browned butter stracciatella ice cream

The other day, upon gazing at the kamut flakes and puffed quinoa and spinach I was buying, the cashier at my grocery store remarked, "you're so healthy!"

And then I went home and put butter in ice cream.

Browned butter is intoxicating, warm, nutty, sweet... but as delicious as it smells when you make it, I often find it disappears in baked goods: hidden behind other, stronger flavours. I wanted to make something that would let the flavour of browned butter shine through. The small amount of brown sugar and vanilla in the recipe heighten the caramel flavours in the browned butter, while the chocolate provides a nice textural changes to the very rich ice cream.

This is not an ice-cream for the faint of heart. It's the real deal. But it is so mind-bendingly delicious that a spoonful goes a long way. So yes, I will eat the quinoa puffs and kamut flakes and spinach that inspired the cashier's remarks. But I'll sure as hell follow them with this ice cream.


Browned Butter Stracciatella Ice Cream

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/4 cup half-and-half
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp natural vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/3 cup chopped semi-sweet chocolate

Put 1/4 cup of unsalted butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and set over medium heat. Watch carefully as it browns. It will melt, and start to look like it is separating. Swirl the pan. Next, it will begin to foam up. Swirl the pan.

Continue watching closely and swirling the pan regularly until the milk solids begin to turn brown and smell nutty and caramel-y. The foam on top of the butter may impede you from looking at the colour. If that's the case, simply remove the pan from the heat and pour some into a bowl. You can always put the butter back on the heat if it needs more time, but it's better safe than sorry: you don't want to end up with a (sadly alliterative) bowl of burnt butter.

When the butter is sufficiently browned, and has made your entire house smell like a dream, pour it into a bowl and set aside to cool. Make sure you get all the scrumpy browny bits off the bottom of the pan: this is the best part.

 
 

Create an ice-water bath in a large bowl. In a medium bowl that will fit inside the larger one, mix half-and-half, white sugar, and eggs. Set aside.

In a saucepan over medium heat, mix heavy cream and brown sugar. When mixture is hot and just starting to bubble at the edges, remove from heat, and slowly pour into half-and-half mixture while whisking constantly. Return mixture to the saucepan. Rinse and dry the now-empty medium-sized bowl, and set a sieve inside it.

Place the saucepan back over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the custard reaches 170ΒΊF. If you do not have a thermometer, heat until the mixture is thickened, and coats the back of your spoon or spatula rather than simply running off.

Pour the thickened custard through the sieve and into the bowl. Set the bowl in the ice water bath, and whisk in the vanilla, and 4 tbsp of the browned butter. As I said before, make sure you get plenty of the scrumpy brown bits. They are the most delicious part.

Depending on the water content of the original 1/4 cup of butter, you may have some browned butter left over. This is a horrible affliction you may have to deal with by using it to fry eggs, dipping bread in it, or adding it to cauliflower soup. I trust that you will be able to bear this burden in a multitude of delicious ways.

Leave the custard in the ice-water bath until entirely cool. If your kitchen is particularly warm, or you want to speed-up the process, you can transfer the entire ice-water bath contraption to your fridge. When the custard is completely cooled, churn in your ice cream maker according to its directions. About a minute before it is done churning, add the chopped chocolate. When done, scrape into a freezer-safe container and freeze for several hours.