I was given a few wood apples (also called bael in India) by a neighbour, and since I had never had them before I had to look them up. I must admit it is a strange fruit, hard on the outside (the wood part) and soft and pulpy on the inside (more like a very rotten banana). The fruit has a distinct and funky odour and flavor, one that I am still getting used to. However, wood apples have a cult-like following in India and Sri Lanka, much like durian, so I persisted with an open mind. It is definitely an acquired taste and one that I am still acquiring!
I wanted to dampen the flavors a touch so decided to make an ice cream. I though that roasted cashew nuts would pair well with the sweet, sticky and unique flavor of the fruit. In addition, I paired it with some saffron for that elegant perfume from the spice. I was quite happy with the ice cream, I now look forward to enjoying the fruit.
As I worked with the fruit I learned a few tips that I will share. The outside should be a very dirty brown/orange, no green at all. The ripe fruit is a dark brown color, the green fruit is lighter. In addition, the ripe fruit has a sticky liquid that oozes out, the unripe fruit has a sticky threads. So look for fruit that are very brown/orange, smell strongly and when opened are dark brown.
Rumor has it that elephants love the fruit. They wait till the fruit is over ripe, essentially fermented, and eat them whole leading to a drunken elephant party.
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1 1/2 lb wood apples
1 cup cream
1/2 cup sugar
Generous pinch saffron
1/2 cup cashew nuts, roasted, or light ly toasted on a pan
Gently heat the cream in a saucepan with the sugar and saffron. Bring to barely a simmer stirring continuously. Turn off the heat and ensure the sugar has completely melted. Steep for 30 minutes till cool.
Push the pulp of the wood apples through a fine mesh sieve, I use a rubber spatula and a metal sieve, working the pulp through the sieve. Adding some of the milk toward the end definitely helps.
Add the cashew nuts and cream and mix in. Taste and adjust sugar as needed. I like to leave the ice cream slightly less sweet so that the sugar does not overpower the flavor of the fruit.
Churn in your ice cream maker using the manufacturers settings for ice cream. Serve immediately or store in your freezer.