Brown Butter Bliss


Brown Butter Ice Cream


Have I ever told you how I feel about ice cream? I mean, really feel about it? No? Oh good, I’m glad there are still some secrets between us.

Here’s the deal. There are plenty of things I love – pizza, dark chocolate and dry-cured olives, for example – but all of these have their time and place, and sometimes they just aren’t what I feel like eating. Not so with ice cream – I don’t think I have ever not felt like eating it. I’ve had this near-obsessive relationship with ice cream as long as I can remember, and even attempted to cure myself of it long ago by spending a summer scooping it for a living. It didn’t work, obviously; being elbow-deep in it every day only made me love it that much more. I’ve eaten ice cream in more places and flavors than I can count, from chewy dondurma in Turkey that refused to melt in the noonday sun to garlic ice cream at a festival in Oregon that caused my poor husband to almost lose his lunch as I scraped the bowl clean (hey, it was good!). Then, of course, there have been multiple trips to Italy where somehow I’ve convinced myself that it is totally acceptable to eat ice cream four (or more) times a day. The single biggest indicator of how much I love it, though, is that of all the food businesses I’ve contemplated over the years, the only one I could actually see myself opening is some kind of ice cream shop. Something about the rhythm of days spent gently heating cream and pureeing fruit just appeals to me like nothing else, and imagining the limitless palate of flavors I could paint onto a pot of custard – sweet corn ice cream! rosemary ice cream! – sets me to daydreaming for hours.

That’s not to say I’ve only daydreamed about unusual ice creams. Over the past few years all kinds of weird and wonderful flavors have taken up residence in my freezer, though admittedly some were quite a bit more weird than wonderful. Many of the best you’ve heard about, things like lemongrass, nutmeg and crème fraîche, and strawberry-balsamic. Others weren’t quite so successful, like the chocolate-olive oil which came out horribly bitter and chalky, or the black pepper which tasted eerily like a sweet béchamel sauce. Then there was the brown butter, which I had such high hopes for. You see, I’m almost as crazy about brown butter as I am about ice cream, and so naturally I figured that a combination of the two would produce something spectacular. The flavor was great, in fact, but that was mostly disguised by the fact that the butter separated out during the freezing process, forming hard little globules that kind of crunched under my teeth and gave me the impression I was eating frozen buttercream frosting. Ooh, I feel a bit sick just remembering.

But then… I stumbled across the recipe for brown butter ice cream in Jennifer McLagan’s new book Fat, and in an instant everything was illuminated. You see, she had the exact same problem as I did, but she found the solution. She experimented with different ways of blending the ingredients until she discovered that by emulsifying the warm butter into the egg yolks before cooking – the same technique you use when making mayonnaise – everything holds together. It’s a stroke of genius! And it really works. This is one of the smoothest, creamiest ice creams I’ve ever made – and more than that, it’s one of the best ice creams I’ve ever had. It’s soft and silky even after days in the freezer (yes, I heroically refrained from eating it all on the spot just to confirm this. You’re welcome.), and the brown butter is unmistakably there, lending its nutty, caramelly, utterly addictive flavor to every bite.

In other words, it’s a triumph. And it will most definitely be on the menu if I do ever open that ice cream shop, right next to sweet corn, rosemary and garlic. Well, on second thought maybe I’ll have garlic be special-order only; after all, I don’t know if there are that many people who love ice cream as unconditionally as me.

Brown Butter Ice Cream

Yum, yum, yum. Doesn’t the mere thought of this ice cream get your mouth watering? Admittedly, I was a bit nervous before starting the emulsification, knowing how tricky it can be when making mayonnaise. Well I needn’t have worried; as long as your butter is warm (not hot!) and liquid and you whisk diligently, there’s very little room for failure. Really, it’s a cinch. And while there really isn’t anything I’m compelled to change about this recipe, if I did want to tinker I might try upping the proportion of milk to cream, just to see what a slightly less-rich version might taste like.
Source: Fat by Jennifer McLagan
Yield: about 3 cups (750ml)

1 cup (250ml) whole milk
1 cup (250ml) whipping cream
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, diced
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

Combine the milk and cream in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and add about half the sugar. Place the pan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In another saucepan (not nonstick – something that will allow you to see the color change), place the butter over low heat. When the butter is melted, increase the heat to medium. Watch the butter carefully, using a spoon to push aside any foam to check the color of the milk solids. When they turn brown and you smell a nutty aroma, remove the pan from the heat, add the lemon juice, and allow to cool until the butter is no longer hot to the touch but still liquid.

