There are many desserts in the fall that beg for ice cream to accompany them. Apple pies. Peach crisps. Quince crumbles. Plum tortes, tarts, and clafoutis. They all need a little scoop of creaminess to complement the natural tartness of the fruit. And as much as we love good vanilla ice cream, there is really only one ice cream we now choose to go with all of these autumn desserts. Brown butter.
Brown butter anything is heartstoppingly good, of course. If you haven't tried browned butter yet, you really must. It's a simple thing: butter left over a hot burner for a few minutes, just long enough to toast it into a nutty, sensationally delicious substance that surpasses even butter in its natural state. (No small feat, in our opinion.)
But brown butter in ice cream, well — we've been craving it all summer, but held off until fall, when its warm, toasty, creamy taste marries perfectly with the tart desserts of autumn.
We've served this now with the transcendent plum crumble recommended by Molly of Orangette. We've served it with a crunchy peach crisp full of cinnamon and oats.
And, most memorably, we've scooped it into hot spiced apple cider, where its creamy brown butter sweetness complements tart cider spiced with cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel. Fall heaven in a mug (it almost reconciles us to cold weather).
This is also a very simple ice cream to make. We still stick to the basic method from Jeni Britton of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, because it doesn't call for eggs. It lets the taste of the cream (and, in this case, butter) really shine through. You also don't need to worry about tempering and cooking the eggs.
Here's our recipe for browned butter ice cream, with a big nod to Jeni Britton, and to Pim of Chez Pim, whose recipe (and blender technique) were very helpful. The ice cream needs to be run through the blender before freezing ino order to emulsify the butter with the cream. Otherwise it will have a strangely gritty texture, which is not fatal, but not ideal either.
Brown Butter Ice Cream
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into small pieces
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
Place the butter in a wide stainless steel skillet over medium heat. Let the butter melt then let it cook, swirling the pan occasonally, until the butter is quite brown and smells toasted. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Mix the milk and cream in a heavy saucepan. Measure out 2-3 tablespoons of the milk and pour it into a separate bowl, then whisk in the cornstarch. Set aside.
Whisk the sugar and corn syrup into the milk mixture in the saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved, being careful not to let the milk boil over. Simmer lightly for about 5 minutes, then pour in the milk and cornstarch mixture and whisk to combine. Return to the heat and cook, stirring, for about one minute. Remove from the heat.
Combine the cooked milk mixture with the cooled brown butter in a blender or food processor. Carefully blend at high speed (hold the lid on with a towel!) until completely mixed and emulsified. Add in the vanilla and blend for another 30 seconds.
Cool the milk and butter mixture in the fridge for at least two hours, or overnight. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to instructions. Add the salt into the ice cream maker in the last few minutes of churning.
Pack into a freezer container and cover the top of the ice cream with plastic wrap or wax paper. Freeze for at least two hours before serving.
(Images: Faith Durand)