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Maple Buttermilk Pecan Ice Cream is my first ice cream for my ice cream Tuesdays series. The tang of buttermilk gives a lighter feel to this ice cream shop classic.
Don’t miss the round up of all my ice cream recipes.
Tuesday has nothing much to recommend it. Sorry, Tuesday, but it’s true. Day after Monday. Whatever. You aren’t Hump Day, marking the slide towards the weekend. Thursday was always party night in college because who couldn’t survive just one more day of class all pitiful, tired and perhaps a bit hung over? Tuesday, you are no TGIF. Even Monday has a reputation. It has a title. The Mondays. A case of The Mondays. Tuesday, you deserve more than an “Well, at least it’s not Monday.”
I am here to tell you that here in Food Blogging Land, Tuesday is getting some love. My friend Denise has started Taco Tuesday over on Chez Us. And now I have decided that, around here Tuesday means Ice Cream. Ice Cream Tuesday with Pastry Chef Online. Read Denise’s posts and then mine, and you’ll have a one-two punch for dinner and dessert. And no, you don’t have to make it, or it eat it, all on Tuesday.
Write What You Know
That’s always the advice, isn’t it? Write what you know. I saw a status update on facebook today from my friend Michelle at Sweet&Simple. She said her son was reciting poems he had written. One was about meatballs and the other Montauk. I thought to myself if this is what he knows, he’s one happy kid.
If I were to write poems about what I know, they’d be about Maillard reactions and flavor pairings. About The Creaming Method and why you should make hot chocolate from scratch. Perhaps I would pen a sonnet in classic iambic pentameter extolling the virtues of caramel. A haiku, as spare and unique as an ice crystal, about the perfect brownie. It’s hard for me to use few words, as long-time readers well know, so maybe I’d best stick to an epic poem about why it is important to learn methods and techniques rather than recipes. For some people, that might not make great poem fodder, but it’s a passion for me, so I’ll go on and on and can only hope that it will strike a chord with at least some of you.
As much as I do go on about techniques and methods, I realize that learning to cook and bake is a journey and that recipes can support us along the way until we no longer need to rely on them. And that’s why these days, I will almost always give you a recipe along with my thought process for conceiving of the dish. That way, you can follow the recipe and be assured of a great result, or you can just read the conceptualization part for inspiration and then go off and do your own thing. There is room for everyone here.
Maple Buttermilk Pecan Ice Cream
As a kid, I was always excited when mom brought ice cream home from the store. Van-Choc-Straw was a staple, but my real love was the chocolate chip or–even better–the peppermint ice cream available at Christmas. I’d spoon through the cold creamy goodness, slurping down the ice cream and storing the little pieces of candy in my cheek like a chipmunk so I could chew them up and swallow them when the ice cream was gone. A dessert for my dessert.
I’m not really sure how this idea of Maple Buttermilk Pecan Ice Cream evolved. I guess for me now, really great ice cream needs three components rather than the two of my childhood: the base, the mix-ins and a swirl of some sort. Of course there are exceptions–straight up smooth and creamy with nothing to get in the way is nice too, but I know that I always end up eating more of an ice cream if it has a mix-in or two. Dessert becomes a treasure hunt as I spoon through, looking for the wee pieces of chocolate candy or truffles or caramel cups or whatever riches await. I don’t think I will ever grow up completely.
My mom loves butter pecan ice cream, so I started there. And then I started thinking about flavors that go well with pecans: Maple, brown sugar, cinnamon. Since all those flavors are sort of warm and rich, I wanted to introduce a brighter note. Some tang to compete with all the richness. Buttermilk. Of course I looked up buttermilk ice cream to see about proportions, and then I just went for it.
The base is a pretty straightforward one that utilizes both corn starch and egg yolk to give it body and bind up some water. Rather than just tossing in toasted nuts, I added another layer of flavor and complexity by candying them in maple syrup spiced with cinnamon and just a hint of smoked paprika–perhaps working up to some sort of bacon as a mix in one day. The swirl had to be caramel, although I suppose chocolate would have worked as well. And since I’d already incorporated some maple, I decided to make the sauce with caramelized maple syrup rather than sugar. This worked out swimmingly.
Putting it all together was easy. I spun the base, folded in the candied nuts and put the ice cream in a container layered with the caramel. I drizzled caramel in the bottom of a 7″x11″ Pyrex dish, spooned on some ice cream, added some more caramel, topped it with the rest of the ice cream and plopped the rest of the caramel on top.
I was going to call this stuff Buttermilk Brown Sugar Ice Cream with Maple Caramel Swirl and Maple Spiced Nuts, but that seemed like a bit much. So, in honor of one of my mom’s favorites, I’ve shortened it to Maple Butter(Milk) Pecan Ice Cream. Can I get an amen?
Let me just tell you, this ice cream is dangerous. All the components work together beautifully. It is rich, but it’s balanced enough that it doesn’t seem rich. Eating a big old bowl takes very little time or effort. The subtle tang of the buttermilk really shines through and is a lovely counterpoint to the sweet, almost butterscotch-y caramel and the crunchy-sweet candied nuts.
The ingredient list is pretty long, but none of the components takes too long to make, and you can always make the nuts and the caramel a day or two in advance. I like to chill the base down in an ice bath to as close to 40F as I can get it. Then, it takes only an hour or so in the fridge to reach 38F, which is my preferred temperature for churning. I think the ice cream maker appreciates it too since it doesn’t have to work as long or as hard to freeze the base into a perfect soft-serve consistency.
