Making elegant ice cream balls is a relatively simple process. Coat homemade vanilla ice cream in flavorful toasted hazelnuts for subtle flavor and delightfully contrasting textures. Serve the ice cream balls with a drizzle of caramel or hot fudge sauce and top it with a dollop of whipped cream for a fun sundae, or skip the extra toppings for a portable treat. This recipe is adapted from Food & Wine’s pecan ice cream balls and made with homemade ice cream adapted from The Kitchn’s basic custard ice cream.

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped hazelnuts

Add whole milk, heavy cream, granulated sugar and salt to a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Turn the heat down to medium or medium-low and cook the mixture for approximately 5 minutes until the sugar dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk egg yolks in a small bowl until they are slightly frothy. Pour approximately one-third of the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking them constantly.

Add the egg yolk mixture to the saucepan, whisking it slowly into the milk mixture to prevent clumps from coagulated egg yolks.

Turn the heat back to medium-low and continue cooking the ice cream until the mixture reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, it should be thick enough to cling to a spoon.

Place a strainer over a bowl and pour the mixture through to remove any small clumps.

Slice the vanilla beans in half, making a vertical cut along the length of one side of each bean. Use a spoon to scrape down the sides, and add the pods and seeds to the mixture. Allow the vanilla to steep for approximately 30 minutes before discarding the pods.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill the mixture in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.

Pour the vanilla ice cream into an ice cream maker and allow it to freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place it in the freezer to chill for 20 to 30 minutes.

On another baking sheet, toast the hazelnuts in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or until the nuts smell fragrant. Allow the nuts to cool.

Use an ice cream scoop to measure about a 1/2 cup of the soft, freshly churned vanilla ice cream. Immediately roll it in the toasted nuts, pressing it into a ball. Place the ice cream ball immediately on the chilled baking sheet.

Continue working until all of the ice cream balls are prepared. Transfer the sheet of ice cream balls to the freezer to firm for 3 hours or longer before serving them.

  • Instead of steeping the milk mixture with a vanilla bean, use fresh mint, basil,
    ground coffee or cinnamon.
  • Substitute the toasted hazelnuts with a different type of nut, crushed cookies, cereal or puffed quinoa. Make your own crunchy coating by blending several ingredients.  
  • As the ice cream freezes, add extra pops of flavor by swirling chocolate or caramel into the mix or adding sprinkles, nuts, chocolate chips or other ingredients. 

Tips

Short on time? Use store-bought ice cream, but allow it to warm slightly in the refrigerator until it’s easy to scoop into balls.