If you haven’t had homemade butter pecan ice cream, you’re missing out on the crunchiest, freshest pecan taste in a frozen dessert. Besides, these nuggets come in a brown sugar ice cream base as fluffy and creamy as it gets. Making this from scratch has certainly given me whole new appreciation for this treat. Call me naive, but I didn’t know that “butter pecan” meant literally frying pecans in butter, rather than tossing pecans into butter-flavored ice cream. The more you know…
Anything with pecans is my jam.
Our jar of pecans is the fastest disappearing snack in the house. They’re sweet, fatty, and just a little bitter. Pecans go with pretty much everything: toasted on a salad, in a pecan pie, tossed onto a bakes sweet potato, made into a butter, sautéed as taco meat-substitute, or even directly from jar to mouth. There’s hardly anything more versatile. If you love pecans (and even if you don’t) you’ll definitely want to check out this chapter, Council of the Pecans, from Robin Kimmerer’s book, Braiding Sweetgrass. Her writing is life changing.
^^Let’s look on the bright side: this jar is half full today even though it will surely be empty tomorrow!
The recipe I used was *drumroll* the first one that popped up on a Google search. It was called “contest-winning,” and had many five star reviews. Still, some aspects made me scratch my chin. At first, it called for whole eggs rather than egg yolks. I had never heard of that in ice cream. Egg yolks, sure: they help to emulsify the custard and distribute a yummy richness to the dessert.
But egg whites are just water and protein. How could that help, besides just leading to a solid ice block? Nerd alert: adding sugar to ice cream helps to prevent freezing by actually raising the freezing temperature. Perhaps the egg whites made it necessary to add piles (I repeat: PILES) of sugar. To be honest, the texture was right on, and perhaps because of the egg whites, the liquid form was much thicker than other ice creams I’ve attempted, leading to an airy, fluffy texture. Let me know what you think either way.
Still, if I were to try this recipe again, I’d probably add just the egg yolks and make myself an omelet with the egg whites. I’d cut the sugar by one half as well and content myself with some hard-to-scoop ice cream. A lot of the comments suggest adding candied pecans, but I am a purist here. If you’ve ever had pecan pancakes you know there’s nothing like the purity of butter-fried pecans. Don’t rob yourself of that sweet/salty flavor!
That said, was I tempted to add just a pinch of cinnamon? Yes. Did I? Not this time.
A few notes on making ice cream
Coating the back of a spoon:
When I first made ice cream, the finished product wasn’t the hurrah I’d been waiting for. It globbed up on my tongue, and left a coating all over my mouth. Then, I realized that when they tell you to heat the mixture until it “coats the back of a spoon,” they don’t mean until it looks like broccoli cheddar soup. They just mean that the mixture leaves a thin film on your spoon. And by the way, do this test with a metal spoon, not a silicone spatula. Nothing sticks to that bad boy.
Straining your mixture:
Do you use eggs to make ice cream? Everyone on this page should raise their hands. If so, then you’ll want to strain your custard mixture before chilling it. That way you don’t end up with pieces of scrambled egg in your finished scoop. I had to strain out a LOT of my mixture this time. Those solids could have been an omelet.
Using a thermometer:
You should take seriously a recommendation for a kitchen item from someone who doesn’t own a whisk (Yes, I know, but forks are just too convenient!). If you’re making custards often, a cheap thermometer is helpful. You might be surprised how quickly your mixture gets to the right temperature. In this recipe, it’s 160 degrees.
Following instructions on your ice cream maker:
Don’t end up like me, kids. I’ve made plenty of mistakes trying to cut corners and eat my dessert as fast as possible. Here’s what experience has taught me: Don’t assume you know how to assemble your ice cream maker without reading the directions. Don’t lose the plastic part that does all the churning. Do wait for your ingredients to chill overnight or at LEAST for six hours unless you want to end up with cream soup. Do fold in your add-ins at the last minute if you want to avoid an explosion out the top of your ice cream maker.
Don’t share your ice cream with others:
In the mood for something lighter? Try this coconut ice cream.Print
Perfection on a spoon: a decadent ice cream recipe complete with pecans, butter, and brown sugar.
- 4 large eggs
- 3 cups half-and-half*
- 1 ½ cups brown sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream*
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 tablespoons butter**
- 1 ½ cup pecans***
- Beat your eggs in a small bowl.
- Add the half-and-half and the brown sugar to a large saucepan. Stirring constantly, heat the mixture to 160 degrees, or until the mixture starts letting off steam.
- Whisk your eggs continuously while adding two cups of the half-and-half mixture until combined. Add this mixture back into your saucepan, again whisking continuously.
- Keep whisking until the mixture comes back to 160 degrees, or until it lightly coats the back of a metal spoon.
- Strain your mixture into a large bowl. Add the heavy cream and vanilla and stir. Cover and refrigerate your bowl right away. Keep refrigerated overnight or for at least six hours.
- In the meantime, melt your butter in a skillet over medium low heat. Coarsely chop your pecans and add them to your melted butter. Roast your pecans until there’s a nice roasted aroma coming from your pan. I like mine a little well done, so I take the pan off the heat at the first whiff of “pleasantly charred.” Cool to room temperature.
- Process your cream through an ice cream maker as directed, adding the nuts in for the last five minutes or folding them in afterward.
- Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and scoop in your finished ice cream. Chill for 2-4 hours before enjoying.
Adapted from Taste of Home.
*Could you instead make this recipe with 1 ½ cups whole milk and 2 ½ cups heavy cream? I don’t see why not.
**I’m intrigued by the idea of salted butter here.
***Add more if you want. It’s your ice cream.
Keywords: ice cream, butter pecan, pecan, dessert, butter, sweets, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, creamery