Caramelized Pear Ice Cream with Toasted Pecans

My seasonal pear obsession continues to dictate my desserts. This week’s spin on pears: caramelized pear ice cream with toasted pecans.

Caramelized Pear Ice Cream

Armed with my fancy new toy from Santa (with the appropriate attachments, of course!), I knew this week’s dessert simply had to be ice cream of some sort (despite the fact that its winter and below freezing. Hey, the fruit is seasonal, even if the dessert isn’t!). To be honest, my original plan was persimmons, but as luck would have it, this was the first week I couldn’t find any at the grocery store (foiled again!). Without so much as giving that a second thought though, it was on to my next fruit heart-throb as of late: pears. The last pear dessert I’d made was a tasty take on pears, so I wanted to have another go at caramelized pears. I took some notes on preparing a caramel ice cream, and from there, hoped that the pear dynasty would continue to reign supremely over my dessert course.

And oh it did. The ice cream was incredibly rich. There was a smooth caramel taste from start to finish with a really luxurious creaminess–almost buttery. There was a slight toasty, nuttiness to the ice cream, with the occasional crunch of a piece of pecan here and there. The pear taste was somewhat subtle, bringing something of a floral sweetness right behind all of the caramel sweetness, all wrapped up with a clean and refreshing lemon aftertaste. Texture-wise, this was silky smooth, creamy, with a really attractive tawny color. To sum it up: a very elegant bowl of ice cream. So long, store bought ice cream! This is also my entry for this month’s In the Bag.

  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1.5 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 Bosc pears
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1 lemon

Set up a large bowl with about a cup or so of ice water. Set a medium-sized bowl in that one (so its standing/floating in the ice water). Pour 1 cup of whole milk in the inner bowl and set this aside.

Caramelize the sugar, whisk in butter

Now, the first step is to make the caramel sauce. In a saucepan, pour in 1 cup of sugar and set it on high heat. Shake things up a bit every now and then to stir the sugar around, and somewhere shy of 10 minutes, the sugar should be almost completely caramelized. Before this happens, drop the heat down to medium and carefully incorporate 4 tablespoons of the butter (things will froth up, so don’t get burned!), whisking everything together.

Incorporate cream and whisk it well

Once fully mixed, carefully and slowly add 1 cup of the cream, whisking constantly. The caramel might seize (odd, tacky chunks will form), but just keep it on medium heat and keep whisking–peace and order will be restored soon enough. Once it is, add 1 cup of the whole milk, whisking until your arm is tired and everything is mixed and looking good. Keep this on the (medium) heat–we’ll return to it shortly.

Beat the yolks and sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer (on a low speed, or just do it the old fashioned way with a bowl and whisk), beat the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar until the color changes and it is well mixed. While still mixing, temper the yolks by scooping in a small amount of the hot caramel sauce. This is to let the yolks know what’s coming. Eggs don’t like surprises, and if you like ice cream, you give the eggs what they want. So give them a heads up. Temper, mix, and temper again, just to be nice.

Now that the yolk mixture has been tempered, pour the yolk mixture into the caramel sauce, whisking constantly. This is a dangerous period–the eggs are on heat, so keep it moving and don’t go for too long (you don’t want scrambling!). Keep this whisking until the mixture has thickened up some and bubbles are forming. Do not boil and do not walk away.

Strain cooked yolk caramel mixture into milk in an ice bath

Once you’ve cooked this long enough (its hard to say in retrospect, but I would estimate it was under 5 minutes), pour the egg and caramel mixture through the strainer into the bowl of milk (which is seated in an ice bath–you want to calm that caramel down so the eggs don’t continue to cook). The strainer is to catch any bits of scrambled egg or hardened caramel that may have been lurking in there (so don’t skip it!).

Now, add in a bit more cream (at most, 1/2 cup), the vanilla, and salt, and whisk it all together. Remove the bowl from the ice bath, cover with plastic wrap, and put this in the fridge. Now, for probably the most exciting part of this whole process: wait. For like 8 hours. Really, and don’t cheat.

