I love ice cream – I have said this before and I’ll say it again. However, I especially love saffron ice cream. Whenever we would go to our local Persian restaurant, as a child my favourite part was the ice cream. Sadly, back in those days, the ice cream was rarely in stock. They’d have a local vendor make it but sometimes it was available and sometimes it was not. At this point in my life I did not own an ice cream maker nor even know how to make ice cream. Fifteen years later I am ready to make some Bastani Irani or Saffron ice cream!
Unlike my other ice cream recipes – this recipe has more egg yolks, less cream and is made differently. The saffron flavor really comes out and provides a beautiful yellow hue. The addition of rose water compliments the rich saffron spice. And of course, the crunch from the toasted pistachios seals the deal. Normally saffron ice cream is served with a wafer. or in between two wafers like a sandwich. I like to serve mine in a bowl or in a waffle cone!
As always the most important thing is to have good quality ingredients. Saffron is an expensive spice – and not all saffron is equal. More affordable varieties come from Spain but they do not possess the same potency as Iranian saffron. For a dish where the star ingredient is saffron- stick to the Persian kind. With that being said this recipe calls for 1/2 tsp of Saffron, roughly two-three pinches worth. DO NOT SKIP THIS. If you add too little saffron you will lose both flavour and colour leaving you with basically rose flavoured vanilla ice cream. You also need to bloom your saffron which requires steeping your saffron in freshly boiled water for 10-15 minutes.
I add 1/8 cup (or 4 tbsp) worth of rose water in this recipe. Rose water is also a star ingredient here. You can find rose water at any local ethnic grocer or in the “Arab” food aisle at the chain stores. Normally rose water is added sparingly to desserts because of its powerful flavour. However, in saffron ice cream it actually adds this beautiful depth to it. Do not be afraid it will not taste like your grandmother’s perfume. In fact, it brings out the saffron even more.
Finally, unlike my other ice cream recipes, you actually whip the egg yolks and sugar together before adding it to the heated milk. This helps add a creamy texture and it gives a deeper colour. It takes some elbow grease but it is worth it!
saffron. pistachio. rose water
Deep saffron flavoured ice cream enhanced by rose water and pistachios.
Grind the saffron with 1 tsp of sugar with a mortar and pestle. In a small bowl combine the saffron with the boiling water. Let steep for 10-15 minutes or while you prepare the other ingredients.
In a medium saucepan, gently heat (on low) the whole milk, 1/4 cup of the cream, cardamom, salt and vanilla, until it steams/heats all the way through.
While the milk mixture is heating up, whip the egg yolks and sugar in a glass measuring jar until pale and double in size. This should take about 5-6 minutes. You do not need a stand mixer for this just use a whisk and some elbow grease.
Pour in about 1/4 cup of the milk mixture into the egg mixture and whisk. You want to temper the egg yolks so they do not curdle or cook. If the egg mixture is still thick add another 1/4 cup of the milk mixture. Mix and then pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the milk mixture. Add the bloomed saffron, stir to combine.
Using a wooden spoon or a spatula continue to stir the custard until it thickens. About 10 minutes (on low heat). The custard will coat the spoon or spatula when it has thickened enough. Remove from heat.
In a large bowl place the remaining 1 cup of whipping cream. Place a sieve on top and strain the custard (to avoid any curdled bits). Stir in the rosewater and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge to cool for 8 hours or overnight.
Churn the mixture according to the manufacturer's instructions. Add the toasted pistachios towards the last five minutes of churning. Transfer to a freezer-safe ice cream container and allow to freeze for at least 2 hours.
Bring the ice cream out 10-15 minutes prior to serving so it softens up. Serve with more toasted pistachios or in a cone!