maple bourbon + candied pecan ice cream

Whenever I think of a maple-flavoured ice cream, it takes me back to the summer I worked at an ice cream shop.  It might’ve been when I was 14 or 15, which was a long time ago.  One of the flavours sold at the shop was Maple Walnut, a perennial favourite amongst the senior-aged patrons.  I don’t think I ever had a young (or someone less than senior age) customer order Maple Walnut, so ever since that summer, I’ve associated Maple Walnut as being an old person ice cream flavour.  It’s a stereotype that’s stuck in my mind for all these years.

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Maple Walnut; in fact, I find it quite delicious.  It’s something about the sweetness of the maple combined with the slight bitterness of the walnuts.  The combination just works.  Feeling nostalgic and adventurous at the same time, I decided to take a Maple Walnut ice cream recipe and put my own spin on it.  I usually look through my pantry for inspiration when it comes to making ice cream, and my pantry certainly didn’t disappoint.  I spotted an almost-empty bottle of bourbon whiskey and the ideas just flowed from there.  How about pecans instead of walnuts?  Why not candy the pecans?  GENIUS.

I actually made this with Mark in mind, so he deserves some credit for inspiring me.  This ice cream turned out to be the best I’ve made so far, with Mark loving it so much that he ate most of it, when it’s usually me with the ravenous appetite for anything ice cream.  A few days later when my sister-in-law Rachel and her husband Jason came to visit, we served up this ice cream to Jason, who loves most things maple, and he enjoyed it very much.  I’m so proud of this ice cream and excited to share this recipe with everyone.

ingredientsFor the ice cream base, it’s the usual suspects – heavy cream, whole milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract.  A note on the heavy cream – I recently discovered this “old fashioned” whipping cream that has 36% milkfat (excuse the French of the carton – evidently I did not turn it to the English side).  The more fat, the merrier, right?  In ice cream, absolutely.  We always have a large container of pure maple syrup at home because it’s our sweetener of choice, mostly used in coffee.  Please, please, PLEASE do not use anything but pure maple syrup.  None of that Aunt Jemima stuff!

bourbonThe bourbon of choice for this ice cream is Bulleit Bourbon, which is one of Mark’s go-to drinks.  I’m not a huge fan of bourbon myself (I’m more of a vodka gal), so I can’t speak to the quality or taste of this bourbon in particular, but Mark says it’s pretty smooth and easy to drink on the rocks.  You don’t need too much of this – anywhere from 1-2 tablespoons max.  Adding too much alcohol into ice cream prevents it from freezing properly.

strainerPut half of the heavy cream into a large bowl (or container) with a mesh strainer on top.

custardThe custard is made the usual way by heating the milk, sugar, and half of the heavy cream over medium-low heat until steaming (not boiling).  The egg yolks are beaten slightly in a separate bowl and tempered slowly with the hot milk mixture.  The tempered eggs are then added back into the hot milk mixture and cooked until the custard is thick.  The custard is then strained into the reserved heavy cream over the mesh strainer, and at this point the maple syrup and vanilla extract are added.  The custard will then need to chill for at least 8 hours, although overnight curing is always best.  The bourbon is added just before churning.

How about we make some candied pecans in the mean time?  The great thing is, you can make these ahead of time and have them ready to go.  Just make sure you have enough willpower not to eat them all, because they make a very tasty snack.

ingredients2To carry on the maple theme, I used maple syrup for candying the pecans rather than brown sugar.  The other ingredients are butter, sea salt, and vanilla extract.  And of course, pecan halves.

pecansMelt the butter, then stir in the maple syrup, vanilla, and salt.  Bring it to a simmer and add the pecans.  Toss them to coat and cook until the syrup has thickened; it only takes a couple of minutes.

pecansbakeTransfer them onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and spread them out into one layer.

pecansdoneTada!  Give them a stir once they come out of the oven and let them cool for at least 30 minutes to harden.  After that, I chopped them roughly into bite-sized pieces and set them aside.  I did this mostly so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat them all because they’re sooo good.  These are added to the ice cream during the last few minutes of churning.

maple1The result is a beautifully golden, creamy ice cream, with a strong maple taste and a nice, subtle hint of bourbon.  Paired with the sweet, toasted pecans, it’s a delectable combination.

This is my modern twist on a classic flavour, and one that I’ll make over and over again.

Maple Bourbon + Candied Pecan Ice Cream (maple ice cream base recipe adapted from this recipe)

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tbsp bourbon
  • Candied Pecans (recipe follows)

Warm milk, sugar, and half the heavy cream in medium saucepan. Pour the other half of the heavy cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium-low heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream to cool. Add the maple syrup, salt, and vanilla, and stir over until combined. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator.

Add the bourbon and mix thoroughly.  Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. During the last few minutes of churning, add the Candied Pecans.

Candied Pecans

  • 100g pecan halves
  • 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375F and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter.  Stir in the maple syrup, vanilla, and salt.  Bring to a simmer.  Add the pecans and toss to coat.  Cook the pecans, stirring frequently, until the syrup has thickened, about 2-3 minutes.

Transfer the pecans to the parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Spread into one layer.  Bake until caramelized, about 8 minutes.  Remove from oven; stir and let cool for 30 minutes to harden.  Roughly chop the pecans into bite-sized pieces.


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