Pumpkin Ice Cream Recipe

Every year I get a slew of requests from people looking for a recipe for Pumpkin Ice Cream. While in The Perfect Scoop I have a recipe for Sweet Potato Ice Cream studded with maple-glazed pecans, there’s something about the fall that makes people think of all-things pumpkin. I’m a big fan of sweet potatoes, personally, but old traditions die hard I suppose. And Pumpkin Ice Cream got put on my to-churn list.

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As luck would have it, I was leafing through a copy of The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco, former pastry chef at Craft in New York City, and landed on a picture of Pumpkin Ice Cream. Quelle chance! So I thought I’d give her recipe a spin in my ice cream machine.

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Karen uses canned pumpkin, which a lot of people like to use because it’s easy and consistent. But it’s not so easy to find in Paris. And even though I’m an outcast for using sweet potatoes, I’m still a bit old-fashioned and like to make my own puree. So there.

The pumpkins we get here, les potirons, are huge…and delicious.

potiron chunks

And they’re always sold by the slice. The problem is that their pulp has a high water content, so I swapped out butternut squash, which goes by the aptly-named butternut, in French. Unlike in the states, where squash and root vegetables are fairly common, they’re getting reacquainted with some of them that are lesser-known in Paris. Certain varieties of vegetables, called légumes oubliés (forgotten vegetables), are making a modest comeback. Especially root vegetables and squashes, which have an unfortunate association with war time, so they fell out of favor. But I don’t need to welcome them back because I never forgot about them.

Unfortunately not everyone misses them as much as I do and I went to a few markets and didn’t find les butternuts. I even scoured the ethnic markets in the north of Paris, which is where I usually find the unusual fruits and vegetables I’m seeking. But on the way home, I was passing by Ed, a discount supermarket which is frequented by folks of lesser-means and found two giant specimens, ready for my taking.

So after lugging them home (one in particular got quite a few stares…I’ll let you guess which one…) I cut up the less-intimidating one, split it in half, then roasted it in a moderately-hot oven, cut side down on a buttered baking sheet until the pulp was very soft, which took about 45 minutes. Then I scooped out the pulp and pureed it, which was a beautiful russet hue. So much so, that I’d hoped there was more than the 3/4 cup asked for the in recipe, because I couldn’t help from eating a few spoonfuls of it. (I also love eating the deeply-caramelized part of the squash that gets browned by the baking sheet.)

If you can get sugar pumpkins, those work well and are much tastier than standard Jack O’Lantern pumpkins. But feel free to use canned pumpkin, which is what the original recipe called for if you’d like. After all, this is supposed to be Pumpkin Ice Cream.

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I followed her recipe pretty closely, although I added a spoonful of liquor at the end, which augmented the flavor of the pumpkin and gave the ice cream a creamy, scoopable consistency. I was prepared to fuss around with the spices, but I found her combination exactly right to my taste.

pumpkin ice cream

So I’ve got a batch in my freezer, all ready for the holidays. I’m thinking of serving it alongside gingerbread, but it would also make a wonderful base for some ice cream puffs with warm caramel sauce and toasted nuts. Or even atop Warm Individual Spiced Chocolate cakes.

Pumpkin Ice Cream

Makes about 1 quart (1l)

Adapted from The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox

If using canned pumpkin, make sure to find one that’s 100% pumpkin. Often you’ll find cans of Pumpkin Pie Filling, which usually has spices and sweetener already added.

Press the mixture through a fine mesh strainer before freezing, as directed. Pumpkin can be slightly grainy and straining the custard is a good idea to help smooth it out.

  • 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) whole milk
  • 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons (95 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly-grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup packed (60 g) dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • optional: 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier, rum or brandy

3/4 cup (180 g) canned pumpkin puree (100% pure), or homemade (see directions in post)

1. Make an ice bath by putting some ice and a little water in a large bowl and nest a smaller metal bowl (one that will hold at least 2 quarts, 2l) inside it. Set a mesh strainer over the top.

2. In a medium saucepan mix the milk, cream, granulated sugar, ginger, ground cinnamon, cinnamon stick, nutmeg, and salt.

3. Warm the mixture until hot and the edges begin to bubble and foam.

4. Whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl and gradually whisk in about half of the warm spiced milk mixture, stirring constantly.

5. Scrape the warmed yolks back in to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read between 160º-170ºF (71º-76ºC).

6. Immediately pour the mixture through the strainer into the bowl nested in the ice bath. Mix in the brown sugar, then stir until cool, then chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.

7. Whisk in the vanilla, liquor (if using), and pumpkin puree. Press the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Variations: Stir in 1 to 1 1/2 cups (250 – 320 g) white or milk chocolate chips, crushed caramel, chopped up Skor or Daim (toffee) bars, or chopped toasted pecans or walnuts. A bit of chopped candied ginger would be nice, too.

Leftover bits of crumbled gingersnaps or gingerbread, or even toasted bits of brown bread or gingerbread could also be folded in, or crumbled on top for serving, which was suggested in the book.

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109 comments

  • Ha, I’m an idiot…I don’t know how I missed that. I will blame it on having three young children :-) Making the custard right now.

  • I substituted sweet potatoes for the pumpkin. Then, added crumbled graham cracker, right at the end of the churn. It came out, amazing.

  • Hi David

    I just wondered why you stipulated Kosher salt in this recipe?

    Its not quite so common here in the UK, unless I head off across London to the nearest Jewish deli.

    Can I replace the Kosher salt with Rock salt or are there differences to know about?

    Thanks
    Alex

  • Kosher salt was indicated by the original recipe. But you are welcome to replace it with sea salt or another mild, flaky salt. It’s a rather small amount and just a bit is needed to augment the flavor.

  • Thanks, Alex.

  • Hi David, These all look like great ideas. Unfortunately, the link to the cherry chocolate cake goes to the pumpkin ice cream – any chance of getting it fixed, because it sounds like my kind of cake?

  • Cakelaw: I don’t see a link in this post to my chocolate cherry fruitcake recipe but you can find the recipe on my Recipes page. Similarly you can also use the search engine at the top of the page to search the site.

  • Hey David:

    I’ve been making ice cream for awhile and I was very meticulous in following the directions; however, it did not come out at all.

    The puree was not tasty, which I attribute to the homemade puree. The puree basically turned my cream orange, but failed to taste creamy and squash-like.

    What should I have done different and how can I make the ice cream more edible now that I’ve made it? It just tastes like a block of cream.

    Thanks and I love your ginger cake!

  • cheers: If your pumpkin puree doesn’t taste good then your ice cream won’t either. I have a recipe in The Perfect Scoop for Sweet Potato Ice Cream, since they reliably have a better flavor, but people seem to want ‘pumpkin’, so I presented the recipe here. Next time try using a butternut squash in this recipe or even canned pumpkin. Happy churning!