A couple of weeks ago, Bon Appetit posted a walnut and Fernet Branca pie from Morgenstern’s to their Instagram. To say that I was beyond excited is a gross understatement. I love Fernet Branca and seeing it in a boozy dessert form absolutely got my wheels turning. I knew I had to come up with my own take, so I immediately got to work.
Fernet Branca is a digestif that tastes, to me, like a spearmint-licorice combination. You either love Fernet or you hate it, and I’m one of those people who loves it. I was introduced to it through my brother, Rich, since it’s popular among bartenders/servers. He even got to tour the Fernet Branca distillery when he went to Italy a few years ago. I had the occasional shot of it when I went over to his place for Sunday dinners, but I really started to love it within the past couple of years which is why I knew I had to use it somehow, and was just waiting for the perfect time to do so.
The Fernet and walnut topping on this pie is absolutely gooey, sweet, and delicious. The shortbread crust balances out the sweetness and the ice cream is the perfect neutralizer to combine the two. My suggestion for this would be to only make the ice cream pie like I did if you plan on eating it right then. You can make the shortbread crust and ice cream well in advance and let it hang out until you make the topping – but if you’re planning on putting the topping on and then storing it in the freezer, the walnut and Fernet topping will probably get too hard and make it difficult to eat (trust me, it got messy – hence the pictures!). I would, instead, make the shortbread crust and top it with the Fernet Branca and walnut topping and store in the fridge until you’re ready to eat and serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Either way, this dessert will be much welcomed after the influx of pecan, pumpkin, and apple pies that are served for Thanksgiving. You may want to give this one a try.
Fernet Branca and Walnut Ice Cream Pie
For the shortbread crust:
10 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 egg yolk, whisked
1 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 container of vanilla ice cream
For the Fernet Branca and walnut topping:
(Adapted from How Sweet Eats)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup of Fernet Branca
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 Tbsp corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
Begin by making the short bread crust. Combine the melted butter, sugar and salt. When combined, add the egg yolk. Then add the flour, about a cup at a time, and mix until fully combined and the dough begins to form a ball. Take the dough and press it into a tart pan with a removable bottom (for easy slicing later). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Then, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 25 minutes, or until light brown. Cool completely.
To make the Fernet Branca and walnut topping, add the butter, Fernet Branca, brown sugar, corn syrup, and vanilla to a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Whisk constantly until mixture comes to a boil, then let it bubble for about 1 minute. Whisk in the walnuts and let bubble for an additional minute. Remove from heat and cool completely.
Spread the Fernet Branca and walnut topping over the shortbread crust. Slice and serve with ice cream.
*Note: If you want to make the ice cream pie like I did (be forewarned: it gets messy!), take the shortbread crust and spread a layer of vanilla ice cream over it. Cover and place in the freezer. Then, make the Fernet Branca and walnut topping. Make sure it cools COMPLETELY then take the shortbread ice cream crust out of the freezer and spread the topping over it, working quickly because the topping will start to harden when it hits the ice cream. Place back in the freezer for about 15 minutes. To serve, remove the bottom of the tart pan and cut with a hot knife (I use a glass of boiling water and dip the knife in it every slice).