, this fanciful creamy dessert can’t help but feel festively nostalgic with its cherry, pistachio, and chocolate or vanilla ice creams all mingling together in one scoop, often with crunchy nuts, bits of dark chocolate, and chewy candied fruit. Talk about an entire party busting out in one spoonful.
So, when I received some samples recently of red candied cherries, otherwise known as glace cherries, from Paradise Fruit Co., I couldn’t help but grow wistful for that classic treat, especially as the holidays approach.
Rather than going to all the trouble of making three different flavors of ice cream, I zeroed in on this New York Times recipe for “Cherry Spumoni.”
As you can guess, this one is all about cherries — from the tart cherry juice concentrate that flavors the ice cream base and gives it a bubblegum-pink color to the chopped fruit that gets stirred into the ice cream base before freezing in your ice cream maker.
The recipe calls for frozen or canned cherries. But I decided to swap that for the candied cherries instead, which are fat-free and gluten-free, and possess a tacky texture from corn syrup. I actually think they work better than frozen fresh cherries as a spumoni ingredient because they lend that old-world quality that this ice cream calls for.
Don’t skip the tart cherry concentrate, even if you have to make a special trip to the store or order it on Amazon. Thick and viscous, it may be only a small amount that’s needed in this recipe, but it really adds a ton of cherry flavor overall to the resulting ice cream. Don’t try to use regular cherry juice, either, as it won’t have the same potent effect. Any leftover tart cherry concentrate is delicious to sip when diluted with still or sparkling water over ice.
This ice cream recipe is a cinch to make. You don’t have to fuss with tempering any hot egg custard base carefully to guard against scrambling. That’s because there are no egg yolks in this recipe. Instead, all you have to do is heat milk to dissolve sugar, then stir in half and half, heavy cream, almond and vanilla extracts, and the cherry concentrate.
Chill the mixture well, then process in your ice cream maker, adding the chocolate and almonds halfway through. The ice cream will still be fairly soft at this point, so transfer to a container with a lid and freeze until firm.
This spumoni is wonderfully creamy and potent with cherry flavor. Every spoonful is a little different as you enjoy crunchy almonds, sticky sweet cherries, and rich crunchy bits of chocolate along the way.
Treat yourself to a big scoop — preferably after a heaped plate of your favorite pasta.
(Makes about 1 1/2 quarts)
¾ cup milk
¾ cup sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt
¾ cup half and half
1½ cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons tart cherry concentrate (see note)
½ cup (packed) frozen, pitted tart (sour) or sweet cherries, defrosted, or pitted tart or sweet canned cherries (do not use fresh fruit), or glace cherries
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons slivered or sliced blanched almonds
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped semisweet chocolate or chocolate chips
Place milk in a small heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat until bubbles just begin to form around edge of pan. Remove from heat, and add sugar and salt. Stir until dissolved.
Add half and half, heavy cream, vanilla extract, almond extract and cherry concentrate. Mix well. Transfer to a bowl, and set in an ice water bath until cool, about 10 minutes.
Coarsely chop cherries. Press between paper towels to remove excess liquid (skip this step is using glace cherries). Add to chilled milk mixture. Begin freezing in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. When ice cream has begun to thicken, after about 10 minutes, add almonds and chopped chocolate. Continue freezing until ice cream is very thick.
Adapted from The New York Times