Amanda & Merrill

Pulino's Almond Ice

August 20, 2010

almond ice

- Amanda

A few weeks ago, I went to Pulino’s, a restaurant on the Bowery that merges Keith McNally’s meticulously-aged restaurant aesthetic with San Francisco chef Nate Appleman’s roughly-hewn pizzas. We had the pizza and a knock-out bean salad, but the dish that stood out was a dessert, a dish called “Almond Ice.” The ice arrived looking like finely shaved parmesan cheese with a few glazed cherries sunken into the center. The ice was delicate and nutty, a little sweet but only suggestively so. It wasn’t ice cream but it wasn’t granita, either. It was more like newly fallen snowflakes. The cherries were fresh, a little cold and coated in a gently bitter syrup. If I had to design a flawless dessert, this would be it.

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I wasn’t clever enough to figure out how to make the almond ice, but I was able to score an invite to see how Jane Tseng, Pulino’s pastry chef, does it. After steeping and pureeing an almond milk (so easy it’s not worth going into here), she freezes the mixture in ice cube trays, then shaves the almond ice cubes in a huge restaurant-grade food processor fitted with a grating blade. The ice shoots out of the machine like a snow blower. It’s very loud and exciting. Then the ice is re-frozen until it's time to serve it. The cherries are also a cinch. You make a syrup with fresh and dried cherries, cherry pits (for bitterness), and Aperol (a bitter aperitif in the Campari family), and use that to glaze more fresh cherries. If cherries are too out of season for you, use peaches!

At home, everything went just fine until the food processor step, at which point I discovered my grating blade doesn’t fit my food processor (and I have no idea what food processor it ever fit or how I could have acquired someone else’s grating blade). In a panic to get the above photo, I turned to my Microplane parmesan cheese grater, and grated the almond ice cubes by hand. Turns out if you want to achieve the texture of grated parmesan cheese, you use a parmesan cheese grater. (I am a genius, thank you.) But if you want to preserve your sanity, and your knuckles, then make sure your grater blade fits your food processor before beginning the recipe.

Almond Ice with Glazed Cherries

Adapted from Jane Tseng, the pastry chef at Pulino’s in New York City

Serves 4

For the ice:

  • 4 1/4 cups water
  • 2 cups almonds (with skins on), chopped
  • 1 teaspoon aniseed or fennel seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons sugar

For the cherries:

  • 2 1/2 cups cherries
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 3/4 cup dried cherries
  • 3 ounces Aperol or Campari (or other bitter aperitif)

1. Bring the water to a boil. In a bowl, combine the almonds, aniseed, salt, and sugar. Pour in the boiling water. Let cool, then refrigerate overnight. (If you don’t have time to let it sit overnight, don’t worry, just move on to the next step.)

2. Puree the almond mixture in a blender and get it as smooth as possible. Strain through cheesecloth into measuring cup with a spout. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze.

3. When the almond ice cubes are completely frozen, fit your food processor with the grating blade. Grate the ice cubes, a few at time. Immediately transfer the almond snow to a freezer container and freeze the grated almond ice.

4. Meanwhile, make the cherry glaze: pit the cherries, reserving the pits. In a small saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups fresh cherries, the water, reserved pits, dried cherries, and Aperol. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 30 minutes. Strain the mixture, pressing the solids to extract as much juice as possible, into a clean saucepan. Boil this mixture until it’s a light syrup.

5. Just before serving, fold the remaining 1 cup fresh cherries into the syrup. Spoon the almond ice into chilled shallow bowls, making a small well in the center. Spoon a few cherries and some syrup into the well. Enjoy – quickly!


