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Horchata Ice Cream

Horchata is my home girl.

Seriously. It’s second only to ginger beer in my personal ranking of favorite things to drink. Creamy, spicy, and refreshing, it’s everything I want in a beverage.

I was so psyched to try the REAL DEAL last week in Barcelona (on a whirlwind trip from which we are still recovering from some serious jetlag). Horchata from Spain is actually made from tiger nuts or chufas (which are not actually nuts at all, but rather tubers), though iterations of the drink have spread to the Americas and utilize everything from rice to almonds to sesame seeds. I hope to post more about our trip in the coming weeks; I have so much to share, but so many photos to sift through first. Patience, my dears.

Horchata Ice Cream

As perfect as horchata is in liquid form, it’s even more brilliant churned into ice cream. Talk about refreshing… It’s all kinds of awesome.

Inspired by a sample of Tillamook’s new Cinnamon Horchata ice cream which I was fortunate enough to sample last fall, I knew I had to try my own. I’d already made homemade horchata before, and turning it into ice cream involved little more than mixing in some sweetened condensed milk and eggs.

The subtle cinnamon spice makes this ice cream taste like Christmas (according to Taylor, at least) but that’s not to say it can’t be enjoyed the rest of the year, too; a fact which I will prove over and over again this summer.

Homemade Horchata Ice Cream

The fat content of the horchata is much lower than if you used milk or cream in custard base, so the ice cream has its own unique texture and character. Not icy (the syrupy sweetened condensed milk and cornstarch take care of that), but also not quite what you expect. I’d maybe describe it as slightly chewy and rubbery if it didn’t sound so unappetizing (and I promise you, it’s not!), but I’m not sure how else to describe it. The syrupy sweetened condensed milk capitalizes on the superpowers of cooked sugar to hold the ice cream together beautifully, even without the extra butterfat.

Horchata Ice Cream

This ice cream starts with homemade horchata, with all its rich, creamy, spicy wonderfulness. You could certainly use pre-made horchata if you have a good source nearby. The homemade is nice because it lets you control the sweetness: one can of sweetened condensed milk being more than enough to sweeten and entire batch of ice cream. If you started with an already-sweet drink the result might be overkill.

Cinnamon Horchata Ice Cream

Horchata Ice Cream made with Rice, Almonds, and Cinnamon

Note that canela cinnamon is what you want here. The sticks are looser and more papery than the hard bark of Ceylon cinnamon. Canela or Mexican cinnamon is going to give you a milder, smoother spice. Check out your local Mexican grocer and I’ll bet you a quart of this stuff they have it.

Horchata Ice Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup long-grain white rice (such as basmati)
  • 1 5-inch stick Ceylon cinnamon (also called Mexican cinnamon or canella)
  • 1 cup (5 ounces) blanched almonds
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • pinch salt

Directions:

  1. To blanch almonds: bring a saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Add almonds and boil for 45 seconds, then drain and rinse with cool water. The almonds should easily slip out of their skins when squeezed. You can also substitute whole or slivered almonds which have already been blanched and skip this step.
  2. In a spice grinder or a clean coffee grinder, pulverize rice and cinnamon stick until finely ground. Add ground rice to a large mason jar or bowl. Add almonds and cover with 2 cups water (use filtered water if your tap water is iffy). Cover and refrigerate 10-12 hours or overnight.
  3. The next day, pour the contents of the jar into the canister of a blender, along with 1 more cups of filtered water. Blend on the highest speed for 1 to 2 minutes or until completely smooth.
  4. Pour mixture through a fine mesh sieve lined with two layers of cheesecloth, or, if you have one, a nut milk bag is ideal for this. Let most of the liquid drain through, then gather up the edges and squeeze the remaining pulp to force out as much liquid as you can. Discard leftover pulp. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of liquid.
  5. Pour horchata into a saucepan along with sweetened condensed milk. Warm over medium heat until it just starts to bubble (do not let it come to a full boil).
  6. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks together with cornstarch and salt until smooth and slightly lightened in color. Slowly ladle in 1/4 cup of warm horchata, whisking to incorporate. Continue to add horchata, 1/4 cup at a time, whisking constantly, until about half of the horchata has been incorporated and mixture is warm to the touch. Pour back into saucepan with remaining liquid. Continue to cook over medium heat until mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of the spoon, about 5 to 7 minutes (it should read 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer). Remove from heat and transfer to a heat-proof bowl set inside an ice bath. Stir until cooled to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight until completely chilled.
  7. Churn in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze until firm, or enjoy immediately as soft-serve consistency.
All images and text © Lindsay Landis /

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