Armagnac ice cream is a heady, creamy, adult ice cream made with brandy and lots of custardy egg yolks. We’re not kidding when we say this is some deliciously, dangerously, creamy stuff.
Ice cream is so versatile. This flavor is very adult, and though we tend to link frozen desserts with summer, Armagnac ice cream is perfect all year round. It’s magnificent with desserts made with fall fruits like plums, prunes, pears, and figs but also adds a nice finish to summer meals.
The Armagnac is added after the crème anglaise has been cooked, which gives the final ice cream a punch of raw alcohol and the warm, woodsy note of Armagnac. Feel free to use either Cognac or brandy if that’s what you have on hand.–Rocco DiSpirito
WHAT IS ARMAGNAC?
Armagnac is a distinctive kind of brandy produced in the Armagnac region in Gascony, southwest France. Distilled from white wine, the resulting spirit is aged in oak barrels before release. Armagnac was one of the first areas in France to begin distilling spirits, but the overall volume of production is far smaller than cognac (the other brandy-based liquor) and is less known outside Europe. Most distilleries are family-owned and often fairly small-scale.
More rustic and artisanal in production than cognac, Armagnac is more flavor-forward and has a heavier mouthfeel. It’s also higher in alcohol volume, coming in at about 47%. Still a distinctively brandy-based liquor, Armagnac does have a wider variation in flavors, even from one vintage to the next. This is because Armagnac distillers are able to use a wider range of grapes in production.
☞ Table of Contents
Armagnac Ice Cream
- Ice cream maker
- 1 quart half and half
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 9 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons Armagnac
- Fill a large bowl or sink halfway with ice water. (The ice bath will need to fit the saucepan that you use to cook the ice cream base.)
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the half-and-half until small bubbles form around the edge of the pan, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Place the sugar and egg yolks in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and pale yellow, about 3 minutes.
- Whisking constantly, slowly pour 1/2 to 1 cup of the warm half-and-half into the sugar and egg yolk mixture. Once it's combined, scrape everything in the bowl into the saucepan containing the half-and-half, return the pan to the stove over very low heat, and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the foam disappears and the mixture is thick enough that the moving spoon leaves a "track" that fills in slowly.
☞TESTER TIP: For a ridiculously smoooooooth custard and resulting ice cream, you can strain the mixture after taking it off the heat and before cooling it.
- Place the pan in the ice bath to stop the cooking process, stirring occasionally. Add the Armagnac and let cool to room temperature.
- Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and process it according to the manufacturer's instructions. You may need to process the mixture in a couple of batches to avoid overflowing.
- If you prefer a soft consistency, scoop it immediately. If you prefer a firmer consistency, cover and freeze for at least a couple of hours prior to serving.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Boy, was this ice cream decadent. With a crème anglaise taste and texture before you churn it into actual ice cream, I froze the ice cream overnight and served it with a few cacao nibs on top of each serving. The Armagnac flavor is subtle but really adds a lovely dimension to the ice cream.
The only thing I might suggest to make the flavor even yummier is to add some pure vanilla extract into the ice cream base (and if you have the kind flecked with vanilla bean seeds all the better in my opinion). I really loved the simplicity of ingredients and the great visual cues within the recipe. It really made for a smooth cooking process. I’m happy to have a tub of this ice cream in my freezer—I think tonight I might try it with some dried figs as an accompaniment.
Armagnac ice cream makes a delicious ending to the day! I used Cognac, a French brandy, as that is what we had available. The alcohol flavor was milder than I anticipated, being an endnote rather than an “in your face first thing you taste” flavor.
Beating the eggs and sugar together adds volume, resulting in a premium ice cream consistency. This recipe is a versatile base with which to use any of your favorite spirits or liquors flavors. I am excited about the possibilities of using fruit mix-ins to add another layer of deliciousness. Next time I want to try kirsch (cherry brandy) with fresh chopped Bing cherries! This time I served it with LC’s recipe for classic apple pie.
I enjoy making ice cream and I’ve found some additional simple steps to make this ice cream preparation even better. For super-smooth ice cream, strain the cooked custard base by pouring it through a fine-mesh strainer into the chilling bowl. Pay attention to your ice cream freezer’s volume capacity–I froze mine in two batches to avoid it overflowing. If you want to scoop the ice cream, put it in a freezer container and freeze for a couple of hours before serving, otherwise you have “soft serve” ice cream.
Remember it’s the cook’s privilege to lick off all the ice cream from the dasher! I suggest renaming the recipe to “Boozy Ice Cream” or the like.
Originally published July 27, 2003