Azuki Red Bean ice cream (East Asian style)
The red Azuki bean is a treasured dessert ingredient in many East Asian sweets. From the Chinese moon cakes to Japanese Daifuku rice cakes, its sweet red bean paste stands ready to provide a nice and yummy core. Surely, such a delectable flavour must work well also in ice cream? Well – there is only one way to find out: Read on!
The Azuki bean
The Azuki bean (also known as Adzuki, Aduki or red mung bean) is popular throughout East Asia, and apparently also on Hawaii and in the Philippines. We all know that beans in general are healthy food and good for us – typically, they come loaded with fibre, plant protein, minerals and vitamine B. This also goes for the red Azuki bean, which however has received most attention because of its tastiness when transformed into a paste mixed with sugar (where, admittedly, the mixed-in sugar clouds the oh-so-healthy overall picture). The bean’s flavour is mild and slightly nutty, and the combination with sweetness is clearly a match made in food-heaven!
… and my own quest for bean paste
My own first attempt to make red bean paste a few years ago ended in total and utter failure – the whole family quickly agreed that the resulting ice cream was the most disgusting ice cream that I’d ever made. And I could only agree … That said, it should be perfectly possible to make Azuki bean paste yourself, and I really encourage those who think they are up for it to do so.
Or you can do what I did this time around – namely go to an Asian shop and buy some ready-made! (I just felt too badly burnt after my last attempt to make home-made bean paste that it is questionable if I’ll ever give it a try again. Plus that my family probably would have boycotted the subsequent ice cream out of hand …).
The ice cream base
As always, it is entirely possible to use other bases for the ice cream. However, I concluded that a rather rich custard-base would be a suitable frame for the Azuki flavour. And I was right 🙂 .
While many custard ice cream base recipes prescribe a preparation in stages (first eggs + sugar, then slowly mixing that into the dairy), avid readers of the blog knows that I tend to favour the “Modernista” approach – skip the stages and put all relevant base ingredients (dairy, sugar, eggs) together right away and begin the cooking. This is also what I did this time!
How to do it
Once you have got hold of your Azuki bean paste (the smooth type!), you only need to make the custard base: Combine the egg yolks, the dairy and the sugar and start cooking!
As usual, the goal is to reach the so-called Nappe stage – at this point, the base should not only be pasteurised (our egg yolks!) but will also have gained that precious relative thickness which tells us that the egg yolks are doing their stabilising job and that we will end up with a nice, pleasant consistency!
While the Spoon test and other practical rules of thumb might be useful, I tend to rely on the thermometer to ensure that the base comes up to 82-84º C /189-183ºF-bracket.
When the custard part of the base is ready, we will simply add the red bean paste and whisk!
Our base is now ready – for the best results, let it cool down and then chill at least a couple of hours or more in the refrigerator before you churn it in your ice cream machine!
Azuki ice cream goodness!
Making ice cream on a bean may seem a bit strange, but there is nothing strange at all about the great result! It is easy to understand why the red bean has become such a dessert favourite in many corners of the world. The Azuki ice cream is delightful and delicious. The custard base provides a nice richness that suits the flavour perfectly, and the ice cream itself with an overall great consistency and mouthfeel.