I vividly remember the first time I tasted red bean ice cream. My now husband and I were sitting at a sushi bar having just eaten far too much sushi when he suggested we get red bean ice cream to end the evening. I had never heard of red bean ice cream and was a little wary of it. I mean, can you blame me? Ice cream with beans in it doesn’t just scream delicious to me. But as my husband went on and on about how much he loved it, I decided to give it a try.
If you’ve never tried red bean ice cream before, the taste is unusual. When I first tried it, I couldn’t tell if I liked it or not, but found myself going back again and again for one last bite. Even after scraping up the last bit of ice cream, I was still on the fence and it was only later, when I found myself wishing for another bowl, that I decided that I actually liked ice cream with beans in it.
Since that first taste, I’ve sought out red bean ice cream in funky grocery stores and asian markets to no avail. So it was a bit of surprise, when last week, as I tested recipes for a Dim Sum class that I am teaching later this month I had one of those “aha” moments. I was making coconut rice balls with red bean paste and was experimenting with the filling. I couldn’t decide if it made more sense to make the red bean paste from scratch using dried adzuki beans or if using a canned version of sweetened red bean paste made more sense. As I tasted each option, the taste memory of that first bite of red bean ice cream came rushing back along with a serious craving for the stuff.
Minutes later, thanks to the power of Google (how did I live without it?) I had a recipe for red bean ice cream in hand and was just a few hours away from experiencing red bean ice cream in my home. Oh, the excitement!
The recipe I found on the CHOW.com called for 2 cups of red bean paste to give the red bean flavor. One of my favorite things about red bean ice cream is the bits of whole red beans found throughout it. To me those bits of chewy goodness in the midst of all that cold creamy ice cream are what makes it so yummy to eat. To put it simply, imagine Cookies n’ Cream without those hunks of Oreo cookie. I know - the thought is painful to even imagine. Which is exactly why I am adamant about using whole red beans in my recipe. If you can’t find canned whole red beans, cooking the dried beans will require some effort on your part (see the recipe for more details). I realize this is asking a lot, but all I can say is that as you happily chew on bits of red bean you’ll be glad you took the time.
And finally, don’t forget to take advantage of the printer-friendly option for recipes. From now on, each post will feature a PDF version of the recipe for your convenience! Less paper = More Trees and Happier Cooks!
Red Bean Ice Cream - PDF of Recipe (Printer-Friendly)
Makes 1 quart
Adapted from Essentials of Asian Cuisine: Fundamentals and Favorite Recipes by Corrine Trang as featured on Chow.com
Adzuki beans are referred to as red beans in Asian cuisine and are identified as such in Asian markets. Do not substitute kidney beans (what I think of as red beans) for the adzuki beans. While it won’t be the same, you can use 1 1/2 cups of sweetened red bean paste and omit the whole red beans if you are pressed for time.
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons half and half
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup canned sweetened red bean paste*
1 cup cooked whole red beans (aka adzuki beans)** or 1 cup canned red beans (adzuki beans), drained and rinsed
Special Equipment: Ice cream maker
Fill the bottom half of a double boiler with about 1 to 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, pour the 2 cups of half and half and the 1 cup of heavy cream into the top of the double boiler and heat until steaming, but not boiling.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until the eggs are thick and light yellow in color. Add a ladleful of the hot cream into the eggs and whisk to temper. Pour the egg and cream mixture into the top of the double boiler and whisk to combine.
Mix together the remaining two tablespoons of half and half and the cornstarch and add the mixture to the cream. Continue whisking and heating the mixture until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Do not let the mixture boil.
Once thick, remove the custard from the heat and strain it into a bowl that has been placed in an ice bath. Stir in the red bean paste and the whole red beans and chill for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator.
Following the instructions for your ice cream maker, pour the chilled custard into the machine and process until thick and frozen.
* Canned sweetened red bean paste can be found at Asian markets and some grocery stores.
** If using dried adzuki beans, soak 3/4 cup of dried beans in water overnight in a refrigerator. After soaking, place beans in a medium saucepan and cover with 2-inches of water. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours or until the beans are soft. Drain and use as directed in the recipe.