For better butter pecan ice cream, skip the ice cream machine, and double down on the butter and the pecans. Here’s the scoop (sorry, I couldn’t help it): You’ll melt some butter and toast a lot of pecans on the stovetop, for roasty flavor and crunchy crunch. (Make sure you stick them in the freezer as soon as they’re out of the pan, so they’re cooled down by the time you stir them into the finished ice cream base.) Next you’ll melt even more butter until it browns, intensifying in flavor and making your kitchen smell like the happiest place on earth. And while a classic no-churn ice cream template calls for condensed milk (sweetness, custardiness) and whipped cream (richness, airiness), we’re upgrading the latter component by throwing raw pecan pieces and cold heavy cream into a blender. The machine does all the hard work, yielding a whipped pecan cream that adds both cloudlike fluff and capital-P Pecan flavor to every bite. Now, about those other ingredients: Resist the temptation to skip the salt. It balances all the sweetness. And when you add the vanilla extract (pure is preferable), take a cue from my mom, who always lets the measuring spoon overflow just a bit. As I’ve learned from these Genius blondies, it’s hard to overdo the vanilla in just about any dessert, and especially here. —Emma Laperruque
- makes 1 quart
unsalted butter, divided
1 1/2 cups
(171 grams) pecan pieces, divided
(14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- Stick a quart container or loaf pan in the freezer.
- Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 cup (114 grams) of pecans, plus a pinch of salt, and toss to coat. Toast for about 5 minutes, stirring often and lowering the heat as needed so the nuts don’t burn, until very fragrant. Transfer to a large plate and immediately stick in the freezer to chill out. (If there are any pecan bits or browned butter left behind, wipe out the pan with a towel.)
- Empty the can of condensed milk into a large bowl.
- Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the emptied skillet and return to the stove over medium heat. Cook, watching closely, until the milk solids in the butter start to brown and smell like roasting hazelnuts. Pour the brown butter directly into the condensed milk, scraping every last bit out of the pan.
- Add the vanilla to the condensed milk, plus another pinch of salt, and stir to combine.
- Add the remaining 1/2 cup (57 grams) of pecans to a blender. Process until powdery. Add a big splash of cream and process to combine, scraping down as needed. Add another big splash and repeat. Now pour in the rest of the cream and blend until the cream is whipped.
- Scrape the whipped cream into the condensed milk mixture and gently fold to combine. Now fold in the toasted pecans from the freezer.
- Remove the container from the freezer and add the ice cream. Cover and freeze for at least 6 hours, until however firm you like your ice cream.