Bourbon Apple Crisp Ice Cream

When I began working on this ice cream recipe a week ago, I was in a bit of a snit. The weather was too nice. It was too warm to turn on the oven, too warm to make pumpkin pie or eat butternut squash soup. When nice weather gets in the way of my longing to curl up under a blanket with a good book and a mug of hot chocolate, I call this the Indian Summer Blues (after which I even named a cocktail).

So instead, I grumped around in shorts and made ice cream.

(Yes, I really am that much of a spoiled brat.)

Fortunately, Laura of Fork Knife Swoon came to my rescue with an apple cinnamon ice cream that I couldn’t stop obsessing over. There may be no cure for the summertime blues, but cool ice cream with warming flavors will remedy even the nastiest case of this San Franciscan’s Indian Summer Blues. (Though a frosty beverage doesn’t hurt, either.)

Since I also seem to be obsessed with crisps and crumbles, I decided to combine the two into one fabulous (or at least, I hoped it would be fabulous) frozen dessert. (I also credit Erin’s blackberry crisp ice cream for this brainwave.)

And I decided to throw in some bourbon because, really, why not?

I tinkered with the recipe for a bit. Since I’d need to have the oven on to bake the crumble, I ignored Jay’s protests regarding the heat and roasted the apples as well. I tried different ratios of spice until I came up with one that tasted like my ideal apple pie, and I added a splash of bourbon. Mashing the apples as they roast helps rid them of excess moisture, concentrating their flavor into a chunky paste and thwarting ice crystals in the finished product.

Apples are naturally high in pectin, which thickens and stabilizes the ice cream without the need for egg yolks or starches. I also tried a custard-based version, but the extra fat of the egg yolks just seemed to muddy the flavors. I love when the easier road is the better-tasting one, as was the case here.

For the base, I steep cream and half and half with vanilla bean and cinnamon sticks. This gets pureed with the apples until silky smooth, and finished with heavy cream and another dose of bourbon. The bourbon does double duty here, adding acidity to keep the ice cream tasting bright, and lowering the freezing point, keeping the ice cream pliant straight from the freezer.


Finally, I layer the churned ice cream with a baked crumble flecked with oats, pecans, cinnamon, and brown sugar. These crumbly bits taste a little like old-fashioned granola, and they makejust as much of a satisfying, crunchy snack. Freezing the crumble before layering it into the ice cream helps it stay crisp for a few days within the ice cream, but I reserve half of it for sprinkling over the top of individual scoops, too.

This ice cream tastes like what would happen if you churned together an apple crisp and vanilla ice cream into a single frozen dessert. The flavors – spice, booze, apples, cream – ricochet around your palate. The ice cream itself is melt-in-your-mouth smooth, with nubby bits of crumble to sink your teeth into.

Now, it’s foggy and chilly outside. I’m in a sweater, scarf, and hat. I know it’s really cold when the cat sits on me – I pretend it’s because he loves me, but I know deep down he’s just using me for my body heat.

Luckily, it’s never too cold for ice cream in my book, especially one  bursting with warm flavors, crunchy crumbles, and a nip.

Fall-ing for Ice Cream:

Maple Bourbon Pecan
Boozy Banana Butterscotch

One year ago:

Gluten-Free Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake Brownies

Two years ago:

Indian Summer Blues Cocktail (with Cardamom, Rose and Gin)

Three years ago:

Avocado Tomatillo Salsa

Four years ago:

Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins

Bourbon Apple Crisp Ice Cream

Inspired by this Apple Cinnamon Ice Cream from Fork Knife Swoon and the blueberry crumble topping from The Farm via Leite’s Culinaria 

I used Basil Hayden bourbon and Fuji apples here, but I should think that any decent bourbon and flavorful apple combo will do the trick. I love my ice cream maker attachment for the Kitchen Aid stand mixer (purchasable here), which gets frozen for 24 hours, then churns ice cream using the motor on the mixer. If you lack an ice cream maker, don’t fret – see David Lebovitz’ post on making ice cream the old school way. All ounce measurements are by weight.

Makes 5-6 cups of ice cream
For the roasted apples:
1 pound apples (2 large or 3 medium)
2 tablespoons bourbon whiskey
1/2 cup packed (3 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon allspice

For the crumble:
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (1 1/4 ounces) quick (baby) oats
1/3 cup (3 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, diced and slightly softened
1/3 cup (1 1/4 ounces) pecans, finely chopped

For the ice cream:
2 cups (16 ounces) half and half
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup (8 ounces) heavy cream
4 tablespoons bourbon whiskey

Roast the apples:
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400ºF.

Peel the apples, cut their flesh off the core, and chop them into large chunks. Place them in a smallish baking dish, and toss with the 2 tablespoons bourbon, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and the nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. Roast the apples until very tender and broken down into a thick, chunky sauce, 45-60 minutes, stirring and mashing them a few times throughout the baking time. (A potato masher works well here.)

Make the crumble:
Meanwhile, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add the butter pieces and work with your fingertips until the mixture forms large clumps. Work in the pecans until evenly distributed. The mixture should resemble gravel.

Dump the crumble mixture onto a small, rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and spread it evenly. When the apples are done baking, reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF. Bake the crumble until golden all over and crisp throughout, 15-20 minutes, giving it a gentle stir halfway through the baking time to help it cook evenly.

Let the crumble cool completely. Remove 1 cup of crumble and place it in the freezer; this will get layered into the ice cream. Leave the rest at room temperature in an airtight container for serving over scoops of ice cream.

