Ladies and gentlemen, a joke from my Grandfather:
“What’s the biggest nut?”
Ah yes, not quite at the level of Dave Chappelle, but comedic gold nonetheless from my paternal Grandfather Juan (AKA Grandpa Johnny, AKA Johnny Boom-Boom, AKA The Chairman). That comedic gem was on my mind this past weekend when I exhumed the canister for my ice cream maker from the back of my freezer in hopes of creating a recipe for Macapuno Ice Cream. Macapuno is a type of coconut that is grown in the Philippines – the same place where my Grandfather was grown no less.
Macapuno is also known as “mutant coconut” because the meat inside of this naturally occurring oddity is more abundant and softer than the meat found in normal coconuts. Despite its unfortunately icky-sounding English name, Macapuno is an incredibly delicious fruit (or is it a nut? Damn you Johnny Boom-Boom!). And here in the states, you can find jarred Macapuno in most any Asian market. The jarred variety is usually labeled something like “Sweet Macapuno Strings” as threads of grated coconut are preserved in some sort of gelatin – think of it as coconut jelly (or jam, depending on how it shakes for you;).
Filipinos use Macapuno in a variety of desserts: from cakes, to flan, to Halo-halo. But for me, ice cream is one of the best mediums for this mutant. So ice cream it was this time around at the Burnt Lumpia Worldwide Headquarters.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an Alton Brown geek. As such, I’ve made a few of his ice cream recipes in the past. Although AB’s vanilla ice cream recipe is one of the best I’ve tried, I didn’t want to just make vanilla ice cream and top it with Macapuno (although that’s not a bad idea). I wanted to make a true coconut ice cream with a definite coconutty flavor.
Alton Brown uses a total of 4 cups of liquid (3 cups half and half, 1 cup heavy cream) and 8 egg yolks for his ice cream base. I wanted to keep that same proportion of liquid to yolks because it yields a very creamy texture. However, I used coconut milk in place of some of the half and half and cream. I ended up using a 14-ounce can (14oz =1 ¾ cup) of unsweetened coconut milk, and a cup each of half and half and cream. If you're keeping score at home, that’s only 3 ¾ cups of liquid. Hmmm. What would I use for the final ¼ cup of liquid to reach the magical 4 cups? Coconut rum! Of course! Not only would the rum boost the coconutty goodness I was after, but it would also aid in a creamier texture as alcohol lowers the freezing point of water and inhibits the growth of large ice crystals (small ice crystals, smooth ice cream).
I should also note that I actually ended up using only 6 egg yolks (we only had 7 eggs when I made this, and as always, I broke the yolk on the first egg I tried to separate. Egg separating be hard).
Anyways, I was very pleased with the resultant ice cream. It was indeed smooth, creamy, and rich. It possessed a definite and pronounced coconut taste as sweet threads of the Macapuno were swirled into the custard made from coconut milk and coconut rum.
Macapuno Ice Cream
Yield: About 1 quart ice cream
1 ¾ cup (14oz can) unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup half and half
Pinch of salt
¼ cup coconut-flavored rum (e.g. Malibu rum)
6 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
¾ cup Macapuno, plus more for serving (Macapuno is shredded coconut that can be found in jars at Asian markets)
Place the coconut milk, cream, half and half, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stirring occasionally, bring to a bare simmer (just about when it starts to steam and barely bubble) and remove from heat. Add the rum to the milk mixture.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Slowly add the sugar while continuing to whisk the eggs. Whisk until all the sugar is incorporated.
Temper the eggs by slowly adding, one ladle at a time, the warm milk mixture to the eggs, whisking continuously. When about a third of the milk mixture has been added to the eggs, pour the remaining milk mixture into the eggs, then return the entire mixture back to the saucepan over medium low heat. Continue to cook and whisk until the mixture reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer. If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, cook the mixture until it thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon. (You can test for doneness by running your finger across the coated spoon. If your finger leaves a definite trail on the spoon, then the custard is done. If the trail flows back together, continue to cook the custard until it thickens some more.)
Pour the custard through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl. Add the Macapuno to the custard and mix well. Allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Cover and place the mixture in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, though overnight is better.
Pour the cold custard mixture into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s directions. (Optional) Top ice cream with more Macapuno before serving.