Why This Recipe Works
- Adding enough cream and eggs to the ice cream custard ensures a great texture, despite the moisture-heavy pumpkin purée.
- A light hand with the spices allows the pumpkin flavor to shine.
- Gingersnaps and candied ginger are used in place of pie crust for the best texture.
When it comes to holiday food, I like to stick pretty close to tradition. Brisket? Grandma style. Latkes? Plain and simple. But dessert is where I get to play. By the dessert course your guests are tired and malleable, and it's the only time of the night I can convince the family that bourbon in pie is a good idea.
Speaking of pie, let's talk about pumpkin pie. I know there are many of you who like—nay, love—pumpkin pie. To you I say god bless and good luck, may you enjoy your pumpkin pie forevermore.
I like pumpkin pie, but I find myself eating it more out of a sense of holiday obligation than genuine interest. The starchy creaminess in crust-bound custard just doesn't do it for me the way, say, a lemon meringue does. But if you took that pie custard, churned it in an ice cream machine, and stirred in crushed gingersnaps and candied ginger? Now we're talking. Meet pumpkin pie ice cream, my—and I hope soon to be your—solution to the holiday baking rut.
Dark brown sugar lends a more molasses-y flavor to the ice cream, and a hint of star anise adds subtle but noticeable interest. Instead of mixing in chunks of pie crust, which get clumpy like cold butter when frozen, I stir in gingersnaps and some chopped candied ginger. The cookies soften but don't fall apart, just like a real crust on a pie.
This ice cream receives some definite personality from whiskey: rye for something spicy, bourbon for something more vanilla, or hey why not Scotch because it's your ice cream and you can do what you want? The amounts in the recipe are small, but their impact isn't.
For a pure pumpkin spice ice cream experience, I omit the cookies and add bourbon to round out the flavors. Looking for some chocolate? Here’s a pumpkin ice cream with rich chunks of brownie.
Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream Recipe
A frozen alternative to pumpkin pie, with gingersnap cookies and candied ginger folded inside.
- 6 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 cup pumpkin purée, canned or homemade
- 2 cups cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 star anise petals (or 1/8 teaspoon ground)
- 1 tablespoon bourbon, rye, or Scotch
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup chopped gingersnap cookies, store-bought or homemade, chilled in freezer
- 1/4 cup candied ginger, finely chopped, chilled in freezer
In a large, heavy saucepan, whisk egg yolks, brown sugar, and pumpkin purée into a smooth paste. Slowly whisk in cream and milk until fully combined.
Whisk in cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and star anise, and cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until a custard forms on the back of a spoon and a swiped finger leaves a clean line, 5 to 7 minutes.
Push custard through a fine-mesh strainer with the back of a spoon or ladle into an airtight container. Stir in bourbon or rye and salt, cover, and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 6 hours and up to overnight. Churn in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container, quickly stir in gingersnaps and candied ginger, and firm up in freezer for at least 3 hours before serving.