February 13, 2012 Red Bean Ice Cream

Birds nests, lily bulbs and red beans are just a few of the not so common ingredients in Chinese sweets. Chinese dinners usually end with fruit and traditionally sweets are not served with meals but with afternoon tea. Ice cream certainly wouldn’t be on any list of classic Chinese sweets, so for our Chinese New Year Celebration I thought I would put an Eastern twist on a Western classic.

Adzuki beans are used in Asian desserts such as red bean soup or glutinous rice balls filled with red bean paste. Adzuki beans originated in China and are harvested in November and December. They are believed to strengthen the heart and aid circulation and fatigue.  I thought it would be fun to feature these small reddish-brown beans in ice cream.

Some of the recipes I saw started with a pre-made paste that is available in  Asian groceries but I wanted my beans to have a little more texture I started with a fresh vacuum-packed container of beans. As with any recipe, older beans could lose moisture and require a longer cooking time.

Fresh adzuki beans ready for an over night soak.

They took a little longer than I expected, but now at the right consistency.

The finished product, creamy with a bit of texture from the beans.

Sweet Adzuki Bean Paste

  • 1 cup adzuki beans
  • 1 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt

1. Rinse beans, cover with water in bowl and soak overnight.

2. Drain beans, rinse well. Put beans in saucepan and add water to cover. Bring to a boil and drain.  Return to the saucepan and add water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to the boil and then simmer, skimming any scum from the surface. Continue to simmer until beans reach desired softness, 30-45 minutes.

3. Add sugar, stirring to dissolve and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered, stirring frequently until beans thicken, at least another 30 minutes. Stir beans frequently so that beans do not stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat, add a squeeze of lemon and a  pinch of salt and stir well. Cool to room temperature before adding to ice cream base.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Using the formula from Fine Cooking Homemade Ice Cream Recipe Maker

Adzuki Bean Ice Cream

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar or to taste
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 cups adzuki bean paste
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large metal bowl with several inches of ice water. Set a smaller bowl in the ice water. Pour one cup of heavy cream into the inner bowl. Set a strainer on top. Whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl.

2. Warm one cup of cream with the milk and sugar in a medium saucepan until tiny bubbles form around the edge of the pan. In a steady stream pour half of the warm cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisk constantly to prevent eggs from curdling.

3. Pour egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stir constantly and scrape the bottom with a rubber spatula until the custard thickens. I like to use my thermapen thermometer to monitor this process closely. The temperature should read 175-180, don’t overheat or the custard will curdle and become sweetened scrambled eggs. Immediately strain the custard into the chilled cream. Once the mixture has cooled, add  teaspoon of vanilla extract and two cups of the sweetened adzuki beans. Transfer adzuki custard to refrigerator to chill overnight or at least 4 hours.

4. Freeze custard in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions.

Additional note-check the custard before freezing to make sure it is at your desired sweetness level, if not, add a tablespoon or so of honey or agave sweetener.

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I love to cook, garden, entertain and celebrate holidays with family and friends in Bucks County Pa. I was an off-premise caterer for over 20 years with events ranging from ten to four hundred guests.