Thursday, July 26, 2012

Toasted Walnut Ice Cream

This ice cream is similar to butter pecan, but with walnuts.

My secret ingredient here is the vanilla butternut flavoring. It's one of my favorites. It adds a vanilla flavor, but it's also very buttery and nutty.

The vanilla butternut extract is a dark brown, so it darkens the finished product a bit, so keep that in mind if you're using it for something like a frosting. In this ice cream, it looked perfect.

The walnuts get a little toasting to bring out their flavor, and then a little coating of sugar that coats them with a thin, crisp layer. It's not like biting into peanut brittle - it's just a small coating.

The salt sprinkled onto the sugar gives you little bright bursts of flavor when you encounter them.

Toasted Walnut Ice Cream

For the ice cream base:
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla butternut extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the walnuts:
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup walnuts
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt

Combine the milk, cream, sugar, and salt in a heavy bottomed pot. Heat until barely simmering. Meanwhile beat the egg yolks in a small bowl.

When the milk is heated, add some to the egg yolks, slowly, while whisking the yolks. Add about 2 cups of the hot milk to the eggs, and then add the egg mixture to the hot milk in the pan, whisking as you add it. This will help keep the eggs from scrambling.

When the eggs have been added to the milk, continue cooking and stirring until the mixture thickens - you'll feel a drag on your spoon and if you run your finger across the back of your stirring spoon, the line will remain.

Pour the mixture through a fine strainer into a storage container. This will catch any bits of egg that got lumpy. Add the vanilla butternut and the vanilla extract and stir to combine. Refrigerate the mixture until it is completely chilled - at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a frying pan. Crush the walnuts in your hand so you have smaller pieces. You don't want them to be crumbs, but a little smaller that halves is nice. Add the walnuts to the butter and cook, stirring as needed until the nuts are warmed and toasted  a bit. Add the sugar and cook, stirring as needed, until the sugar has melted. stir to coat the nuts.

Sprinkle the pinch of salt over the nuts, stir one final time, then turn off the heat and transfer the nuts to a plate to cool.

When the ice cream base has chilled completely, churn it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. When it has finished churning, stir in the nuts by hand (if you let the machine churn in the nuts, you could damage the machine), then transfer the ice cream to a storage container. Freeze until firm.
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