How much do I love Ben & Jerry’s ice cream? Well, a lot. Sure, there are some really amazing frozen sweets purveyors out there now, but I adore Ben & Jerry’s for their nostalgia factor. I can still remember trying Cherry Garcia for the first time, The Macallan and I sharing a pint and two spoons on a lazy western Washington afternoon.
A few years ago, my boys got me an ice cream freezer bowl insert to go with my stand mixer—this gift being one in a long line of kitchen gadgets given in the hopes that they would benefit as taste testers from my use of it. I make ice cream all year-round, and keep the clean freezer canister in my basement trunk freezer so it’s glacial cold and ready to go at a moment’s notice.I didn’t, however, LOVE making ice cream until I picked up a copy of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book.
Most of the ice cream recipes I’d used up until then involved lengthy custard-making and tempering on the stove instructions, followed by extended cooling times, making the ice cream experience a day-long affair. Ben & Jerry cut right to the chase: as long as you use really great ingredients and a SUPER cold (again, your case freezer is your friend) finishing freeze, you can make superb ice cream within an hour. And rarely use your stovetop. Using their recipe bases, I only have to clean two vessels: the stand mixing bowl, and the freezer bowl. Done and done, my friends.
One of my favorite adaptations from their cookbook is Butter Pecan Ice Cream. It’s not for everyone: you can both taste and FEEL the little beads of butter bursting on your tongue. I use a combination of white and brown sugar for the ice cream base, and add a bit of bourbon (of course!). I’ve experimented with a few different kinds of salt, and enjoy the savory edge of smoked sea salts in this recipe- just use a pale colored salt, otherwise your ice cream will look muddy.
Salted Butter Pecan-Bourbon Ice Cream (Makes 1 generous quart).
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup pecan halves
½ tsp. smoked sea salt (plus extra for garnish)
2 large fresh eggs
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
1 ½ cups heavy or whipping cream
1 ½ cups half-and-half
2 Tbs. bourbon
Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over low heat. Add the pecans and salt and sauté, stirring constantly, until the pecans start to turn brown and are crisp, but don’t overcook or they’ll be soggy in the final product (yuck!). Drain off the butter into a small bowl and reserve; put the drained pecans in another bowl and cool.
Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes); whisk in the sugars a little at a time and continue blending until completely combined (about 1 minute more). With the mixer on low speed, pour in the bourbon, cream, and half-and-half, increase speed to medium and pour in the butter in a narrow stream; whisk for another minute.
Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer’s instructions.
After the ice cream stiffens (about 2 minutes before it is done), add the pecans, then continue freezing until the ice cream is ready.
Sprinkle a little pinch more sea salt on top of each serving.