Calvados is an apple brandy that is frequently called for in recipes that use apples, such as apple tarts and cakes, because it provides a way to boost the apple flavor of a recipe. The spirit starts with fresh apples, which are pressed into juice and fermented into a hard cider. That cider is then distilled and aged in oak casks for about two years before being packaged up, ready to drink. The finished product has a complex flavor that includes plenty of apple flavor, as well as notes of oak, vanilla and caramel. When it comes to baking, calvados is often used like an extract, added in small quantities to a recipe, but it is an ingredient that has a unique flavor profile that can really stand on its own in a dessert, too.
This Calvados Ice Cream is an example of a recipe where calvados really shines, giving the ice cream a rich apple pie flavor without ever turning on the oven! It’s an easy ice cream base to make because it uses no eggs, and you’ll be surprised at the depth of the apple flavor if you haven’t worked much with calvados before. The ice cream starts with a reduction made from apple cider and calvados, which concentrates their apple flavors. You can actually make this reduction with the calvados alone, however the finished ice cream is a little sweeter when you use a combination of the two apple drinks. The reduction is then used to make a brown sugar ice cream base that has a touch of both vanilla and cinnamon added to it. If you don’t have apple cider, apple juice can be used, though apple cider is strongly preferred for its more intense apple flavor. You should be able to find calvados at most well-stocked liquor stores, but you can substitute Applejack (another apple spirit) if you don’t have it.
The alcohol in this recipe will mostly cook out as you prepare you reduction, so you don’t need to worry about getting a buzz even if you eat the whole container of ice cream in one sitting. This ice cream is excellent on its own and can be served as-is, or with a drizzle of calvados on top as a dish that is a dessert and nightcap in one. It is even better when it is paired with a slice of homemade apple pie or a dish of apple cobbler, for what just might be the ultimate apple dessert.
Calvados Ice Cream
1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup Calvados (or Applejack)
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
In a medium saucepan, combine apple cider and calvados. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until mixture is reduced to 1/2 cup.
When mixture is reduced, stir in milk, brown sugar and cinnamon, and cook until sugar is dissolved. Whisk in vanilla extract. Set aside to cool completely, then stir in the heavy cream. Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, about 4-6 hours (or longer).
Pour ice cream mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturers directions.
Transfer ice cream to a freezer-safe container and allow it to firm up for 1 to 2 hours before serving.
Makes about 1 quart.