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daleydish September 2, 2010
I've made the almond ice cubes but can't bring myself to make the cherry sauce. I'm just not a huge fan of cherries, and I'd have to use frozen since they're not in season anymore. Any suggestions for another accompaniment to the almond ice, since you've tasted it? Something chocolate, maybe?
Amanda H. September 2, 2010
How about peaches? Chocolate sauce would be great (when isn't it?!) but fruit offers a nice acidity.
Amanda H. August 25, 2010
Hey all, if you printed out the recipe before today, please note this correction. I made an error in the original recipe (should have been 4 1/2 tablespoons sugar, not teaspoons), so please use this corrected version.
ctussaud August 25, 2010
I made the almond milk and froze it; grated the first few cubes, tasted it and threw the whole thing out. The only respect in which I deviated from the recipe was in omitting the fennel seed or aniseed, both flavours I loathe. It was dull and tasteless; maybe commercial almond milk would be better, and I suppose that if you leave out the seeds then you need to add something else in compensation? An almond essence of quality suggests itself.
Amanda H. August 25, 2010
I'm sorry yours didn't turn out well. I just noticed an error which may have caused the "dullness." It should be 4 1/2 tablespoons sugar, not teaspoons. I've corrected this. And my apologies. I've tasted the version made at Pulino's, as well as the one I reproduced in my kitchen (in fact, this latter version was tasted by 4 people), and both were great. So I hope you'll give it another try.
Denise August 24, 2010
This looks superb.
denamite August 23, 2010
Do you think you could use commercial almond milk for this? I know it wouldn't be the same, but in a pinch/if you just happen to have some hanging out in your fridge, not getting any use...?
Amanda H. August 23, 2010
I think it's worth a try -- will lack depth of flavor but will probably still be good.
hana August 22, 2010
Have you tried a Taiwanese ice shaver? This dish seems like an upgraded Taiwanese shaved ice dessert--bao bing.
Amanda H. August 23, 2010
No I haven't -- do you know where I can get one?
Sunchowder August 22, 2010
This looks so yummy, I really want to try this as our summer lasts forever, excited about making the almond milk too!
pierino August 21, 2010
I'm a long time fan of Keith McNally's restaurants but for a place that calls itself a "pizzeria", the pizza is really not that great. What's with the grana? However, now I have something to look forward to on my next trip into NYC. I like to lodge in that part of town. I really like Jane Tseng's use of Aperol in this. I really want to taste it. Pastry chefs are a species onto themselves!
Amanda H. August 23, 2010
Yeah -- it's a great use of bitterness, an underappreciated taste.
testkitchenette August 20, 2010
Add the strained nuts pulp to cookies, brownies, cakes, dry/toast it in the oven to put on ice cream or over macerated fruit, or add to churning ice cream, stir into nut butters! Thanks for a great recipe and new technique Amanda!
Kitchen B. August 21, 2010
Add breads, pancake & waffle mixes, pie/tart shells and scones to the list. Stir into oats before you cook your porridge or rice pudding, even sprinkle in some matcha....and enjoy. If you have tonka beans, you could also use them in place of the aniseed/fennel - they have nuances that go super well with almonds.
Amanda H. August 23, 2010
Thanks for all of these great ideas.
lacerise August 20, 2010
what do you do with the saved pits? you don't say in your instructions. am i right in assuming they go into the pot with the fresh and dried cherries that get cooked?
Amanda H. August 20, 2010
Thanks for noticing that -- just fixed it. They go in with the dried cherries.
thirschfeld August 20, 2010
See it WAS good you had all that practice grating parmesan this week. Although I suspect you might have done this piece earlier. It looks great and I can't wait to get my knucles into it.
Amanda H. August 20, 2010
Lizthechef August 20, 2010
At least you have your grater disc - I threw mine out by accident...This looks heavenly!
Amanda H. August 20, 2010
lapadia August 20, 2010
Thanks so much for sharing this recipe, Amanda!
Amanda H. August 20, 2010
drbabs August 20, 2010
Amanda H. August 20, 2010
It is yum -- figure I can say that since it's not my recipe.
mrslarkin August 20, 2010
Yum. I'm drooling. Seems a shame, though, to strain out the 2c of almonds. I wonder if you can you do something with it? Thanks for recipe, Amanda.
Amanda H. August 20, 2010
It's kind of like pulp by the time it gets strained out. There may be a use for it, just not sure what.
Kitchen B. August 21, 2010
Add that pulp to some rice pudding, finish off with a sprinkling of brown sugar, passed under a hot grill for a brulée style topping. Eat
aargersi August 20, 2010
We have a snow cone ice crushing thingy that is intended for children but, well, we're childish - cherry almond grown up snow cone sounds perfect! Amanda, do your knuckles a favor and get one :-)
Amanda H. August 20, 2010
What brand do you recommend?
aargersi August 20, 2010
Ours is a Rival - pretty sure it came from Target or somewhere non-fancy, but it works!!!
Sagegreen August 20, 2010
Thank you for deconstructing almond ice for us! I just started exploring some new frozen treats, but nothing close to the excitement, delicacy and sophistication of this!
Amanda H. August 20, 2010
Thanks -- I was happy to learn a new technique. Jane says it works especially well with nuts, and also cacao nibs.