This custard apple kulfi is a riff on custard apple ice cream made by one of my favourite ice cream brands. If imitation is the best form of flattery, then I plead guilty. My weakness for soft, creamy, and fragrant eggshell-white charms of custard apple ice cream gave me the idea of bringing these flavours to a kulfi. A velvetty, custardy frozen dessert, traditionally flavoured with saffron and and cardamom, and speckled with pistachios, raisins and even figs, kulfis are sold on sticks and in small clay pots called matkas.
Sweet and cold, kulfis are perfect for the searing heat of Indian summers. Every city has its favourite kulfi spots which vie to come up with unique flavour combinations to entice customers. Unlike most Indian sweets, that require elbow grease and skill levels akin to French patisserie, the kulfi is a treat that can easily be made at home.
A kulfi is slower to melt unlike ice cream because it is made from full fat milk boiled till it has reduced by half; at this point it becomes lusciously thick acquiring a light blush. Sugar and flavourings are then added to enrich the custard which is frozen in clay matkas or in kulfi molds resembling conical cylinders.
Custard apples or sweetsops (sharifa or sitaphal in Hindi) appear in markets in August, broadcasting their sugary scent everywhere. Although delicious, some people find it hard to eat them because of their numerous seeds that require some dexterity with teeth and tongue. The fruit is typically tropical, with intense aroma infused sweetness that’s hard to resist. So the little effort required to eat it, is more than justified.
The challenge of making custard kulfi or lies mainly in separating the pulp from the seeds since the black, teardrop-shaped seeds are encased in individual carpels of pulp. And there are many berry-like segments in each fruit. But there is a hack to loosening the seeds to extract the pulp. Since ripe custard apple flesh is really delicate, I chose not to puree it in the blender. Mashing it roughly with a fork leaves small succulent bits which give the kulfi a nice texture and the sense of eating the fruit itself. The short video below shows you how easy it is to knock those pesky seeds out. All you need is a whisk and a sieve. As you whisk the flesh, the seeds magically shed the soft tissue, which you can scoop out with a spoon.
There’s nothing wrong with taking a shortcut if the end result is as good as taking the long route. In other words, instead of standing around waiting for milk to boil down to half, I prefer to use equal quantities of single cream and milk. This significantly reduces the cooking time and I also add condensed milk instead of sugar. This way I get beautifully thick, satiny kulfi. I’ve made it so many times now and every time it gets wiped out.
For custard apple kulfi, I made the custard base as usual, boiling milk and cream for a bit till thick, then adding condensed milk, cooling the mixture and finally mixing in custard apple pulp. The recipe you’ll notice has only a small quantity of condensed milk; this is because ripe custard apples are intensely sweet and I don’t like cloyingly sweet desserts.To add some crunch to this creamy concoction, toasted black sesame seeds seemed like a good choice. They build an extra element of flavour as well. You can add them or leave them out if you wish. Either way, you’ll have an easy but really delicious custard apple dessert to relish. Kulfi is frozen in kulfi molds but popsicle mold work equally well.
Custard Apple Kulfi
- 250 ml whole milk
- 250 ml light cream
- 300 g custard apple pulp 2-3 custard apples depending on their size
- 100 ml condensed milk
- 1 ½ tbsp toasted black sesame seeds optional
- Pour the cream and milk into a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, (stirring every now and then) till the mixture reduces by a third and is thick enough to lightly coat the back of a spoon.
- Now add the condensed milk and stir to mix.
- Remove the mixture from the stove and cool to room temperature.
- While the liquid mix is cooling, scoop the custard apple flesh into a sieve placed over a bowl and vigorously stir around with a wire whisk. The seeds will gradually separate from the fruit. Carefully remove the seeds and discard.
- Tip the fruit into the rest of the pulp in the bowl below and roughly mash with a fork. You can also puree it if you like.
- Mix the pulp into the cool cream mixture followed by the sesame seeds.
- Pour the kulfi mix into molds and chill for 5-6 hours till set.