Peel, core, and dice up some pears. Zest a lemon

Now that we have a few hours to spare, on to the star of the show: the pears. Peel, core, and dice them up, so that they’re not super tiny, but manageable chunks (I wanted noticeable pear chunks in the final ice cream, and given that, mine were too small. If you want chunks, make your pieces bigger). You’re going to simmer them in hot caramel, so they’ll soften up and break down some more, but if they’re really big chunks, they won’t get as tender, and then you’re going to freeze it in your ice cream, which would be unpleasant to chew. Also take this opportunity to zest a lemon and dice that zest up finely. I found the lemon flavor was a bit too pronounced in the final product, so I would use at most 1/4 of the lemon’s worth of zest, if any zest at all (definitely use all of the juice, though).

Caramelize the pears and lemon zest. Juice the lemon in as well and simmer

Grab a wide pan and caramelize the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar on medium-high heat (it won’t take very long–so little sugar spread out thinly, so keep your eye on it). Once almost all of the sugar has caramelized (some minor chunks are ok), add in no more than 2 Tbsp of butter and whisk it all together. As the frothing calms down, carefully place the pears and zest in the caramel (be careful, it will froth up some more when you do). Finally, juice the lemon into the caramel as well. Simmer this on medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring periodically.

Toast some pecans and then grind them up somewhat finely

Now, heat up a dry pan (medium/medium-high heat), and throw in the pecans. Toss them around every 2 minutes or so. Around 5-10 minutes later (how convenient–they’re done around the same time as the pears), take the pecans off of the heat and pulse them in a food processor to grind them up somewhat finely but not entirely to powder–you want some texture. Mix the ground pecans into the caramelized pear mixture. Let it cool off a bit (caramel is hot!) and then pour into a container and refrigerate.

After cooling, pour the custard batter into the ice cream maker

Once the countless hours of waiting have passed (at least 8!), finally, you can advance to the next step. Assemble your ice cream maker per instructions and get it cranking (for me, this meant keeping the attachment bowl in the freezer for 24 hours, and then, attach it, turn the mixer on the lowest speed) and pour in the custard batter. The caramelized pear mixture is still sitting in the fridge–leave it there.

After about 15-20 minutes of letting this churn, pour in the pear mixture. Let it churn for another minute or two and then transfer this entire mixture into an airtight container. Transfer to the freezer and give this at least 4 hours of quiet time so that the ice cream can ripen and become true ice cream (since right now, the texture doesn’t quite look ice cream like). Ideally, just let it sit in the freezer overnight and plan on having it tomorrow. You’ll be glad you did.

So now, finally, the moment is here. The ice cream is ready–put two or three scoops in a bowl and enjoy!

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21 Responses to “Caramelized Pear Ice Cream with Toasted Pecans”

  1. Bellini Valli Says:

    This would just be so exceptionally good any time of the year!!

  2. Lydia Says:

    I’ve been coveting the KitchenAid ice cream attachment. Are you pleased with it? I do have another ice cream maker, a small cuisinart that I never use, so I haven’t been able to justify buying the KA attachment.

  3. Pam Says:

    Mike, looks good! I love my ice cream attachment. You have to try the tiramisu ice cream (I have the recipe posted on my blog).

  4. Kaykat Says:

    Unbelievable! I was hoping to eat healthy for a bit, but this looks so damn decadent, I want it *now*! :)

  5. holler Says:

    I just can’t face ice cream just now, the weather is too cold and drab, but I may revisit this once summer comes. I loved the step-by-step photos and I could have eaten those carmelised pears straight out of the pan!

  6. mike Says:

    Bellini — thanks! I have to agree. While I tend to make some sort of dessert every week, we always have ice cream in the freezer to keep us covered during the between days in between running out of last week’s dessert and baking next week’s. Now that I can make my own, I’m a bit thrown off! lol

    Lydia — so far, I’m quite happy with it, although I can’t say I’ve owned any other one before, so I wish I could give you some sort of comparison. I think if you already have something that you’re happy with, there’s probably no need to go with the KA attachment, but for somebody who doesn’t already have one, this is really simple and integrates very easily with the KitchenAid.

