Holiday EntertainingChristmasHow to CookSouthern

How to Hack Butter Pecan Ice Cream

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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Your new favorite last-minute dessert.


Butter pecan from Food52

A common problem I have around the holidays is craving foods from the South, where I’m from. And since I live on the West Coast, it’s nearly impossible to find them. 

One of those foods is butter pecan ice cream. Yes, Baskin Robbins sells it and there are a few places up north that carry it, but I’m talking about the fresh-churned kind my grandmother would make on special holidays and birthdays for me growing up in Mississippi. It was soft, rich, and loaded with way more buttered pecans than any store-bought version can give me. The taste of the actual ice cream wasn’t even all that important -- it was all those pecans!

Butter pecan from Food52

My solution is to make my own buttered and candied pecans -- a relatively easy task -- and then mix them into store-bought vanilla ice cream when I get the craving for it. It lets me add as many pecans as I want, guarantees the ice cream will be soft, and if there are leftover pecans, well, who doesn’t love a candied nut at the holidays?

And best of all, there’s no recipe here, you can just eyeball everything. To start, toss enough pecans into your largest skillet to cover the bottom in a single layer, and place it over medium-high heat. Cook the pecans, tossing occasionally, until they smell nutty and are lightly toasted. Then spoon in a few hearty dollops of butter, enough to coat the pecans and have a little pooling around them in the skillet.

 butter pecan from Food52

Let that bubble away, stirring here and there, until the butter begins to brown, and then sprinkle over some sugar, enough to blanket the pecans in an even snow-dusting.

butter pecan from Food52

Add a pinch of salt, a splash of bourbon, and stir the whole mass together until it’s evenly combined and there’s no more dry sugar.

Butter pecan from Food52

When the syrup around the pecans begins to thicken and bubble up, pour the pecans onto a sheet of foil, and spread out evenly. Let cool completely, and then store in a plastic bag until you’re ready for dessert.

Butter pecan from Food52

When it’s time to indulge, let your store-bought ice cream soften at room temperature for about 10 minutes, and then stir in pecans to your taste and serve up the treat in bowls. I like to serve each scoop with the smallest sprinkling of sea salt, but a drizzle of caramel sauce also helps things out tremendously. 

What are your favorite last-minute desserts? Let us know in the comments!

Brown butter pecan from Food52

Photos by James Ransom

Tags: holiday, southern, south, ice cream, hack, butter pecan, how to & diy