We're lucky to have old friends from Montreal who always bring us good maple syrup when they visit, which is a huge treat. That, and it finally feeling a little like fall, lead to this ice cream. Using the best quality syrup makes a huge difference here. —amysarah
Toast pecans: preheat oven to 325. Spread the pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for around 10 minutes, stirring half way, until they begin to brown and smell toasty. Cool. Chop coarsely, into both small and larger pieces.
Combine the half and half, ½ cup heavy cream and the maple syrup in a pan. Scald over medium heat, stirring occasionally so the bottom doesn’t burn. When you begin to see small bubbles, remove from burner.
Fill a pan, large enough to hold the bowl in the following step, half way with water and bring to a simmer.
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar, in a Pyrex or stainless bowl, until foamy and well combined. Pour a few tablespoons of the hot cream into the eggs, whisking constantly. Do this a couple more times, then gradually pour in the rest, whisking briskly the entire time.*
Put the bowl over the pan of simmering water and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to a thin custard (you can use the back of spoon test.) Take the bowl off the heat and stir in the last ½ cup of heavy cream, vanilla extract and a small pinch of salt. Let cool until room temp or barely warm.
Refrigerate, covered, for at least 4-5 hours. Letting it chill overnight is best and also gives the flavor more time to develop. (Using a large measuring cup or bowl with a spout for this will make the next step easier.)
Give the cold custard a good stir, then pour it into your ice cream maker and run according to directions. In the final few minutes of churning, add the pecan pieces gradually so they blend throughout. When finished, remove the ice cream to an airtight container and put in the freezer for a couple of hours to firm up.
* If small egg clumps form, I put the mixture in the blender, or use a hand blender, to smooth it out.