It’s a known fact that brown butter is the key to all things delicious. That is especially true in the case of this Brown Butter Pecan Ice Cream. Think about any butter pecan ice cream you’ve had in the past, and then banish those plebeian thoughts. Browning the butter in this butter pecan elevates it into something that’s beautifully rich, with a deep, golden nuttiness, and an intoxicating fragrance that makes you want to breathe deep.
The problem with a lot of brown butter ice cream (if I can say such a thing) is that tricky part of balancing the butterfat content in the ice cream. Too much butter and you end up with a grainy texture or a mouthfeel that is too fatty or waxy. Too little butter, and well, you lose the beauty of the butter.
I wanted all the intoxicating flavor of brown butter without any of the extra fat to throw off my textural balance. Sounds too good to be true, right? The answer lies in the brown butter milk solids.
I came upon this solution when I turned to the queen of ice cream herself for inspiration. In Jeni’s brown butter ice cream, she browns an impressive 3 sticks of butter, then harvests the toasted milk solids to maximize that fragrant, nutty brown butter flavor without actually using all that butterfat. Only the browned butter milk solids get mixed into the ice cream base, so you get all that lovely flavor, but you’re still able to maintain a smooth creamy consistency. Brilliant, huh?
I took that concept and took it one step further with this Brown Butter Hack. With more brown butter milk solids to play with, I was able to amp up that brown butter flavor even more in my ice cream base.
If you were concerned about that clarified brown butter that got left behind from the milk solids, don’t worry, we put it to good use! 3 tablespoons of this liquid gold gets stirred into the toasted pecans while they’re still warm.
The pecans soak in all that buttery goodness, and a generous sprinkling of salt ensure that these little nuggets will be like hitting gold as you work your way through the ice cream.
I’ve already made this Brown Butter Pecan beauty twice in the past week. It’s the perfect thing to bring to a holiday dinner party – it’s good enough to stand alone, but it’s also a stellar team player and perfectly complements all those holiday pies that are hitting the table this time of year. This is one hostess gift that will guarantee an invite back.
There are a few secret tricks that make this the best butter pecan ice cream ever. We make an amped up brown butter, then harvest the toasted milk solids to infuse the ice cream with fragrant, nutty brown butter. We don’t add any extra butterfat to the base, so you get a smooth texture that isn’t waxy on the palate. Toasted pecans get soaked in that clarified brown butter and then hit with salt. The result? Heaven.
- 8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 cup (4 oz) non-fat milk powder
- 5 large egg yolks
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups whole milk
- ¾ cup light brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ cup browned butter milk solids
- 1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons clarified brown butter
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Stir in the milk powder and let it cook low and slow until the powder is browned to a toasty hazelnut color. Pour through a sieve over a bowl.
- Reserve the clarified brown butter to toss with the pecans. Set aside ¼ cup of the browned milk solids. Store the rest in an air-tight container in the freezer or fridge for another time. (***If you want to forego the brown butter hack in favor of regular brown butter, without the added milk powder, see the Notes section for the alternative method.)
- In a large bowl, make an ice bath and set it aside. Set up a gallon Ziplock bag placed inside a quart container with the top folded over the rim. Set up a medium bowl with a fine mesh strainer on top. In another medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.
- In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the cream, milk, brown sugar, and ½ teaspoon of salt. Bring to just before a simmer, stirring steadily -- you’ll see steam coming off the surface, about 4 minutes.
- Remove the cream mixture from the heat. Slowly pour the hot cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep the yolks from curdling. Transfer the yolk mixture back to the saucepan and return it to low heat.
- Cook, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula or flat edged wooden spoon, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan so it doesn’t scorch. Continue stirring, making a figure 8 pattern (down the center of the pan, up the left side, down the center, up the right side) until the liquid thickens, about 4 minutes. Do not let it boil, or else you’ll end up with a curdled mess. The change is subtle so it’s about noticing the change in sound and resistance as you stir. When the mixture becomes less sloshy and more like ripples of liquid silk, your ice cream base is ready.
- Remove the custard from the heat and immediately pour it through the strainer into the clean bowl. Stir in the vanilla and browned butter solids. Pour the ice cream base into the Ziplock bag, and place the bag into the ice bath. Let the custard cool completely, at least 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, toast the pecans in a skillet. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the 3 tablespoons of the clarified brown butter and ½ teaspoon of salt.
- Transfer the custard mixture to an ice cream maker and spin according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Pack the ice cream into an airtight container, folding in the buttered pecans as you go. Place a piece of parchment paper on the surface to keep out any air, and cover with the lid. Freeze until firm. Devour with abandon.
If you want to make this ice cream with regular brown butter and no added milk powder, start with 12 oz (3 sticks) unsalted butter. Place the butter in a small, stainless steel sauté pan over medium-low heat. Don’t use a pan with a non-stick bottom -- the dark color of the non-stick coating will make it hard to see the color of the butter as it browns. Let the butter cook until the milk solids are a toasty hazelnut color, about 10 minutes. Pour off into a glass 2-cup measuring cup. Let the browned butter bits settle, then pour off the liquid clarified butter. Set aside 3 tablespoons of this for the pecans, the rest can keep in the fridge or freezer for another use (I recommend hash browns!). Use the browned milk solids left in the measuring cup for the ice cream base.
Recipe Source: LickMySpoon.com.
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