I am so excited about this post. It is a vignette from a brief moment of my childhood when my family lived in Norfolk, Virginia for nine months. Once in a while my mom and dad would take us children for a walk to an ice cream shop that was a couple of blocks from our apartment. There were two kinds of ice cream that I discovered at this shop and I would switch back and forth between the two of them. One week I would get peppermint candy ice cream and the next week I would get butter brickle.
When we moved away from Virginia, I never had butter brickle ice cream again. I have longed for it and have searched diligently over the past few months for a recipe that would help me recreate the flavor that I loved as a six year old in Norfolk. Believe it or not, the internet has not been much help. There are quite a few people out there in cyberville who have similar wonderful memories of butter brickle, but they had no answers for how to make it. Most people with suggestions said to basically make a vanilla ice cream and put toffee bits in it. Nope; I knew in my mind that that was not what I had eaten at the little creamery in Virginia.
I had just been trying to figure out the flavors I remembered from so long ago and was right on the brink of working on a recipe involving caramelized sugar, when my daughter, Tricia, dropped by the house for a visit. As I have mentioned in the past, Tricia is gong to culinary school. She had brought with her a sample of a dessert that she had made for school. I took one bite of the ice cream portion of the dessert and flipped. It was the butter brickle flavor that I had had as a kid! In one tasty instant I was transported back to my childhood, licking a cone of ice cream as it melted and dripped down my fingers and arm in the summer heat. Butter brickle had come home to me at last.
Tricia came over to my house a few days later to show me how to make the ice cream. As it turned out, I had been on the right track with the idea of caramelized sugar, but I never would have correctly guessed the method required to make this amazing ice cream. The recipe that Tricia used, and the one that is presented here, is an adaptation from Nobu’s.
This is a custard based ice cream, meaning that it contains eggs and the ice cream base is cooked, then cooled prior to being churned. Warning up front: in order to get the beautiful flavors involved in this ice cream, there is some work involved. It is a labor of love PLUS your cooking skill-set will increase dramatically. And yes, there is a tutorial.
Butter Brickle Ice Cream
Recipe @ that’s some good cookin’
For the ice cream:
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- 3 cups whipping cream
- 9 large egg yolks
- 1 cup whole milk
For the ‘brickle’:
- 1 cup white granulated sugar
- two large pieces of parchment paper
- rolling pin
- In a large bowl, lightly whisk egg yolks.
- In a separate bowl, mix the milk and cream together. Warm in the microwave or on the stove-top. It is not necessary to get it hot, just warm.
- While whisking, add the cream and milk to the egg yolks and mix until well blended. Set aside.
- To caramelize the sugar–Put 1 cup of sugar in a heavy bottom pan over medium to medium-high heat. Watch carefully and as the sugar begins to melt, start stirring or whisking. The sugar will continue to melt and will begin to turn a light tan color. Continue to whisk until the sugar is mostly liquidy and golden. Do not over-cook. If the sugar goes to a brown color, sorry, but you have to start over because the sugar has pretty much burned. It is okay if there are still some lumps in the sugar mixture.
- While whisking constantly and quickly, pour the cream mixture into the pan with the sugar. The sugar will seize, meaning it will get hard. Don’t worry, just continue to stir until the sugar has dissolved and stream just begins to rise from the pan.
- Place a fine wire mesh strainer over a large bowl and pour the ice cream base through the strainer. This will catch any sugar lumps or egg yolk bits that may be present in the base.
- The ice cream base needs to be cooled before processing. Either cover it and put it in the refrigerator for several hours or place the bowl of base in an ice water bath. For the ice water bath, put lots of ice and some water in a large bowl and set the bowl of ice cream base down in the ice. Be careful that there is not so much ice and water that it overflows into the bowl with the ice cream base. Stir the base periodically until it has cooled sufficiently for processing.
- Process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. When processing is complete, stir in brickle bits (see instructions for making the brickle below). The amount of brickle is your choice. Put the ice cream in a freezer safe container and put it in the freezer for several hours to ripen (get firmer). However, if you like soft ice cream, skip the ripening step and serve immediately.
Instructions for making the brickle:
- Place a piece of parchment paper on the counter top or on a cookie sheet. Set the other piece of parchment aside.
- Add one cup of sugar to a heavy bottomed frying pan (I used a stainless steel pan with an aluminum clad bottom).
- Heat the sugar over medium high until sugar begins to melt. Lift the pan above the flame or heating and move pan around in a tilting-circling motion allowing the melting sugar to coat the bottom of the pan.
- Watch the sugar carefully as it melts and keep it moving so that it does not burn. When the sugar is completely melted and is a rich medium brown, pour it out onto parchment paper. WARNING: The sugar is extremely hot. DO NOT touch it with your bare hands.
- Immediately cover with a second sheet of parchment paper and starting from the middle of the sugar, roll the caramelized sugar between the parchment papers until thin. Allow to cool before handling with bare hands.
- Once the caramelized sugar has cooled, break it into pieces and stir the pieces into the soft, prepared ice cream. Some of the brickle pieces will dissolve in the ice cream, others will soften leaving little pockets of caramel/brickle within the ice cream. So, so good. Ripen or freeze ice cream as instructed above.
Keep stirring, this is pretty much the perfect color for the sugar. Remove from heat if necessary to keep it from burning. It is okay to have lumps remaining in the sugar, it does not have to be completely smooth
When the mixture has heated through (you should be able to see steam rising) and the vast majority of the sugar has dissolved, pour through a fine mesh strainer to strain out any bits that may be in the ice cream base.
Important Note: Keep an eye on the ice cream maker while processing your ice cream. If, by chance, you need to take a potty break near the end of the processing, cross your legs and hold it! Otherwise, you may return to find that things have moved forward in a very interesting direction without you.