A couple weeks ago, I went to a midday workweek lunch at Vidalia to take advantage of what was an excellent deal: $19.90 for app, main, and desserts — a large selection that included their signature lemon chess pie and pecan pie, for which they’re known. (By the way, the deal is no longer that good: $24 for lunch, and classic desserts aren’t included. A real shame — if they’d only keep offering that pecan pie I’d keep coming back.)
But I digress. The pecan pie at Vidalia truly is one of Washington’s great desserts. Its texture was smooth and silky, not at all jiggly, and both the crust and the filling are perfumed with toasted pecan. And if the bar wasn’t enough to please on its own, the clincher was a generous scoop of dark brown bourbon ice cream. My colleague and I couldn’t stop eating it.
When the ice cream was still on my mind two weeks later, I decided I had to give it a go in my own kitchen. I poked around online for a good recipe, but all I found was one that called for sweetened condensed milk. Why anyone would ruin the best dairy treat with sweetened condensed milk is beyond me; back to the drawing board.
How hard could it be? I figured I’d follow my usual formula for adding alcohol to ice cream, 3 tablespoons per quart, which seems to be enough to improve the texture without preventing proper freezing. I’d make a straightforward vanilla custard base, chill it, add the bourbon, and chill it in the machine. Easy enough. But right before freezing the custard, I dunked a spoon in to taste and adjust the flavors, and it was only then that I realized what I’d made: eggnog.
Too late to start over, I thought. I froze the custard base, and now I’ve got a quart of perfectly tasty eggnog ice cream in the freezer. If you’re a fan of ‘nog, this is just the thing for you. It’s creamy and smooth, with no shortage of vanilla and a nice burn from the bourbon. Highly recommended. As for the bourbon ice cream, I guess I’ll be making that another time. I wonder if it would fare better as a gelato, made with just milk and cream and no egg yolks (to avoid the chances that it’ll taste like eggnog again). I’m not a big fan of ice creams that contain cornstarch, and after conferring with a colleague, we both agreed that I should use a higher ratio of cream to milk than I usually do, to compensate for the loss of the fat in the egg yolks and aid the overall texture. Any other ideas about how to make this work? Leave them in the comments.
Eggnog Ice Cream
using my go-to vanilla ice cream base recipe, from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream, divided
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds removed with tip of sharp knife, bean reserved
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons bourbon
Put one cup of cream in a large mixing bowl and set a strainer overtop.
In a small saucepan, combine milk, the other cup of cream, sugar, vanilla bean, and seeds. Heat over medium until hot to the touch; remove from heat, cover, and steep at least 30 minutes, until bean infuses milk.
Whisk together egg yolks until well mixed. Slowly add ladlefuls of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolk, stirring all the while, to temper egg yolks. When you’ve added several ladlefuls of the milk and incorporated them into the eggs, pour the egg-milk mixture into the pan with the rest of the milk, and whisk rapidly to incorporate. Heat the mixture on low, stirring continuously with wooden spoon, until mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of the spoon. Pour mixture through strainer into reserved cream, and press on any solids to release as much of the custard as possible. Stir in vanilla extract and bourbon, and chill thoroughly. Freeze according to ice cream maker directions.