That's a decent description, but it still doesn't do justice to the richness of this ice cream, the nuttiness that the browned butter imparts, or the salty smoky surprise hidden in the maple sugar. And real vanilla beans. Let's not forget those.
This dish is also a perfect bite of my food philosophy. While I eat a lot of what people would consider "healthy" food, when I indulge, I go all the way. No holds barred. Great ingredients, carefully prepared, with attention to details. And then served in reasonable quantities. You don't need a lot of this ice cream to satisfy. A small scoop, a few nuts, and some quiet time to savor the indulgence and it's a perfect end to a great meal ... or a great reward for surviving a crummy day.
And it wasn't that difficult to make, considering the outcome.
Buttery, Salty, Sweet 'n Nutty Ice Cream
|See the specks of vanilla and browned butter bits?|
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 vanilla beans
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the garnish:
1/2 cup pecans
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons maple sugar
1/2 teaspoon smoked sea salt
To make the ice cream:
Place the milk, cream, and about 1/2 of the sugar into a heavy bottomed saucepan. Slit the vanilla beans open and scrape out the seeds with the back of your knife. Add the seeds and pods to the saucepan. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally, then turn off the heat.
Meanwhile, melt the butter on low heat in a small saucepan, then turn the heat up to medium, stirring often and watching carefully. When the milk solids in the butter begin to brown and there's a nutty aroma, turn off the heat. If the browned bits turn black, it's gone too far, and you'll need to start over. So watch carefully, and be ready to kill the heat quickly.
|Mmmmm ... crunchy nuggets of maple sugar and salt.|
When the melted butter has cooled so that it is still warm, but not hot, begin adding it to the egg yolk mixture slowly, a little at a time, beating it in thoroughly. The butter needs to emulsify with the eggs, so make sure it fully incorporates before you add more. Scrape in all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan as well.
The milk mixture should still be rather warm. Add it slowly to the egg yolk mixture, a little at a time, beating or whisking it in quickly. When you've added about 1/2 of the warm milk to the egg mixture, you've warmed the eggs enough to prevent them from scrambling. Transfer all of the egg-milk mixture from the bowl to the pan with milk. Mix well, then turn the heat to medium.
|It's a little melty here. No more photos. Time for me to dig in!|
Pour the mixture through a strainer into a medium bowl, and place that bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice. Stir the mixture occasionally, until it cools, then refrigerate for at least a few hours. I usually let it rest overnight and churn it the next day.
When the ice cream base has chilled thoroughly, churn following the instructions for your ice cream maker.
You can retrieve the vanilla bean pods from the strainer, rinse them, and find other uses for them. Like making vanilla sugar or adding a more subtle vanilla flavor to something else.
To make the garnish:
|Make extra. You will snack on them.|
Melt the butter in a medium skillet and add the pecans and the granulated sugar. Turn the heat to medium and stir constantly while you watch for the sugar to melt. Stir quickly to coat the pecans with the hot melted sugar.
You're not looking for an even coating here, so don't worry if you see bits and blobs of melted sugar. There will be enough clinging to the nuts to add a crispy crunch and to grab onto the maple sugar.
Turn off the heat and add the maple-salt mixture, stirring quickly to coat the pecans with the sugar. Remove to a plate to cool. You can make this in advance, but you might want to make extra - these are addictive to nibble on.
Scoop the ice cream and garnish with pecans. There will be extra sugar/salt mixture that hasn't adhered to the pecans. Sprinkle some of that over the top of the ice cream as well.
You can garnish with a bit of whipped cream, but that might be overkill. If you do use whipped cream, make it a good one, like my Best Whipped Cream Ever.
This ice cream was made for a contest sponsored by Marx Foods. I received some samples for my use in creating the recipe.