Thursday, April 20, 2006
The good thing about making your own ice cream is you can have exactly the flavor you want, with no chemical add-ins, and at a fraction of the price of the gourmet commercial variety.
The bad thing is you are acutely aware of what goes into it, and you can't pretend you're enjoying a light dessert.
It's really easy to make ice cream, once you get over the fear of curdling the eggs (if you make custard style ice cream). Oh and of course, if you have an ice cream maker. I always found it frustrating reading recipes that rely on a piece of equipment I don't have. Ice cream recipes used to fall into that category, until on a whim I bought this machine. It's hard to go out and buy this kind of toy if you don't think you'll use it often. Ice cream is popular in this home so I don't regret buying the machine.
So far I've tested chocolate with caramelized almonds, raspberry sorbet, vanilla, and butter pecan. Butter pecan has been my most successful flavor so far, with chocolate as a close second. The brown sugar gives a warm caramel backdrop to the toasted and slightly salted pecan pieces. If you toast them a tad too long, as I did here, the flavor becomes almost that of coffee ice cream.
Recipe: Butter pecan ice cream
Original source: Gourmet magazine, from Epicurious, but I made some changes.
- 1 cup pecans, chopped
- 1 1/2 tbspn butter
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 cup brown sugar (try less?)
I used the European variety, the darkest I could get in a health food store
- 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
I forgot to include cornstarch once but added an extra egg yolk, and the result was fine
- 4 eggs
I was surprised, as most recipes seem to rely on yolks more than whole eggs, but this seems to work. Still, in the ice cream pictured here I used two or three whole eggs (I forget) and two egg yolks
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 packs vanilla sugar
Because I can't get vanilla extract in this country. If you can, use 3/4 tsp vanilla.
Preheat oven to 350°F. (176° C)
Toast pecans in a shallow baking pan in middle of oven until fragrant and a shade darker, 7 to 8 minutes. If you can smell them before 7 minutes taste to make sure they don't overcook.
Add butter and salt to hot pecans and toss until butter is melted, then cool pecans completely (they will absorb butter).
Chill and even freeze before using. Add-ins for ice cream should always be as cold as possible for the best possible texture ice cream.
Whisk together brown sugar and cornstarch, then add eggs, whisking until combined.
Bring milk and cream just to a boil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat.
Add to egg mixture in a stream, whisking constantly, and transfer custard to saucepan.
Cook custard over moderately low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until thick enough to coat back of spoon and registers 170 to 175°F on an instant-read thermometer, 2 to 3 minutes (do not let boil). If you don't have a thermometer, which I didn't at first, then really don't cook longer than 2 minutes. It goes surprisingly quickly and you don't want to overcook the eggs.
Immediately pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve (I don't bother with this step) into a bowl and stir in vanilla, then cool, stirring occasionally. If you're using vanilla sugar, you may want to put it in a bit earlier so it dissolves properly.
Chill custard, its surface covered with wax paper (I just put plastic wrap over the top of the bowl, and ignored the slight skin that formed on top of the cream), until cold, at least 3 hours. Though from what I've read overnight is best.
Freeze custard in ice cream maker until almost done. (A good 45 min in my little ice cream maker).
Add the pecans just before the end of freezing time, then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden for a few hours (at least one, maybe a bit more if you don't like soft ice cream).
As with all home-made ice cream, it has the best texture when eaten the day it is made. If you keep it for a few days, let it soften in the refrigerator for half an hour, or at room temperature for 15 minutes.