Saturday, November 10, 2012

Whiskey-Pecan Ice Cream and Easy Fudge Pie

The Setting: White skies; stark, charcoal-colored trees; it looks like someone hit the grayscale button outside my window.

The Soundtrack: The washer, the dryer, the dishwasher; a much-needed day of cleaning in progress.

Steaming up the (microwave) Oven: Various containers of leftovers.

The Scenario: When life--or whiskey--gets a little too intense, just add chocolate.

When Hoosband saw "Bourbon Ice Cream with Toasted Buttered Pecans" on the list of Jeni's fall flavors, he immediately added it to our shortlist of recipes to try.

We agreed to substitute Tennessee whiskey for the bourbon since the bottle of Jack on the counter had been collecting dust for the better part of a year and looked like it needed a little love.

Everything started out so well. The pecans roasted beautifully; the cream and sugar simmered blissfully; the only thing that could make this better was booze.

Then, as I poured one-half cup of whiskey into the warm ice-cream base, the smell of oak-aged alcohol smacked me upside the head. A second glance at the recipe revealed I'd used a quarter-cup too much. So much for a little love--this was beginning to look like a serious relationship...for better or for worse.

When Hoosband and I tasted the ice cream the next day, my fears were confirmed.

The ice cream was gorgeous: perfectly scoopable, a textural dream. The flavor, however, was somewhat lost in the sensation of having just thrown back a shot or two.

It conjured up memories of dive-bar nights and head-spinning morning-afters, best left in the dorm-room days.

It needed something to soften the blow...something to bring it from "night I'll never remember" to "dessert I'll never forget."

It needed chocolate.

The next day I paired it with a simple fudge pie, and it completely transformed the experience.

I'd still recommend sticking to the called-for quarter-cup of booze as opposed to the highly excessive half-cup. But the combination of chocolate, pecans, whiskey, and cream is so much greater than the sum of its parts.

Serve it for company. Serve it for the holidays. Or when, in the extreme situation, you need a little hair-of-the-dog, serve it for breakfast--no judging here.

The following recipe is excerpted with permission from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer. My notes are in blue.

Jeni's Bourbon and Buttered Pecan Ice Cream
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup Bourbon  I used Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey
Salty Buttered Pecans recipe follows

PREP Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.

Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.
If you have trouble whisking the cream cheese, microwave it for about 10 seconds to soften it a bit more.
Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

COOK Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.

Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

CHILL Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Stir in the bourbon.
Gradually is the key word--if you add it all at once, it will be very difficult to get out all the lumps. Speaking of lumps, I like to strain my mixture into a clean bowl at this point, just to make sure the ice cream will be silky-smooth. Use a spatula to help work the mixture through the strainer.

Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes. I generally make the mixture the day before I want to freeze the ice cream so it can chill thoroughly in the fridge overnight.

FREEZE Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy. For best results, always freeze the canister for AT LEAST 24 hours before using.

Pack the ice cream into a storage container, folding in 3/4 cup Salty Buttered Pecans as you go, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. The parchment is awesome at helping to prevent freezer burn. Every time you scoop out ice-cream, be sure to press the parchment back down over the remaining ice cream to help keep it tasty. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

Makes 1 generous quart.

Salty Buttered Pecans
3/4 cup pecan halves or quarters I used coarsely chopped pieces
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the nuts with the butter and salt in a bowl, tossing to coat. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, turning once, until crisp and aromatic. Let cool completely.

Excerpted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer (Artisan Books). Copyright 2011.

Fudge Pie
1 unbaked pie crust, fitted into a greased pie pan, placed on a baking sheet
4 T butter
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 oz cream cheese
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp fine-grain sea salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and make sure a rack is positioned in the center of the oven.

Prick the bottom of the pie crust all over with a fork.

Place the butter and chocolate in a large, microwave-safe bowl or 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup, and microwave for 1 minute.

Add the cream cheese to the chocolate and melted butter, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the sugar and salt, then the eggs and vanilla, and finally the flour.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust and bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Cool at least 20 minutes before serving (I like it best the next day).

The pie will keep, covered in aluminum foil, at room temperature for up to one week.

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

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