Last night a few friends came over for dinner, and I decided to go outside my comfort zone and experiment with a type of dessert I haven’t made much of–ice cream! I have had an ice cream maker for a few years now and have only used it once, back when I first got it. Yikes! That kind of thing is my worst nightmare because I’m kind of a minimalist when it comes to small appliances, so the fact that I have this ice cream maker sitting around and never getting used is just not cool. Plus there are so many interesting ice cream recipes out there to try.
So I clicked around in my Epicurious recipe box and found this recipe from Bon Appetit November 2007, Brown Sugar Ice Cream with Cayenne Spiced Walnuts and decided to give it a try. While I was on the site I also came across the recipe for Cardamom Butter Squares from Gourmet December 2004 which had also been hanging out in my recipe box. Recipes, check. Nice long Sunday to hang out in my kitchen, check. Friends on the way, check. Game on!
You warm up some cream and milk, then slowly add the cream mixture to the yolk mixture and put it back on the stove to cook for just a few minutes, till it reaches 170 degrees. I loved that the recipe specified exactly what temperature to cook it to, because whenever a recipe says to cook something till it thickens, I never know exactly how thick it’s supposed to be. So this was a no-brainer.
Meanwhile, I prepped the nuts. The recipe called for walnuts but I decided to use pecans instead, which I think was a very good choice. Pecans are just so buttery and yummy, while walnuts could have created walnut-overload in this case. (I love walnuts, but only in small doses. Plus they irritate some peoples’ mouths, and I wasn’t sure where my friends fell on the walnut-consumption scale.) So, the pecans got mixed up with some cayenne and black pepper, along with a bit of oil (the recipe called for vegetable oil but I used olive, hoping it would add an extra savory note). I also added some course salt because I love salty desserts. I didn’t really taste the salt distinctly in the finished ice cream, but–this just occurred to me–a sprinkle of course salt as a garnish on the finished ice cream would be a really nice touch.
Then, the nuts get added to the churning ice cream mixture about 5 minutes before the ice cream is done. (Make sure the nuts are cool–I popped them into the freezer for just a few minutes to be sure.) Now, here’s the thing about adding the nuts 5 minutes before the ice cream is done: the spices from the nuts separate from the nuts themselves and get fully incorporated into the ice cream, so you wind up with a spicy ice cream all around. Which is fine, except that I was imagining this to be a sweet ice cream with bites of spicy nut nuggets. In the end I don’t think one is better than the other, but if you wanted the spicy nut nugget effect, I’d suggest folding the nuts gently into the ice cream after it’s out of the ice cream maker. Either way is fine, it’s just subtlety that I didn’t think of beforehand, but is definitely something I’ll keep in mind for the future.
We really loved how this ice cream turned out. The texture was just perfect–soooo creamy and smooth. And the flavor is like a classic butter pecan, with just the right amount of peppery kick that hits you in the back of the throat at the end of each bite. Definitely a grown-up ice cream… but with a nod to a classic, nostalgic ice cream flavor, good old butter pecan.
Overall, I give this recipe an A++ and I’m super psyched to make more ice cream!!
Peppery Butter Pecan Ice Cream
By Brett Bara, modified from Bon Appetit
I modified this recipe by adding more salt to both the base and the nuts, and by swapping the vegetable oil for olive oil, for more of a savory effect. I also swapped the walnuts for pecans, which made this delightfully buttery.
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
6 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup pecan halves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon course salt
Bring milk and cream just to a simmer in a medium saucepan, over medium heat. Mix together the sugar, yolks and salt. When milk mixture comes to a simmer, whisk it into the yolk mixture, adding very small amounts of milk at a time. When fully combined, transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and cook over medium heat till it reaches a temperature of 170 degrees (use a candy thermometer to measure). This will only take a few minutes. Transfer to a wide, shallow bowl and freeze for about 40 minutes, stirring about every 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat your oven to 375 degrees. Combine the pecans and all the remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix, then spread on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven, stirring every few minutes, until the nuts are fragrant and just lightly brown, about 10-15 minutes. (Watch closely in case your nuts brown more quickly.) Cool nuts completely.
Process the ice cream base in your ice cream maker according to your machine’s instructions, until thick and creamy and no longer watery. (My machine took about 40 minutes; yours may vary.) Add the nuts about 5 minutes before the ice cream is done (be sure the nuts are fully cool; chill in the freezer for a few minutes if necessary). Finally, transfer the ice cream to another container and freeze till set, about 6-8 hours, or up to 3 days.
Optional: garnish with a sprinkle of course salt.
