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Getting My Kids Up to Scratch: Pecan Pie Ice Cream

Pecans

As an adult, I’ve come to associate pecan pie with Thanksgiving.

When I was younger, it was only pumpkin.

I don’t know when this gatecrasher made its way into my four-day weekend. But I’m not fighting it either. Pecan pie is a good thing. So much so that when the current generation of teen servers come around after the big meal asking whether we want pumpkin or pecan pie, I have a hard time deciding.

Actually, I don’t decide. I have both, with whipped cream.

My own kids are now old enough to take on server responsibilities at family get-togethers. They’re not quite up to tending bar or cooking or bringing dates (thank God), but they’re more than able to clear the table and take dessert orders so we old-timers can continue prattling on about this and that. An added perk for the teens is that our “elderly” conversations give them ample opportunity to practice their eye rolling and shake their heads in disbelief.

As long as I don’t have to get up, it doesn’t bother me.

We all have a hand in the feast, from mashed potatoes and gravy to stuffing, beans, salads, etc. and have earned the sit-down. I am the go-to guy for mashed spuds and various heavy lifting, but have yet to insinuate myself into the dessert course. This year that may change.

How else am I going to get rid of my freezer full of ice cream?

Eventually, I’d like to get my girls interested in cooking as well, perhaps by making the end result something sweet, like a nice pecan or pumpkin pie. But they’re not ready yet and I’m getting tired of waiting.

My mom made great pumpkin pies, but as I said before, I don’t remember anything else. She did make fabulous cookies called pecan tarts. She now calls them pecan tassies, but that’s way to highfalutin for me. Either way that’s the taste I will be aiming for when I bring my daughters in to do some baking.

As to the methods, they will all be old school. That’s how I learned.

My mom made everything from scratch—cakes, pies, cookies, everything. I saw commercials for cake mixes on TV, but never saw one of those boxes in my mom’s kitchen. I confess I haven’t always walked the straight and narrow in that regard. I blame Ghirardelli’s brownie mix and Costco for these lapses, but I want my girls to learn to bake the right way.

In the meantime, I went ahead and threw my ideas about pecan pie into the ice cream freezer this week and it turned out spectacularly well. The toasted pecans, butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup blended together to make another fabulous ice cream. Everyone in the house loved it.

Just when I’m going to kindle my daughters’ interest in the culinary or pastry arts is not clear.

(Sigh.)

At least they’re getting interested enough to eat.

Pecan Pie Ice Cream

(about 2 quarts)
1 ½ cups milk
¾ cup sugar
2 T flour
A few grains salt
2 eggs or 3 yolks (pasteurized, if possible, see note)
1 ½ cups cream
1 cup pecans
¼ cup butter
½ cup brown sugar
½ t vanilla
1 t maple syrup

  1. Blend milk with sugar, flour and salt, and heat to 180-190ºF stirring frequently until thick, cover for 10 minutes.
  2. Beat eggs and add ½ cup of mixture while beating, then add eggs to mixture.

HEALTH NOTE:     Since you’re dealing with eggs here, you need to take care when cooking the custard. Too much cooking and the custard gets lumpy, too little and you risk salmonella.  Another alternative is to use pasteurized eggs.

  1. Heat the mixture for one minute over medium, then cool with plastic wrap or wax paper pressed onto the top of the mixture to keep it from developing a skin. Cool for several hours or overnight.
  2. As the custard cools, spread the pecans on a cookie sheet and toast them in a 350° F oven for 8-10 minutes then set them aside to cool.
  3. Next, melt the butter and brown sugar together in a sauce pan and stir in the vanilla and maple syrup.
  4. Chop the toasted pecans into small pieces and, when the custard has cooled, fold them into the mixture along with the butter and brown sugar blend, add everything to an ice cream freezer and freeze for 30 to 35 minutes.
  5. Put the frozen ice cream into the freezer for a couple of hours to give it a chance to firm up.

 


NOTE:    
When freezing ice cream, you need to use an ice cream freezer to ensure that a certain amount of air is mixed into the frozen cream. This gives it a lighter, less icy consistency. When freezing sorbet, you may also freeze it in a popsicle mold, a bowl or on a sheet pan. Be sure to stir the mixture occasionally to limit the size of the ice particles. Larger chunks of ice make for granita, miniscule chunks make for a nice smooth sorbet (an ice cream freezer is ideal).


Photo Credit: “Pecans,” photographed by the author. 

Because I’m so cheap and pine nuts were going for around $16.00/lb, I have been off of toasted nuts of late, but I am now officially back. The toasted pecans gave this week’s ice cream the perfect smoky taste to balance out the brown sugar sweetness. So I’m willing to get toasted nuts another chance. That and the price of pine nuts has been coming down thanks I’m sure to my low-key boycott. 

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