Inspiration for nearly every original recipe I’ve made comes from my experience with the same combination of ingredients in a different type of dish. For example, I love the balance of flavors in pineapple salsa, especially served up alongside fresh grilled foods in the summertime. So why not take the two key elements of the salsa—pineapple and hot pepper—and cross them over into new territory as a dessert? That’s precisely what I’ve done with this unusual ice cream. Holy. Moly. The distinct jalapeno flavor is subtle throughout, thanks to an infused simple syrup, but it’s definitely the sweetness of the pureed pineapple taking the lead. The creamy ice cream is accentuated even further with pieces of sweet grilled pineapple and the tiny bits of candied jalapeno, left over from the syrup creation.
I love the smooth and creamy texture of a custard-based ice cream, so that’s where this recipe begins. Proper tempering of the egg yolks is key to the outcome, so be patient and watch it closely. If you’re not quite ready for the jalapeno flavor, I’m quite certain the ice cream would be good without it. But if you’re game for a tropical flavor adventure, I promise you won’t be disappointed!
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar, divided
3 egg yolks
Pinch kosher salt
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. Fiori di Sicilia* (optional, but yum)
2 oz. jalapeno simple syrup (recipe below)
1 cup pureed fresh pineapple*
1/2 cup grilled pineapple pieces*
2 Tbsp. candied jalapeno pieces
1 Tbsp. neutral alcohol, such as vodka or light rum* (optional, but improves ice cream texture)
Fiori di Sicilia is a unique Italian extract, featuring very concentrated citrus and vanilla flavors. It’s optional in this recipe, but adds a special flair. Look for it in specialty stores or online from King Arthur Flour.
It may be best to puree the pineapple just before freezing the ice cream, to preserve the beautiful fresh color.
Earlier in the week, I had grilled pineapple for our Jamaican Jerk pizzas, and I reserved enough pieces to use for this ice cream. If you like pineapple with bold spicy flavors, you’ll want to circle back and check out those pies!
Grilling the pineapple really elevates its sweetness in a lovely way, but don’t let this be a deal-breaker. If you’re pressed for time, skip the grilling and use fresh pineapple bits or even canned tidbits (but drain them first).
The addition of alcohol is optional, but it helps to improve the texture of the ice cream. I used 1800 coconut-flavored tequila, another nod to the tropical flavors.
- Stir together milk, heavy cream and about half the sugar over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, and mixture comes to a very slight boil. Reduce heat to lowest setting or turn off burner.
- While milk mixture is heating, whisk egg yolks, the remaining sugar and kosher salt until light, fluffy and lemon colored. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed, to ensure all sugar gets incorporated.
- Prepare an ice bath to be used for cooling the custard. Place a heat-proof glass bowl over another bowl filled with ice cubes and water. It will be helpful to have this ready when the custard has finished cooking.
- Ladle out 1 cup of hot milk mixture into a measuring cup with a pour spout. Temper eggs by slowly drizzling hot milk into the mixing bowl, whisking the entire time. Then, return the egg mixture back to the pot with the remaining hot milk and cream. Simmer on medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until custard retains shape on the back of a spoon.
- Remove from heat and pour through a mesh strainer into a bowl over ice water to cool custard. I’ll confess here that I often skip this step when making a custard-based ice cream, but the flame seemed a little hot under my pan this time and I wanted to cool it down quickly before the eggs got any ideas about curdling. Stir in vanilla, Fiori di Sicilia and jalapeno simple syrup. Lay heavy plastic wrap directly onto surface of custard, then cover entire bowl with another layer of plastic or tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate overnight.
Here’s a slideshow to help you visualize the process:
The next day, add pineapple puree to chilled custard just before freezing according to manufacturer’s instructions. After 20 minutes, add grilled pineapple pieces and candied jalapeno pieces for final few minutes of churning, adding vodka or rum in final minute. Transfer ice cream to insulated freezer container and freeze at least four hours to ripen. I know it’s tempting to dive right in for a scoop, but this ice cream will be at its best after an overnight freeze.
Jalapeno simple syrup
1 cup pure cane sugar
3/4 cup filtered water
2 smallish jalapenos, seeded and diced
Heat sugar and water over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and syrup begins to lightly boil at the edges. Add jalapeno pieces and stir, cooking about 2 minutes at low heat. Turn off heat, cool completely, strain jalapenos (reserve them) and keep syrup in a covered jar in the fridge up to 2 weeks.
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FYI, you will only use 2 oz. of the jalapeno syrup in the ice cream recipe. Save the rest for elevating your tropical flavored cocktails—maybe this Watermelon Jalapeno Mule!