Do you know what turrón is? It is a nougat-like confectionery mostly made with almonds, tons of almonds… and also sugar, honey and egg whites. It is typical Christmas fare all over Spain, although originating from the southeast Mediterranean coast, in the region of Valencia (check here the Spanish pronunciation of turrón). It is usually shaped into either a rectangular tablet or a round cake where almonds can be left whole or ground to a paste to yield the following traditional varieties:
- Hard (the Alicante variety): A compact block of whole almonds in a brittle mass of eggs, honey and sugar; 64% almonds (premium quality).
- Soft (the Jijona variety): Similar but the almonds are reduced to a paste. The addition of oil makes the matrix more chewy and sticky; 60% almonds (premium quality).
Jijona is a small town known since the Middle Ages for its excellent honey and productive almond orchards. This local produce gave birth to turrón, referenced for the first time in a document of 1531. Turrón is such a valued confection that today its formulas and quality are standardized and endorsed by a Regulation Council.
And I guess you are wondering why I am talking about Christmas now, right at the beginning of Spring. Well, because the same as turrón itself reminds any Spaniard of Christmas, ice cream flavored with Jijona turrón is a variety that no Spanish ice cream shop fails to stock during the warm season. And as in Spain it is very common to have turrón leftovers at home after Christmas, this is a wonderful way to give this traditional confection a totally different twist. And that is exactly what I did. So as warmer weather is on its way in the northern hemisphere and just in case you happen to lay your hands on a tablet of Jijona turrón, here is the recipe for this creamy, rich and very Mediterranean ice cream:
Jijona turrón ice cream
For the custard:
- 0.75 cup (150g) sugar*
- 2 cups (500ml) whole milk
- 3 medium eggs (whites separated)
For the flavouring:
- 0.33oz (150g) soft Jijona turrón
- 3 tbsp Málaga wine (a good quality sweet Sherry can be used instead)
- 0.85 cup (200ml) whipping cream
- To make the custard, put the sugar, milk and egg yolks in a saucepan and prepare a custard using a bain marie or double boiler, stirring slowly and continuously with a wooden spoon, until the custard is set and it coats the back of the spoon. Watch it closely to avoid any boiling, or it will curdle.
- Process the crumbled turrón with the wine into a paste, then add to the custard and mix well. Set this mixture aside and let cool to ambient.
- When the turrón custard is cool, whip the cream to soft peaks and add, folding gently till fully incorporated.
- Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks and fold carefully into the mixture. Mix gently but thoroughly to avoid any white streaks in the final ice cream mixture.
- Leave to freeze in your icebox and whip every hour till fully set or churn in your ice cream maker, if you are lucky to have one, which I am not.
*A note on sugar: the sugar content is a very region-dependent and even personal matter, and it should be adjusted to your liking, so I recommend you try the mixture before churning. Usually European confectioneries, pastries and sweet things in general are less sweet than for example in the United States. And remember frozen desserts should always be on the sweet side before freezing or churning, as the sweetness will be less noticeable afterwards.
And there you have it. To my taste this ice cream is so rich that I don’t need any topping or sauce on mine, but feel free to use some chocolate sauce or almond brittle…