The campaign for delicious home-made ice cream continues on! This week, I decided to take a break from the usual fruit-based flavors, and instead, opted for a more grown-up oriented flavor: bourbon. Specifically, vanilla bourbon butter pecan (now there’s a mouthful!).
I enjoy many a drink–a good beer, a nice bottle of wine, whatever. But if I had to pick one thing, I’m more of a whiskey guy. Some weeks, that means a good, single malt scotch, and others, a nice bourbon. Each have their charms. So why not combine a nice after-dinner drink with a nice after-dinner dessert? And so here we are.
But a bourbon-based ice cream wouldn’t quite be enough. Vanilla seemed like a natural combination (plus, it would mix very well seeing how the flavor of vanilla is extracted using alcohol), but I wanted a little something more. Seeing how that usually means nuts, I decided to mix in another ice cream flavor I’d had on my mind: butter pecan. I thought this toasty, buttery flavor would be well suited to the sweet, smoky nuances I expected of the bourbon vanilla, and I’d get two birds with one stone.
The end result was delicious. The flavor was very…complex. You have the light sweetness of vanilla floating above the deep, smokey bourbon flavors, both of which were very nicely complimented by the lightly buttery, toasty flavor of the pecans. The appearance was a light tan, dotted with the specks of vanilla and the small pecan chunks. The texture was the only area that disappointed me–alcohol has a very specific effect on ice cream, which might seem obvious to you vodka drinkers out there: alcohol, when in your freezer, won’t freeze. So when added to ice cream, it will result in a softer ice cream since, unlike many other ingredients in the custard base, it stays unfrozen. This is a good thing…in moderation.
The end result of this recipe wasn’t quite as “fluffy” as I had hoped, instead being a bit more on the “soft serve” end of the spectrum. Was this a bad thing? Not at all–just not what I had expected. Cutting back on the alcohol content is certainly one solution, but isn’t that half the fun of an ice cream like this? I tried to convince myself this is what I wanted, and after a bowl, I had successfully convinced myself. If you’re also a whiskey person, this ice cream has your name written all over it. If not, the flavor might still be a bit on the strong side, but it is indeed different from a glass of straight-up whiskey, so its hard to say if the non-whiskey fans out there will find this appealing–my wife unequivocally did not, but I’d be very interested to hear from any brave souls out there!
- 1 cups whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup pecans
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 7 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup bourbon
- 1 vanilla bean, scraped
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
Preparing this is ice cream is very similar to the usual process for making an ice cream custard. Begin by slitting the length of the vanilla bean.
Scrape the contents of the vanilla bean into a saucepan along with the milk and scald this (don’t boil), adding in the empty vanilla pod as well for extra flavor. Once warmed up, get this off of the heat and let the vanilla steep for about 30 minutes.
While you wait on the milk, coarsely break up the pecans into large chunks and sauté these in a pan with the hot, melted butter for about five minutes, taking care not to burn the pecans.
Pour the butter pecan mixture into a strainer, catching the butter in a medium sized bowl. Let this sit so that the butter and the pecans can cool off a bit. The butter should have a slight brown color and a delicious pecan infusion while the pecans will have taken on a toasty, buttery tinge. Once the pecans are reasonably cool, package them up and transfer to the fridge.
So now, let’s assume the milk/vanilla steeping time is up. Scald the milk once again, and as you wait for it to warm up, set up an ice bath, placing your bowl o’butter in the ice bath. Add the heavy cream to the melted butter. Set your strainer up over this bowl.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until the color changes and then beat in both of the sugars until well mixed. Temper this with a small scoop of the hot milk, mixing all the while, and then transfer the yolk mixture into the hot milk over medium heat, stirring constantly.
After about five minutes or so (you want it to thicken so as to coat the back of a spoon, but you don’t want the egg to scramble), pour this custard through the strainer into the cream/butter bowl (transfer the vanilla pod into the cream bowl as well for extra vanilla flavor). In case the butter has re-solidified some during this whole cooling off period, now is a great time to whisk the hell out of it because that hot custard will melt it right back down. Also add in the vanilla extract, salt, and last of all: the bourbon! You add this last because the less heat left in the custard, the better, because otherwise, you’d cook off the alcohol !
Mix this well, cover tightly (press the plastic wrap right down on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming), and transfer this to the fridge for about 6 hours or so. Once time is up, remove the vanilla pod, follow the directions that came with your ice cream maker, and churn this custard for about 20 minutes. During the last minute or two, throw in the sautéed pecans so that they can get mixed in. Transfer to an airtight container, freeze this overnight, and cheers *clink*!