saffron apricot ice cream with cardamom rock sugar

I have the wonderful good fortune to know Carol Wang, who is a member of the Rumi Spice team and a college classmate of mine. After reconnecting at our college reunion, she coordinated a shipment of Rumi's delicate Afghan spice product to my apartment. Founded by US military veterans who are passionate about supporting female Afghan farmers, Rumi Spice has an incredible mission that resonated with me. I was honored to try the saffron product in a few recipes, including this one. Saffron is the most expensive spice by weight; it is lightweight and harvested from thousands of saffron flowers. Saffron has a fragrance that I would describe as a mix of honey and hay. Subtle yet powerful when infused into creams, sauces, and other liquids, it's an underappreciated product that I'm happy to feature on Bigelow Street Bites. Please note that you need an ice cream maker for this recipe to churn the base.

Saffron apricot ice cream:

  • White sugar (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons)

  • Apricots (4 whole apricots, roughly chopped)

  • Saffron threads (1/2 teaspoon)

  • Egg yolks (6)

  • Cream (2 cups)

  • Whole milk (1 cup)

  • Almond extract (1/2 teaspoon)

Cardamom rock sugar:

  • White sugar (1/2 cup)

  • Water (2 tablespoons)

  • Ground cardamom (1 and 1/2 teaspoons)

  • Toasted almonds (1/4 cup, roughly chopped)

  1. To make the infusion of apricots and saffron for the ice cream base, begin by simmering in a small saucepan 1/2 cup of white sugar, the chopped apricots, and a few teaspoons of water. The apricots should become very soft and tender over low heat; the cooking will take approximately 5 minutes.

  2. When the apricots are soft, use an immersion blender or transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth.

  3. Strain the apricot puree into a new bowl through a very fine mesh strainer (such as a chinois) and then add the saffron threads. Let the threads steep in the warm puree and infuse with flavor and color. Set aside.

  4. In a medium-sized heat-safe bowl, whisk the egg yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar until light and smooth. Set aside.

  5. In a medium-sized saucepan, warm the cream, milk, and almond extract over medium heat. The cream mixture should begin to simmer. 

  6. Once hot, add a small amount of the cream to the bowl of whisked egg yolks and whisk vigorously until combined. Add a bit more cream mixture and continue whisking. You want to avoid adding too quickly or else you will cook the eggs and it will appear scrambled.

  7. Once the eggs and cream have been tempered, you can stream in the remaining cream mixture at a faster pace. Whisk until smooth.

  8. At this point, you need to cook the egg and cream mixture over low indirect heat; you can do this by simmering water in a larger saucepan and placing the heat-safe bowl directly over the simmering water. Whisk the egg mixture regularly as it heats over low indirect heat. Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and can coat the back of a wooden spoon, approximately 5 to 8 minutes. Do not overheat or let the mixture boil.

  9. Remove the thickened ice cream base from the stove and strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a new bowl. Add the strained apricot mixture and blend with a spatula until smooth.

  10. Set this mixture over ice or place immediately in the refrigerator to fully cool down for at least 2 hours.

  11. Once cool, add to the ice cream maker and churn for 10 minutes, or until the ice cream hardens. Once the ice cream stops becoming any more solid, you can transfer it to a freezer-safe container to completely chill overnight.

  12. To make the cardamom rock sugar, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. The sugar mixture will begin to boil. Let the sugar boil untouched for approximately 5 minutes, or until it begins to turn more golden in color.

  13. Remove from heat and mix in the ground cardamom and toasted almonds. Mix until evenly combined and then transfer to a wax paper-lined cookie sheet to cool.

  14. The sugar mixture should harden within a few minutes. At this point, you can pulverize in a small food processor, or transfer to a Ziploc bag and crush with a hammer or other hard flat surface.

  15. Serve the rock sugar pieces over the ice cream.