Brown Butter Ice Cream, or, how to make ice cream in a blender
I'm a bit ice cream crazy right now. Not that I really needed to point out something that's out there for the world to see, both here on the blog and on my twitter feed. I blame it all on summer, and on that David Lebovitz. It's his new book, The Perfect Scoop, that's got everything churning, eating and talking ice cream! If you haven't got it yet, I'd get one, immediately. His recipe for Malted Milk Ice Cream -which my friend The Amateur Gourmet Adam loved so much he composed a song about it on his blog- is what's on my dessert menu this weekend.
Ice cream is not, however, my only infatuation of the moment. I've also gone mad about brown butter. For this I blame Jeffrey Steigarten and his brown butter article in Vogue a month or two ago. (It doesn't appear to be online so I couldn't link to it, sorry.) In it, Jeffrey not only sang praises, no, composed odes, to brown butter. He also gave an ingenious cookie recipe from a friend in Thailand, which I'm going to try very soon.
The French name of brown butter, beurre noisette, came from the wonderful hazelnut aroma that develops after the butter has been melted and cooked until golden brown. It adds such an intense aroma and wonderful flavor to pretty much anything. Most of the flavor in brown butter comes from caramelized fat solids, the brown bits floating in the sea of golden butter. Though most refined French recipe calls for straining the brown butter before use, I find that if the brown butter is cooked correctly, that is to say it's not overly burnt, it's actually better to leave the brown solids in it. (Michael Ruhlman did a thorough piece on brown butter a while back, go there if you need more information on this.)
My brown butter ice cream recipe is a result of an experiment. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to call it a quest: one to see how much brown butter I can get away with adding into a pretty classic, basic ice cream base recipe. I want my brown butter ice cream to actually taste like brown butter, not just hinting at it. I also don't want any other flavoring that would interfere with the pure flavor of brown butter, so you won't find gratuitous vanilla or brown sugar or anything of the sort here. It's just ice cream base and brown butter. The amount I ended up with is the ratio of 1:3 butter to other dairy, that is to say, a @#$% load. (Yes, that is a technical term.)
How do I go about blending 8oz of liquid fat into an ice cream base? With a blender. Yes, your regular old blender. It does the work for you with no sweat at all. The result? Smooth, creamy ice cream that is unmistakably brown butter-y. So easy I can say it's almost fool-proof. Try it and you'll see how beautifully it works. This method has been working so well I'm now fantasizing about how to use all kinds of other liquid fat in my ice cream. That olive oil gelato, like the one I love so much at Otto, might just be next.
Brown Butter Ice Cream, Glace au Beurre Noisette
350ml/12oz/1.5 cup milk
350ml/12oz/1.5 cup cream
110g/1/2 cup sugar
First you make the beurre noisette. Cut butter into cubes and place in a medium pot over medium heat. As the butter cooks it will bubble up quite a bit so make sure you use a big enough pot to prevent a boil-over. Let the butter melt, shake the pan occasionally so there's no hot spots. As the big bubbles in the pot begin to subside, keep a watchful eye over it, as soon as brown specks appear and the liquid butter is golden brown, remove the pot from heat and pour the brown butter into another bowl immediately. Left in the hot pot, the butter will continue to cook and might turn too dark. Frankly this sounds more complicated than it really is. It's really not that hard. If your brown butter turn just a tad too brown, just strain it and don't use the brown bits. If it's perfectly brown, like the picture to the above right, you don't need to strain it, the brown bits are butter solids which add flavor to the brown butter and, eventually, your ice cream.
The you can make your ice cream base. (I do this mostly in a blender. Yes, you read it right, your regular old blender will do just fine.) Rinse out the pot you just made brown butter in and give it a quick wipe, divide the sugar evenly (or evenly-ish) between the pot and the glass bowl of your blender. Pour the milk into the pot over the sugar and place the pot over low heat. Stir to blend and leave the pot over the heat to warm up the milk. Turn your attention back to the blender, add the yolks, and give it a whirl (that's to say turn it on) for a few seconds to blend. Then, as the blender is running, slowly pour the warm brown butter into the yolk and sugar mixture and blend until the liquid butter is fully incorporated into the sugar/yolk mixture. When this is done, turn your attention back to the pot, the milk/sugar mixture should be close to a simmer by now. As soon as it does, turn the blender on again and pour the warm milk into it and process until well-incorporated. Add the salt, give it another whirl to mix.
At this point, if you're somewhat germ-phobic, or if you're not entirely confident of the quality of your eggs, you can pour the whole mixture back into the pot and bring everything to a simmer (or 160F/70C if you want to be all precise about it.) If you do this, make sure you do it over very low heat and keep stirring to prevent the ice cream base from curdling or being overcooked.
If you were me, you'd skip the previous paragraph entirely. What I do next is just pour the cold cream into the custard base in the blender, give it another whirl to mix. Then pour the ice cream base into a bowl, cover and place in the fridge until completely cold before churning, in your ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Also, if you were me, you'd also sprinkle a big pinch of flaky fleur de sel into your ice cream machine when it's close to done. I love the surprising crunch when I come upon one of those flakes as I devour the ice cream.
The ice cream is great on its own, and amazing served à la mode with a slice of fruit tart or pie.