Make the ice cream base:
Meanwhile, combine the half and half, vanilla pod and seeds, cinnamon sticks, and sugar in a small saucepan. Warm over a medium flame, swirling occasionally, until the mixture is steaming and hot, but not simmering. Remove from the heat, cover, and steep for 30-60 minutes.

Place the roasted apple goop in a blender or food processor. Strain half of the half and half mixture into the blender, and puree smooth, adding more half and half little by little until the mixture is quite smooth and all of the half and half has been added. Blend in the heavy cream, then the bourbon.

Pour the ice cream base into a container and chill until very cold, at least 4 hours. (If you’re in a hurry, pour it into a metal bowl and chill over an ice bath.)

Place a large loaf pan (or other ice cream vessel of your choice) in the freezer to chill.

Spin the ice cream in an ice cream maker until it is the texture of soft-serve. Working quickly, spread 1/3 of the ice cream in the bottom of the frozen pan, and sprinkle 1/3 of the frozen crumble over the top. Repeat until you’ve used up all the ice cream and frozen crumble. Freeze the ice cream until firm enough to scoop, at least 2 hours.

To store the ice cream, press a piece of parchment paper directly onto the surface of the ice cream (to thwart ice crystals) and wrap it tightly (to keep out odors). The crumble will stay firm for a day or two. Serve scoops with extra crumble sprinkled over the top.

36 thoughts on “Bourbon Apple Crisp Ice Cream”

  1. Good lordy. I was already wishing our Indian summer was still in full effect (which this year was actually the most perfect and beautiful stretch of weather ever—I should really just be grateful for how long it lasted). But now it's in the 40s, I've already had to double-layer tights and drag out my winter coats, and still all I want to do is eat this ice cream! It's got a totally perfect fall vibe going on with the apples and spices (and bourbon). And all that crumble…..yesyesyes.

    My cats have definitely been in snuggle mode as well. I also pretend it comes from a place of love. Mostly because I'm cold too. ;)

    1. Ah, cats! Gotta love them. Thank you for the kind words, Carey! It sounds soooo chilly in Vermont. I hope you stay nice and warm. Those incredible looking doughnuts should help! ;)

  2. Definitely never too cold for ice cream – ever! Like your cat, my dog sits on my for warmth during the cooler months. However, he is a 70 pound boxer so I'm definitely able to snatch as much warmth from him as he is from me (well..until my legs go numb from his weight).

    1. Hahaha! Your dog sounds super sweet (if a bit large to be sat on by). I'm so glad you agree, re: ice cream weather! Thanks for the sweet words, Shelly. :)

  3. I'm pretty sure nothing looks or sounds better. I'm usually not an icecream girl past August, but I would make an eager exception for a bowl of this apple ice cream. The photographs are gorgeous, as always, and I have no doubt that each bite would transport me to heaven!

    1. Aw!!! Thanks, Monet! I wish I could pop over to Colorado to bring you some – after making three batches of it, we need help! (Unfortunately, my sweetie DOES think it can be too cold for ice cream, so that leaves an awful lot of it…)

    1. Thanks, Alanna! I think this would work well with the old-school method, since the bourbon keeps it soft and helps prevent ice crystals from forming. DO IT!

  4. Every time I read one of your ice cream posts it is an enormous struggle not to go one-click-amazon-ice-cream-machine shopping… But this?? Must try this recipe, must have ice cream machine! Just follow up this post with some tips for rationalizing ice cream machine purchases in October to your boyfriend ok? Ok.

    1. Hahahaha!!! I'm sure he'll see sense once he learns that ice cream is never better than when freshly churned and licked straight from the dasher while standing over the sink. ;)

  5. In the directions for the apples, it says to combine them with apple cider, but in the ingredient list, only bourbon is mentioned. Are both liquids used, and if so, how much cider? Thanks!

    1. Hi Christina! Oops! I've changed it to bourbon, as listed in the ingredients. I used apple cider in the roasted apples the first two times I made it, which is when I typed up the recipe, but I used bourbon the third, and this was my favorite. Sorry for the confusion, and thanks for catching the discrepancy!

  6. The booze–it's brilliant! I made a really similar apple crisp ice cream recipe a few weekends ago, but I used coconut milk and no booze, and in its fully-frozen form it did need a bit of thaw time before scooping. I'm totally stealing the booze idea, what a genius way to keep the consistency softer!

    1. Thanks, Kelly! I love what booze does to ice cream, too. Your apple crumble ice cream looks amazing – I love that it's mostly dairy- and grain-free. Too awesome!

  7. I've made and blogged a recipe inspired by this one of yours, and given you a shout of as my inspiration! Really liked the Christmassy flavours of the spiced apple mix and the bourbon. Thanks again!

  8. This looks awesome and I’m making it for Christmas dinner!

    I have a couple of questions. Most ice cream recipes call for adding crunchy bits in the last five minutes of spinning, but you call for creating a layered “cake” with the frozen crumble. Is this aesthetic only, or is there another reason?

    And when you say, “The crumble will stay firm for a day or two,” do you mean the crumble that’s layered into the ice cream, or the crumble that’s reserved for sprinkling on top?

    1. Hi Norm – sorry for the delay, I hope the ice cream turned out great! The crumble both on top and layered in stays crisp for a day or two. I find the layering process easier and cleaner, but you can add the crumble to the churning ice cream if you prefer. :)

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