Tree food! Sound appealing? Okay, how about Maple-Pecan Ice Cream? When I was making this recipe, it occurred to me that it derived its predominant flavor from two North American trees, Acer saccharum and Carya illinoinensis . I didn’t formally study forestry but have become self-taught now that my livelihood depends on it. I even take pride in being fairly accurate at winter dendrology which is the art of identifying trees in winter when they have no leaves. (There are few things more humiliating as a sugarmaker than mistakenly tapping an ash or beech. It is best to have a new guy around – you can always point the finger at him.)
Perhaps it is a tree sisterhood but maple syrup loves tree nuts. Maple Walnut ice cream is a classic but Maple Pecan is even better. You can even substitute toasted hazelnuts or almonds. Tie those flavors together with some cream and you have a bit of nirvana in a bowl.
I found this recipe from Gourmet (April 2001) and was curious as to why it used whole eggs. Generally in making the custard for ice cream, one uses yolks only. Since Gourmet folded years ago, there is no one to ask but boy did it turn out well; creamy and rich with a big punch of maple and nuts for texture. Now I’m wondering why all ice cream recipes don’t use whole eggs.
The recipe calls for 1 cup of maple syrup which you intensify by boiling to further reduce. To really get deep maple flavor, start with 1 ¼ cup or you can simply wait until you have the finished product and drizzle some right over the top.
Acer-Carya (aka Maple Pecan) Ice Cream
1 cup Sugarmaker’s Cut Maple Syrup
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs
1/3 cups pecans, toasted, chopped
Put the syrup in a heavy pot. Make sure the pot is larger than you need since the syrup will bubble up significantly. Bring the syrup to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until it has reduced and thickened, about 8 minutes. Add the cream, milk and salt and bring to a gentle boil again then turn off the heat.
Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl. Temper the eggs by adding the hot cream mixture in a slow stream, whisking the whole time. When half of the cream has been added, return the egg-cream mixture to the pot and heat gently but do not let it bubble. Ideally it should not go higher than 170 or the eggs will curdle the whole mixture. I have found that sometimes, no additional heating is required so keep that thermometer handy. Remove from the stove and pour into a bowl to cool. When room temperature, chill in the fridge until ready to make the ice cream. In the meantime prepare your pecans by toasting them in a dry pan, on medium heat on the stove until crisp but not burned, 5 – 8 minutes. Remove from the pan, let cool and then chop coarsely.
About 20 minutes before serving, pour the chilled mixture into your ice cream maker and start it up. When it is nearly at the right consistency, add the pecans.
When finished, transfer the ice cream into a container and keep in the freezer until ready to serve. Spoon into bowls with extra maple syrup on the side for drizzling.