Summer brings out the craving for ice cold treats in all of us. I developed this recipe for a vegan friend of mine whose hankering for a creamy frozen dessert just couldn’t be satisfied by traditional fruit-based sorbets. Here, the richness of homemade pecan milk blends with dark undertones of brown sugar, with just enough salt to wake up your taste buds. The result is a soft, nutty sorbet so creamy you won’t believe it’s dairy-free! Just like pecan pie, this sweet confection pairs well with dark chocolate, coffee, or a bourbon on the rocks. —jasonjason
Combine the pecan halves, water and salt in a large mixing bowl. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Transfer the pecans and water to a blender and puree on high speed for 1 minute, until the mixture is nearly smooth.
Pour the puree into a medium saucepan and add the sugars, vanilla, and bourbon, if using. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugars have dissolved and the mixture has just begun to steam, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Return the mixture to the large mixing bowl, reserving one cup in a small mixing bowl. Cover both bowls with plastic wrap.
Chill the mixture; place the larger bowl in the refrigerator and the smaller bowl in the freezer for 2 hours. The mixture in the freezer will have just begun to set in this amount of time. Stir this mostly-frozen portion into the refrigerated mixture until it has completely dissolved, further lowering its temperature. Alternatively, if you have more time, you can simply refrigerate the entire quantity for 6 hours or overnight. Don’t worry if your mixture separates as it rests, just stir it back together before churning.
Place a 9-inch metal cake pan and 1 quart storage container in the coldest part of your freezer 30 minutes before you are ready to churn the sorbet.
Churn the mixture in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions, until it reaches the consistency of soft-serve. This will take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the machine.
Working quickly, transfer the sorbet from the ice cream machine into the chilled cake pan, using a rubber spatula to spread it evenly. Cover it with plastic wrap and return it to the freezer to cure for 1 to 2 hours, until the outer 2 inches of the sorbet are firm to the touch.
Transfer to an airtight 1 quart storage container and freeze 1 to 2 hours more to allow the sorbet to cure completely.