The Joy of Churning + Hazelnut Praline Ice Cream

A Guest Post by Chris Aston:

Ice cream-making began in our young lives when what-looked-like a random assortment of bits of wood and metal arrived — along with a music box, a large telescope, and an eclectic array of books and photos — on our farm in Karoi in what was then northwest Rhodesia. The consignment came from my German grandmother’s house in England and opened a window into a romantic world of lakes and snow-capped mountains far removed from our own rural world.

Like a jigsaw puzzle, I remember my mother assembling the wooden staves to form a bucket that had to be immersed in water to swell and tighten up inside the rusty metal rings that eventually held its shape. This was only the first step in what was a labor of love that made the end result all the more sweet and delicious. The ice and rock salt had to be acquired, the custard made the day before so it could cool and mature, and only then could the ice cream-making begin.

A replica of my grandmother's White Mountain ice cream churner.

The custard was poured into a tin churn that sat on a metal seat in the bottom of the bucket.  A heavy cast iron, geared crank, emblazoned with the name “WHITE MOUNTAIN,” was then fitted to the bucket and churn. Ice, chipped with a hammer, was packed around the canister. We sprinkled rock salt in careful proportions layer by layer as we packed the ice. The rock salt lowers the freezing point of ice and serves to freeze the custard more rapidly. Once, it also helped to spoil a whole ice cream moment when the canister sprang a leak and the glorious, long-awaited ice cream was no more than a salt sorbet. Luckily, our local engineering shop soldered it back together and many more churnings followed.

This beloved machine eventually went up in smoke when ZIPRA, one of the armed wings of Zimbabwe’s resistance movement, burnt down our farmhouse in 1979, the final year of the civil war. Since that sad day I have owned two more salt/ice churns, both driven by electric motors that eventually burnt themselves up. Now, after our recent trip to Australia, we own a self-driven, self-cooled, bells-and-whistles model. As delicious as the ice creams produced by this machine turn out, none can quite compare with those made by an hour of hand-cranked anticipation, sat out on the kitchen steps where the salty iced water could flow freely through the overflow hole and into the dust.

We went through many variations and flavors, but our family’s firm favorite has to be a hazelnut praline. Today, while I make the custard, using a recipe from Constance Spry, copied below for ease of reference, my elder brother Simon makes the hazelnut praline.

Hazelnut Praline Ice Cream.
Hazelnut Praline Ice Cream.

Constance Spry’s Hazelnut Praline Ice Cream

Yield: 1 pint

Ingredients:

Ice Cream

  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 yolks
  • 2 ounces/56 grams caster sugar
  • 1/2 pint/300ml milk
  • 1/2 pint/300ml cream


Praline

  • 3 ounces/85 grams hazelnuts
  • 3 ounces/85 grams caster sugar

 

The Constance Spry Cookery Book.

Method:

  • Heat the oven to 180/350 degrees. Roast the hazelnuts in a baking tray until golden, about 10 minutes.
  • Set the sugar in a saucepan over a low heat and allow to melt, being careful not to bring to the boil until all of it has melted.
  • When turning a pale brown start to stir the sugar syrup with a metal spoon and continue until it turns a good nut brown. Transfer on to an oiled plate and leave to harden.

 

Roasted hazelnuts in setting praline.
Roasted hazelnuts in setting praline.
  • Beat eggs, yolks and sugar together in a heatproof bowl until well blended.
  • Put the bowl over boiling water (or use a double boiler) and cook until thick and creamy (the custard should coat the back of the wooden spoon).

 

Starting to make the custard in a heatproof bowl over boiling water.
Starting to make the custard in a heatproof bowl over boiling water.
  • Cool the custard, whisking occasionally.
  • Whisk the cream until it starts to thicken, and then add to the cooled custard.
  • Put the custard into the ice cream maker and churn.
  • While the custard is churning, smash the hazelnut praline in a pestle and mortar until it is crumb-like.

