lessons learned from butter pecan ice cream

August 9, 2009 § Leave a comment

Lesson 1: Butter pecan ice cream is incredibly, spectacularly delicious.
Lesson 2: Don’t overfill your ice cream machine.

I’ve been away at my father’s cottage this week, and one upside (beyond the lake, the forest, seeing my family, and all that other minor stuff) is that he owns an ice cream machine! Not having one myself, I jumped at the opportunity to experiment. I wonder how much ice cream I can cram into a single week…

Anyhow, this recipe was absolutely fabulous. If you’re looking for a rich ice cream to make, this is definitely one to try. The ice cream is sweet and creamy and flavoured with brown sugar and vanilla, and it’s perfectly offset by the buttery, salty nuts. I know that sentence had too many adjectives, but they were all well-deserved.

Although it turned out amazing, there definitely were a couple glitches along the way. The first one was pretty minor, and basically just amounted to me being nervous. I cooked the custard at higher and higher heat, waiting for it to thicken. It never really did and I just gave up – next time I won’t worry so much, and just take it to the recommended temperature.

The other issue was that the poor little ice cream machine couldn’t quite cope with the vast quantities of liquid I poured into it, despite what it and Epicurious respectively claimed about the number of quarts involved. The result was that the ice cream never got quite cold enough – I think the photos make it pretty obvious that it ended up pretty liquidy (but you can pretend it’s gelato!). It’s also obvious that I have not mastered the art of photographing ice cream, but that should surprise no one, given that I don’t seem to have mastered the art of photographing anything in particular.

In the end, though, this ice cream really was fantastic (after an overnight freeze it firmed up nicely), and I’d recommend it to anyone, especially with those corrections. Here it is!

Butter Pecan Ice Cream – Adapted from Epicurious

  • 1 1/3 cups pecans, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter, softened
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon salt (go easier on the salt if you don’t like the salty/sweet combination)
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Toast pecans in a shallow baking pan in middle of oven until fragrant and a shade darker, 7 to 8 minutes. Add butter and salt to hot pecans and toss until butter is melted, then cool pecans completely (they will absorb butter).

Whisk together brown sugar and cornstarch, then add eggs, whisking until combined. Bring milk and cream just to a boil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat, then add to egg mixture in a stream, whisking constantly, and transfer custard to saucepan.

Cook custard over moderately low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until thick enough to coat back of spoon and registers 170 to 175°F on an instant-read thermometer, 2 to 3 minutes (do not let boil). Note: I ended up taking this to 180 and it still didn’t really thicken, so don’t stress too much.

Immediately pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and stir in vanilla, then cool, stirring occasionally. Chill custard, its surface covered with wax paper, until cold, at least 3 hours.

Freeze custard in ice cream maker until almost firm. Stir together ice cream and pecans in a bowl, then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden.

Note: I would freeze the custard in two batches, unless your ice cream maker is superior to ours (which is likely).



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