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.
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
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!