    Pam — sounds like a delicious idea and I know my wife would be thrilled at the prospect. I’ll definitely give that a shot, thanks!

    Kaykat — haha, thanks! I try to do my part in tempting the world with desserts when I can. 😉

    holler — ah, down here, you could still get away with ice cream and not feel too out of season (it seems to swing between 20 and 70 lately, go figure). I’m a big fan of the pears, too and I nabbed a few after the photo. Purely to see how the recipe was progressing, of course. 😮

  7. Meeta Says:

    This looks so good. Caramelized pear ice-cream – oh that does sound good. Although it’s rather cold outside I am now craving this.

  8. Mansi Says:

    That looks amazing Mike!!! I’ve never tried pear ice cream before, but caramelizing them sounds very inviting! I think I can still find some pears in CA to try this:)

  9. arfi Says:

    mmmm… delicious! fruit ice-cream is a great flavour, for a change. what kind of pears do you use or prefer to use? we have packham pears which have green skin, unlike yours pictured have brown skin (we don’t grow brown skin). there’s also a type of pear which has red skin and i saw it on Jamie’s show last time. he fonds of it and he says that it doesn’t taste like sandpaper. funny guy.

  10. Anali Says:

    Oh this looks so good! I just saved the recipe for future making. I put my ice cream maker away for the winter. This will have to be one of the first ice creams I try when I get in the ice cream groove again! : D

  11. Sharona May Says:

    Wow! that sounds very good. I have never had an ice cream like that before. It sounds very interesting.

    Sharona May

  12. Julia Says:

    That looks delicious Mike, thanks for entering!

  13. mike Says:

    Meeta — Definitely worth ignoring the chilly weather.

    Mansi — thanks! :-) I’d never had pear ice cream before either, but it definitely goes nicely with caramel.

    arfi — I’m a big fan of Bosc pears. They just seem to have the right level of sweetness for me, but I’m definitely open to trying other kinds.

    Anali — That sounds good to me. Let me know how it goes when ice cream friendly weather comes.

    Sharona — thanks! It definitely was an interesting flavor. Hopefully one of many more to come (I think I have a new favorite appliance)

    Julia — thanks and glad to take part!

  14. Mike’s Table » Floral Mango Ice Cream with Pistachio Says:

    […] Caramelized Pear Ice Cream with Toasted Pecans […]

  15. Meringue Cookies from Mike's Table Says:

    […] with all of the different ice creams I’ve made recently, I have found myself with a ton of egg whites on hand […]

  16. Laurie Constantino Says:

    I don’t know how I missed this the first time around, but what a wonderful recipe. Everything about it screams good flavor good flavor good flavor. If it were in my freezer (if it lasted long enough to get there, that is), I’d be eating it now!

  17. mike Says:

    Laurie — thanks! :-) I seem to lose track of some good posts out there, too in the mix of all of the RSS feeds. This is still my favorite ice cream that I’ve made to date and it definitely disappeared far too quickly.

  18. Pixie Says:

    Mike, first, thanks for your help with egg yolks; read through the comments and will freeze them for a dessert for next time.

    Recently made an ice cream without an ice cream maker, came out slightly sweet for my liking; though, there isn’t any left.

    This ice cream sounds wonderful and the step by step photos and directions are very helpful. Really need to get myself an ice cream maker!

  19. Hyacinth Says:

    When you have egg whites left use them for sherbet recipes. Lots of good ones on the net. My dad used to make the best sherbets in our ice cream store. The sherbet base already had the albumin and stabilizers in it. Dad would add citric acid, color, and flavor. Oh, so good and refreshing. Not what is in the stores today. Try the egg whites in your sherbets.

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    Caramelized Pear Ice Cream with Toasted Pecans from Mike’s Table

  21. Jenn Says:

    i really love this idea, but I’m having trouble with your instructions/amounts:
    It says 1.5 cups sugar, of which 1 cup is caramelized initially for the base and 1/5 cup for the yolks. It then says to caramelize the remaining 1/2 cup. Is this an additional 1/2 cup (ie: 2 cups in total) or should 1/2 cup be removed from somewhere else?

    Thanks so much in advance!

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