I guess it goes without saying I’m a huge fan of browned butter in pastries and desserts. I love the nutty flavor and the way it enhances the effect of other ingredients in combination. And it delivers a fabulous pop to a whole range of things. I’ve used it in cookies, such as Baci di Dama and Walnut Shortbread,
So I suppose it makes perfect sense that I needed to try Brown Butter Ice Cream, only a matter of time. If you’re thinking "butter ice cream" sounds a little too over the top, you’re not alone. I wasn’t sure if it would work for me since I prefer desserts that are not overly rich in fat or sugar. But browned butter carries such a magnificent flavor, I had to experiment. And OMG, am I glad I did. This is truly sensational ice cream.
It’s important to get the butter to a nice deep amber brown stage for the best possible flavor. And since butter is the star, I keep the fat from the egg yolks and heavy cream to a minimum. I use unsalted butter so a nice pinch of salt is warranted to boost the flavor; I wound up using about 1/4 teaspoon. I also add a measure of brown sugar and I think it really adds to the lusciousness, producing a hint of butterscotch, only much better. In my testing trials, I included some vanilla in one batch but I found that it overwhelmed the basic delicious flavor too much so I leave it out altogether.
Well, move over vanilla. There’s some very serious competition in town.
- Use your favorite brand of butter. You should be able to smell its delicious freshness when you open the package.
- For a good illustration of how to brown butter, see the guidance at Simply Recipes. Use a stainless steel pan so you can keep a close eye on the browning because it can burn pretty fast. Once you begin to detect a nutty aroma, it’s just about ready. I lift the pan off the heat and swirl for more control if I think it’s browning too fast or nearly done. It will continue to brown once you take it off the heat so pour immediately into a heatproof bowl to stop the cooking.
- To prevent scrambled eggs, the browned butter should be cooled (not hot!) but still liquified when you’re ready to add it to the egg mixture. It’s important to add it to the egg and sugar mixture rather than at the end of the cooking process because it needs to emulsify with the fat of the egg yolks. This prevents the butter from separating and forming grainy globs of fat when the ice cream is frozen.
- Once you’ve combined all the ingredients and returned the ice cream base to the stove, you don’t want it to boil, so constant stirring is necessary to keep it moving, preventing it from heating too fast and turning into scrambled eggs. I use a wooden spoon in the shape of a large rubber spatula when I’m cooking ice cream bases. It’s perfect for making sure you're scraping the whole bottom of the pan continuously and to gauge when you have a clear track.
- Because homemade ice cream doesn’t contain any commercial emulsifiers or softeners, let the ice cream sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes to soften before scooping.
- This ice cream would go hideously well with apple pie, crisp or galette, Apple Brown Betty, all kinds of cake, banana nut bread, on and on. It would also make a great ice cream sandwich with chocolate chip, oatmeal or nut cookies.
- I’m also very tempted to serve this with cinnamon toast crumbles, a la Cinnamon Toast Ice Cream.
Brown Butter Ice Cream
Makes about 1 1/2 pints
6 oz (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) milk
pinch salt, to taste
pinch salt, to taste
4 large egg yolks @ room temperature
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (2 3/4 oz) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) brown sugar, packed
Cut the butter into small pieces and place in a stainless steel pan. Brown the butter to a fairly dark amber and then pour immediately into a heatproof bowl to stop the cooking and to cool.
Place the cream, milk and a good pinch of salt in a saucpan and bring to a slow simmer.
In a bowl big enough to hold all the ingredients, whisk together the egg yolks, granulated sugar and brown sugar until lightened and thoroughly blended. Slowly whisk in the liquid browned butter until the mixture is fully combined and emulsified. Slowly add the warm cream mixture, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring and constantly scraping the bottom of the pan, until the custard thickens and coats the back of the spoon or spatula and a finger traced through it leaves a clean track. Pour into an airtight container. Taste and adjust for salt. Cool completely, cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight.
Freeze in your ice cream maker according to instructions. Pour into an airtight container, press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface, cover and place in your freezer to firm up.
Let the ice cream sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes to soften before scooping.