Pecan Pie in Ice Cream Is Even Better than Ice Cream on Pecan Pie

You really can have it all.

December  6, 2018
Photo by Posie (Harwood) Brien

Pie season is upon us. First, there was Thanksgiving, of course, but the entire stretch of winter holidays brings more and more pie. Which is perfectly fine with me. I love pie—eating it, baking it—but it is a bit of a labor of love. Unless you shape and freeze your crust, or make your dough in advance, baking a pie takes some time and elbow grease. But every time I do it, I remember why it’s worth the effort.

Pie is a study in contrast. A crisp, buttery, flaky crust cradles a soft filling of cooked fruit or silky custard or the gooey base of a pecan pie. Pie is good warm and exceptionally good cold. And pie practically cries out for a scoop of ice cream.

The marriage of ice cream and pie is one of the nicest pairings in the dessert world. But why not take it a step further? I’ve seen pie shakes on menus (where a slice of pie is blended with ice cream into a milkshake), but that loses all the delicious texture of the pie itself.

This year I realized what I should have been making all along: pie ice cream. Not only do you get the fun of eating both together, but you cut down on some of the trickier elements of pie-baking, like rolling out the crust and shaping it. I highly recommend making this for holiday parties this year—it’s such a novel approach to a classic dessert.

Now, if you want all the fun of pie ice cream with none of the fuss, you can go the store-bought route. Take a slice of leftover pie, smoosh it up with a fork—taking care to leave large chunks of crust intact—fold it into slightly softened ice cream, then refreeze. Voila! Instant pie ice cream.

But if you want to make a full batch of homemade pie ice cream (and you really should), here’s how I do it. My favorite is chocolate pecan pie ice cream: the gooey, sugary interior of a pecan pie makes a nice ribbon-like swirl in ice cream, while the nuts add a delightful crunch. Throw in some chopped chocolate for good measure, and it’s downright addictive.

First, I make a half-recipe of my favorite all-butter pie crust. I roll it out (and here’s where it gets easier than pie), not worrying about the shape and keeping it thick, about 1/4-inch.

I prick it with a fork and bake it at 350°F on a parchment-lined baking sheet until it’s golden brown. While it cools, I make the base of my ice cream and the pecan filling. I like to use a simple eggless ice cream base here, which is a bit less rich than its yolk-laden counterpart. Feel free to use your favorite vanilla ice cream recipe.

For the pecan pie swirl, I simply cook all the ingredients you find in a pecan pie filling on the stovetop. A few extras steps—adding a splash of brandy and toasting your nuts first—make all the difference. Churn your ice cream according to your machine’s instructions, then about 5 minutes before it’s ready, add in the pecan filling, a handful of chopped chocolate, and your crumbled pie crust.

And there you have it: pie and ice cream, all in one bite. Give those store-bought pints a run for their money this year.

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I like warm homemade bread slathered with fresh raw milk butter, ice cream in all seasons, the smell of garlic in olive oil, and sugar snap peas fresh off the vine.