I wanted a little something extra to serve with our ice cream, so I also made these yummy cookies adapted from a Gourmet recipe I’d been saving forever. I altered this in a few ways, increasing the amount of spice while cutting the whole recipe in half (I just didn’t think we needed 6 dozen cookies, I mean, who does??). I also added the chocolate-dipped thing.
This recipe started with a simple butter dough, nothing crazy, no surprises, easy to whip up. After mixing the dough, you form it into a 12-inch log and wrap it in plastic wrap. Man, there’s just no way around it, logs of dough are creepy looking, right?
After chilling the log for an hour, it’s time to form it into a square-shaped log. This was super easy to do using my quilter’s ruler! (Seriously, I use my quilter’s ruler in the kitchen all the time. It comes in handy for so many things.) Anyway, I did this by unwrapping the log until there was just one layer of plastic on it (ie, not wrapped up in a bunch of layers, so that the dough would have some freedom to change its shape). Then I just used the ruler to flatten out the sides, rotating it and pressing several times, until it was a square. Super easy.
Square shape! Then it goes back in the fridge for at least one more hour, or up to five days, or even frozen, till you’re ready to bake. To bake, just use a sharp knife to slice the log into scant 1/4″ thick pieces, and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them about 1″ apart. Just bake till they start to get golden around the edges.
The original recipe called for drizzling the cookies with an espresso glaze and a chocolate glaze, but that just sounded like a lot of trouble, and messy. So instead I melted some dark chocolate I had hanging around (I dunno, probably about 12 ounces), and dipped the cookies. It was quick and easy, and I liked the simplicity of the finished look. (I think the cookies would be fine without any drizzling or dipping, but they would be quite plain–more like a tea biscuit than a dessert cookie. Still, they would be nice that way, if that’s what you’re in the mood for.)
These were tasty little cookies. The spice flavor is subtle, but it interacts with the chocolate in a really nice way. I thought these were even better the next day, and they were super delicious with a cup of chai tea this morning. (Yes, I had cookies and ice cream for breakfast this morning while I was taking these photos. Oh the shame! Not really.) Anyway, this morning I realized what these cookies, with the layer of dark chocolate, remind me of: McVities Digestives, one of my all-time favorite store-bought cookies! A crumbly, buttery cookie with a semi-soft chocolate coating, not too sweet and not too rich, perfect with tea, and easy to eat by the dozen. Not too shabby.
I’m not sure this cookie was really the ideal pairing for the ice cream (my friend last night suggested that my rosemary shortbread would have gone great with the spicy ice cream, and I think he was right), but this was still a good little cookie that I’d make again… maybe for a tea party.
Chocolate Cardamom Cookies
I made these cookies following the original recipe rather closely, so I won’t repost it here in full. (The link to the full recipe is here.) The changes I made were:
- I cut the recipe in half completely.
- I used double the amount of cardamom, allspice and cinnamon (ie, I used the full amount of spice called for, while cutting all the other ingredients in half).
- I dipped the finished cookies in melted dark chocolate and skipped the drizzled-icing portion of the original recipe
We had such a lovely Sunday supper last night. And actually, we didn’t just eat dessert! Here’s the full menu of what I made, in case you’re looking for some new recipes. I really like to be able to relax and enjoy my guests when they arrive, so everything on this menu was chosen because it can be prepped in advance, with very little cooking on the spot:
- Green Olive and Goat Cheese Crostini — these were interesting; kind of weird but they got a thumbs-up in the end. Very easy to make and easy to make in advance, so I would consider these for a party in the future or just for a little munchie before dinner again some time. I skipped the fennel seeds because I’m not always a fan.
- Spring rolls brought by one of the guests who is an amazing cook; sorry no recipe!
- Pink Grapefruit, Avocado and Watercress salad — this was a nice little salad with a lot of stuff going on. It felt “special” enough for company while still being simple and easy to prep completely in advance. I’d make it again, definitely swapping out ingredients for whatever I have on hand. For example, I didn’t think the prosciutto was really worth it, given the cost of good prosciutto–next time I’d just cook up some sliced bacon and add that instead. (I actually think the bacon would be an improvement, texturally.) I also used almonds instead of hazelnuts, just because that’s what I had on hand. But the basic bones of this salad were great, and it’s a good jumping-off point for modifications.
- Roasted Cod on Saffron Mashed Potatoes — I made this exactly like the recipe, except that I mixed corn in with the mashed potatoes, which I highly recommend. I’ve made this entree before and I really like it. It’s simple, easy to prep in advance with minimal cooking right before serving, and hits a nice note of comfort-food-meets-fancy.
- Peppery Butter Pecan Ice Cream and Cardamom Chocolate Cookies, of course!
Happy Monday, all! Hope you had a nice weekend too. xoxo