Long before ice cream flavors such as latte macchiato or crème brûlée appeared in German grocery stores, there was Fürst Pückler ice cream. With its layers of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, it is similar to Neapolitan ice cream except that it usually comes in the shape of a loaf cake making it easy to slice.
The original Fürst Pückler is neither ice cream, nor did Fürst Pückler invent it. There are different stories who invented the dessert, and when exactly during his lifetime it was invented. The only certain fact is that it was named after Hermann von Pückler-Muskau, and that it was initially parfait or semi-freddo.
Hermann von Pückler-Muskau was a compelling personality – a visionary landscape designer, world traveler, successful book author, womanizer, salon conversationalist, and, among several other things, a gourmet.
Born in 1785 in Upper Lusatia, a region that since the end of World War II has belonged partially to the East German States of Saxony and Brandenburg and partially to Poland, Hermann von Pückler-Muskau inherited the family estate of Muskau and the title of Fürst in 1811.
When Fürst Pückler ran out of money in 1826 and was deeply in debt, he headed to England to look for a wealthy bride. To make this possible, he legally divorced his wife, Countess Lucie von Pappenheim, a divorcee nine years his senior whom the Prince had married in 1817. Their relationship, however, continued after the divorce.
Despite being an insatiable philanderer (his mistresses included his English translator) who even arranged his love letters in alphabetical order, he remained emotionally loyal to his divorced wife, Lucie, all her life. And he was not shy in reporting his conquests to her.
He was a charming, skilled conversationalist who frequented famous salons, including the literary salon of Rahel Varnhagen. While Goethe and Heinrich Heine found Fürst Pückler quite accomplished, others saw in him nothing more than an eccentric and megalomaniac dandy.
For Fürst Pückler to leave earth without a splash and a lasting impression would have been out of character. When he died in 1871 he asked to be buried in a turf pyramid he had built in the middle of a pond at Branitz, with Lucie by his side.
Revisiting Fürst Pückler ice cream and reading about Fürst Pückler’s colorful personality and life, I found that a dessert in his name needed more oomph. I wanted to be able to taste the three different flavors even with my eyes closed.
Here’s my version of Fürst Pückler ice cream, a combination of the original Fürst Pückler recipe with macaroons and my favorite ice cream recipe.
Fürst Pückler ice cream
You need an ice cream maker and a tall metal bowl for the mold. I used a 3.5-quart (3.3 liter) bowl with an 8-inch (20 cm) diameter. With a wider diameter the layers of ice cream will be thinner.
Three large eggs
One cup (200 g) sugar
Two cups (480 ml) milk (I use 2%)
Two cups (480 ml) heavy cream
Two teaspoons vanilla
Ten ounces (300 g) strawberries, fresh or frozen
Two tablespoons unsweetened natural baking cocoa
¾ cup (100 g) unpeeled raw almonds
Two egg whites
½ cup (100 g) sugar
1. For the ice cream, beat the eggs and sugar with the milk in a double boiler, or in a metal bowl placed over a pot with simmering water. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens and coats a spoon, ten to 15 minutes. Let cool and stir in the heavy cream and vanilla. Transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid and chill overnight.
2. Chop the strawberries and place them in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until they release their juice and puree them. You should have about one cup. Return the puree to the pan and cook over low to mediums heat for ten minutes until thickened, stirring oven. Pour into a jar and chill overnight.
3. For the macaroons place the almonds in a heat-proof bowl and pour boiling water over them. Set aside for a few minutes, then drain and add warm water. Remove the almonds one by one to remove their skins and place the almonds on paper towel to dry as you go. Grind the almonds very finely in a food processor.
4. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually adding the sugar, beat until stiff and shiny. Fold in the ground almonds.
5. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using two teaspoons, drop small macaroons onto the baking sheet, leaving 1 inch (2.5 cm) between them. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven. Transfer the macaroons from the baking sheet onto a wire rack and return it to the oven. Leave it there until the oven has completely cooled down. The macaroons will be very dry and crunchy, this is the way they should be.
6. The next day prepare the ice cream according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
7. To assemble, have three bowls stand by. Once the ice cream is ready, divide it into three equal parts, one in each bowl. Place two bowls in the freezer as you mix the first flavor.
8. Add the strawberry puree to the first bowl and stir until evenly mixed. Return the bowl to the freezer.
9. Remove the second bowl from the freezer. Mix the cocoa with a small amount of ice cream and stir until smooth, then add this mixture to the rest of the ice cream in the bowl and stir until evenly mixed. Return the bowl to the freezer.
10. Spray the inside of a tall metal bowl with neutral-tasting cooking oil such as canola. Coarsely crush enough macaroons to cover the bottom to about 1 inch (2.5 cm) high.
11. Slowly pour the strawberry ice cream onto the macaroons, taking care not to stir them up. Gently even it out with a spatula. If the ice cream is runny place it in the freezer for a few minutes to harden.
12. Cut the remaining macaroons in half and tightly place them flat side up and rounded side out along the side of the bowl. For a neater appearance, fill any gaps between the macaroons with small chunks.
13. Pour the plain vanilla ice cream on top and even it out with a spatula. Proceed as described with the macaroon halves. Coarsely crush the leftover macaroons and scatter them in the center.
14. Pour the chocolate ice cream on top and even it out with a spatula. Cover the bowl tightly with cling wrap or aluminum foil and place in the freezer for at least half a day, better overnight.
15. The next day, place the bowl in a larger bowl with hot water for a few seconds, or immerse a kitchen towel in hot water and wrap it around the bowl. Unmold onto a serving plate and serve immediately.
Makes 8 to 12 servings.