As delicious as this is an soft-serve, I really do recommend that you let it ripen in the freezer until hard and scoopable. This gives all the components a chance to get to know one another. The nuts, especially, like a chance to settle in and let the base melt some of the candy that surrounds them. You’ll be happy you waited, I promise.
For the Base
- 1 quart half and half
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 14 oz (2 slightly scant cups) brown sugar (I used demerara)
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 Tablespoon corn starch
- 16 oz (2 cups) cold buttermilk (I actually used 11 oz buttermilk because that was all I had. I made up the difference with sour cream. You can do that too, if you want. It's delicious)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, (I used vanilla paste)
- 1/2 teaspoon maple extract, (optional but helps to tie everything together)
For the Nuts (Which you can make the day before or leave out if you hate nuts)
- 4 oz (1 cup) pecan halves or pieces (you're going to chop them up anyway)
- 5.5 oz (1/2 cup) real maple syrup
- 1/2 oz (1 Tablespoon) unsalted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, (optional but delicious)
For the Maple Caramel (which you can also make the day before, or not. Or just pour it on top once you serve)
- 6 oz maple syrup, (about 2/3 cup)
- 3 oz heavy cream plus 1 more oz heavy cream for later if necessary
- pinch of salt
- tiny splash of vanilla
- 1/4 " pat of butter, (about 1 teaspoon, more or less)
For the Ice Cream Base
- Combine the half and half, salt, brown sugar, yolks and corn starch in a large pot.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking frequently at first and then constantly as it heats up.
- Let the mixture boil for about ten seconds, and then strain through a fine mesh strainer into a large metal bowl.
- Add the cold buttermilk (and sour cream, if using) along with the extracts. Whisk well to combine completely.
- Chill in an ice bath, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches close to 40F (41 or 42 is fine. If you're not churning until the next day, just get it down to 50-ish and you'll be fine).
- Cover the base with some plastic wrap and let it finish chilling in the fridge for another hour (or overnight). Strain through a fine mesh strainer again before churning.
- Churn according to the manufacturer's instructions.
For the Nuts
- Combine all the ingredients in a heavy skillet and cook over medium heat until the maple syrup is very thick and gets stringy when you stir. The nuts should be sticking together, and when you smear a bit of the syrup onto a Silpat, it should harden up and be crunchy.
- When the nuts are finished, spread them out in a single layer on Silpat to cool off. Should the candy still be a little soft, you can bake them in a 325F for 10 minutes. That will take care of it.
- Cool the nuts and chop them into good mix-in sized pieces, whatever that means to you.
For the Caramel
- In a pot that's much larger than you think you will need, bring the syrup to a boil. The syrup will boil up most impressively, so watch it.
- Let boil over medium heat until the temperature reaches 310F. The syrup will be very thick and gloopy and will have reduced by half or so. It will smell nutty and delicious.
- Carefully pour in the heavy cream. It will bubble up again. Stir it over low heat until any caramel that may have hardened is dissolved and the sauce is smooth.
- Add the salt and butter and then cook until the sauce reaches about 225F. This does not have to be exact, so don't be sad. I wouldn't take it any higher than 230F, though.
- Pour the sauce into a heatproof container of some sort and stir in the vanilla. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate if not using immediately.
- If for some reason you mixture seems too thick or stodgy or has gotten a bit grainy, add the extra ounce of cream and stir over medium heat until the mixture is pourable and smooth.
To Assemble the Ice Cream
- Once the base is at soft serve consistency, evenly fold in the nuts.
- Spoon 1/3 of the sauce (there's not much, so drizzle it all around) into the bottom of your ice cream container.
- Spread 1/2 of the ice cream on top of the sauce.
- Drizzle on another third of the sauce and top with the remainder of the ice cream.
- Finish it off by drizzling on the rest of the sauce.
- Press plastic wrap down on top of the ice cream, put a lid on (if you have one for your container, and freeze until firm, about 4-5 hours. Some of the sauce will stick to the plastic, but it doesn't freeze and you'll be able to scrape it off and back onto the ice cream where it belongs.
- Serve and enjoy.
I truly do hope you enjoy this ice cream. If you are at all on the fence about it, I took some to a friend’s father and his wife yesterday. He said he doesn’t have a sweet tooth, and later he messaged me to say that the ice cream was “terrific” and that they both had trouble stopping with just one bowl. I’d call that a win, and I think you will too!
Have a wonderful day, friends, and thank you for taking the time to read today on Ice Cream Tuesday!
I have joined together with nine other wonderful blogging friends to share recipes in one place on facebook. If you are on facebook and have been frustrated by having facebook “hide” posts from your favorite pages, consider joining our group where we share our new posts, our favorite recipes and also take requests. It’s a wonderful group, and in keeping with my desire to teach people to be fearless in the kitchen, it is called Fearless Friends Sharing Recipes: From Our Kitchens to Yours.
Aside from me, here are our wonderful contributors and their websites.
- Brooks from Cakewalker
- Cheryl from Pook’s Pantry
- Debra from Smith Bites
- Denise from Chez Us
- Dionne from Try Anything Once
- Gary from The Reluctant Gourmet
- Jamie from Life’s a Feast and Plated Stories
- Kirsten from Comfortably Domestic
- Stacy from Food Lust People Love
And that’s it. Thank you again for reading!