 

Adding the pounded praline to the ice cream.
Adding the pounded praline to the ice cream.
  • Add to the custard once it starts to turn into ice cream, after about 30 minutes.
  • When the ice cream is made, transfer to a container and freeze until read to serve.

 

Making the ice cream today with my elder brother, Simon.
Making the hazelnut praline ice cream with my elder brother, Simon.

Annabel Hughes Aston is a writer and an award-winning chef in Livingstone, Zambia. She is the creator of "bush gourmet" cuisine.

20 Comments

  • This was such a treat to read. Aah the memories …. and what a great team!

    Reply
    • Thank you, Dee … the ice cream is a complete hit in these parts, and yes, they make a great team. I’ll make sure Chris and Simon see your kind comment. xo

      Reply
  • What an amazing device! 🙂

    Reply
    • I remember seeing one in the United States. They are very clever, to be sure!

      Reply
  • That brought a flood of memories back. As a teenager we lived in Binga on Lake Kariba for a year. There was an American missionary family there and once or twice a year they would invite everyone to an icecream party. Just bring a bowl and spoon. Joyce their daughter was one of my friends. I had completely forgotten all about that. The icecream was such a treat. To this day icecream is still my favourite anytime dessert!

    Thanks for the lovely tale.

    Reply
    • Gillian, you are filled with lovely stories! Thanks for sharing this one with us … I will pass on your kind comment to Chris. All the best to you, Annabel

      Reply
  • Life looks and sounds fun and abundant on the Zambezi! Great photo of the chefs xx

    Reply
    • Thank you, Louise! Right now it’s that perfect time of year between the end of the rains and before the chill of winter. Abundant it is! xo

      Reply
  • Another wonderful story from the Zambezi Valley. As your friend Dee says ‘What a great team’. Have you guys considered opening an upmarket restaurant on your farm and serving all these delicious dishes to the hoi polloi along your stretch of the river thus uplifting their culinary standards. Chris and Simon could alternate as Maitre D whilst the other collected the money!

    Reply
    • Thank you for your very kind comment, Colin. Just for the record, Dee is Chris and Simon’s sister … and I think she meant the brothers made a great team. 😉 Many ‘foodie plans’ are being considered at the minute, so watch this space. Enjoy this lovely Sunday!

      Reply
  • Wonderful piece, Chris, Annabel and I shall try this recipe. Ice cream is a massive weakness of mine. I have a machine – one where you freeze the heavy-based bowl before churning the cooked custard – but I aspire to have one of the full bells and whistles ones in my dream kitchen of the future. One of my most successful flavours is caramelised apple and Calvados Ice cream. Am not a big one for alcoholic desserts, but in this case, the calvados just enhances the natural flavour of the apples.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much, Zsa Zsa. Your caramelized apple & Calvados ice cream sounds out of this world. YUMMO! Getting an ice cream maker with its own compressor has been a game changer for us … highly recommended!

      Reply
  • That looks delicious! Ice cream is my all time favourite dessert. If it’s home-made, even better.

    What a wonderful, happy picture of the brothers 🙂

    Reply
    • Thank you for your very kind comment, Carol. I know who to invite around when the churning starts again! 🙂

      Reply
  • Wonderful blog, yummy food but how about that photo – such happy chefs (is there any chance they may of drunk one of the ingredients – Kahlua!). Love to you all xx

    Reply
    • Lovely to hear from you, Mandy! No imbibing took place during the making of this blog post, but it did at the dinner party later, when the ice cream was eaten! 😉

      Reply
  • Hi
    Nice story ice cream looks fab and the pictures of the making really good illustrations has simon cut his hair.

    Reply
    • Hello Mike! Thanks for the kind comment. Simon has indeed had a run-in with some scissors … sharp ones at that!

      Reply
  • Gosh, how lovely that Chris has been inspired by your blog to write again, Annabel. What a treat for us all in many ways – can’t wait to try the ice cream!

    Reply
    • Thank you for your super-kind comment, Squacky. I feel very privileged hosting a guest post written by my editor, who also happens to be an ice cream-making whizz! 🙂

      Reply

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