In some places in the world, like the U.S. Northeast, winter is coming. In New York, as I write this, it is 46 degrees and there's a chilly bluster in the wind that is shaking the autumn-leaf wreath on my front door. Some would say that ice cream season is behind us now. I am not that someone.
In my house, ice cream season never ends. Flavors changes with the seasons, the berries and fruits of spring and summer giving way to the spices and deep, intense savor of autumn and winter flavors. At no point in the year would I (I, who puts on a coat to retrieve the mail from my front porch, two literal steps from the door) ever say that the cold comfort of ice cream is obsolete.
Thanksgiving is coming up in a few short weeks and I think this ice cream is the perfect accompaniment to pies featuring apples, pears, squash, and pumpkin. Of course, it's perfectly nice on its own, but you might also like to serve it sandwiched between two large, chewy Ginger Sugar Cookies. The spiciness of the pecans is a slow burn ~ you won't notice it at first, but you'll feel it at the back of your throat a moment after you swallow.
The pecans themselves are pretty addictive. (Bonus: you'll use only have the batch in this ice cream, so you'll have plenty for snacking.) They also make a nice gift on their own. However, if you dislike nuts, feel free to omit them in the ice cream.
Cinnamon Brown Sugar Ice Cream with Chili-Praline Pecans
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch sea salt
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1 cup Chili-Praline Pecans (recipe follows)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup pecans, broken up
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- Pinch sea salt (optional)
- In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine milk, cream, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and cinnamon. Bring to scalding point (just until milk begins to steam and bubbles form around the edge), stirring to dissolve sugar.
- Meanwhile, place egg yolks in a medium nonreactive mixing bowl. Whisk egg yolks along with remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar and pinch salt. Set aside until milk is warm.
- When milk is ready, slowly pour it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour egg mixture back into saucepan and place over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. The custard is ready when it begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon. Remove it from the heat and pour it through a fine strainer into a clean bowl. Set the bowl over an ice bath or in the refrigerator to cool.
- When the mixture is thoroughly cooled, process in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.
- To make Chili-Praline Pecans (recipe adapted from Bruce Weinstein's Ultimate Ice Cream Book ~ one of my absolute favorite books for ice cream recipes): combine 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring just until sugar dissolves. Let the sugar continue to cook until it turns golden. Take the pan off the heat, turn on your exhaust fan, and add 1 cup of pecans, broken up, and 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes. Be careful here ~ the peppers will release eye-watering, nose-stinging fumes, so be sure to stand back at this point. Stir to coat the nuts evenly, sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt (optional), then pour them out onto a baking sheet lined with a piece of waxed paper or parchment sprayed with nonstick pan spray. Using a heat-resistant spatula, smooth nuts into a single layer. Let cool. When completely cool (about 1/2 hour), chop roughly and store in an air-tight container at room temperature.
- To add pecans, either pour the chopped Chili-Praline Pecans into your ice-cream machine during the last minute or two of processing, or add them by sprinkling over the ice cream as you are spooning it into a container, layering the pecans throughout the ice cream. Freeze for at least 3 hours before eating.
- Don't panic if the ground cinnamon just floats on top of the custard base and refuses to blend in. It won't cooperate until you process the base in your ice-cream freezer, at which point it will incorporate beautifully.
- If spicy is not your thing, omit the pepper flakes or replace them with 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.