In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks, the remaining sugar, and the salt until light-colored and thick. Whisk in the browned butter bit by bit, whisking vigorously so that the mixture is emulsified (it should look like a loose mayonnaise). Once all the butter is incorporated, slowly whisk in the warm cream and milk mixture.

Pour the mixture back into the saucepan the milk was in and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Don’t let it boil. Strain the mixture into a bowl and cool quickly by placing it in a larger bowl or sink filled with ice water. Stir the mixture often. When it is cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, churn the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This ice cream will keep, covered in the freezer, for a week or so.


35 thoughts on “Brown Butter Bliss

  1. Sounds amazing – now question for you -would you open an ice cream shop or a gelato shop or have both? I ask because as much as I like ice cream, I love the slight softness of a good gelato – curious if you differentiate or love them both!

  2. Yum, yum, yum! I will definitely have to try making this, especially since I’m hosting a birthday party this weekend (and won’t feel as guilty about needing to eat it all by myself). Can you suggest a cookie or cupcake to pair this with?

  3. Wow this sounds really delish, can’t wait to give it a try! How long did your supplies last? 😉

  4. The summer is finally reaching this far Nordic corner of the world, so I’m compiling my list of ice creams to try in 2009. Including this one, of course (alongside your gelato with balsamic strawberries).

  5. Was the garlic ice cream sweet or savory? I’m intrigued! And I think you should keep it as a regular flavor at your future shop as it would make a nice triple-scoop cone with the rosemary and brown butter.

  6. My husband and I love ice cream too!! I think it’s what keeps our marriage together 🙂 I have been meaning to try making at home. I need to buy an ice cream maker. Any suggestions?

  7. I feel absolutely the same way about ice cream. When I was in Italy I ate gelato for breakfast – ice cream and a tall glass of water is the perfect start to a hot day in Italy. One of my other favorite things is brown butter, most certainly discovered by accident, it is a flavor I love in savory or sweet. Check out my brown butter bars if you’d like…heaven in bar form, would go great with a little scoop of IC!

  8. City Girl – Oh, I’d do gelato, no question. I mean, I love them both more than life itself, but when push comes to shove I’ll always pick gelato’s softer consistency and more intense flavor.Joy – I think this would go great with a lot of things, but having to pick one I’d probably go for chocolate. Maybe a dense chocolate cake or fudgy brownie?Danielle – As long as any ice cream around here lasts…not long enough! ;)Cenk – Yum, bookmarked!Pille – Ooh, I can’t wait to see what you whip up. Can you offer a sneak-preview of your list? 🙂 Lisa – It was sweet! That may sound a little weird, but if you’ve ever eaten Thai sweet chili-garlic sauce or garlic-pepper jelly, you might be able to imagine the flavor. And now that you mention it, it does seem a natural with the rosemary and brown butter, doesn’t it?Yaya – Oof, that’s a tricky one. I currently have a Lello Junior which has an internal compressor. I love the convenience of it, but truth be told I’m not terribly impressed with the texture it produces – a lot of the ice creams I make end up quite icy. I’ve heard the same thing about most home ice cream/gelato machines, though, so that’s probably just par for the course until you get into this category. Sigh…maybe someday.gastroanthropologist – I like the way you think! I have more than once seriously considered moving to Sicily for the single reason that gelato in a bun is a perfectly legitimate breakfast there. If only the rest of the world were so enlightened…

  9. i am with you… i have never tasted this, but i can totally see it as a perfect flavour! i love browned butter in all shapes and formats and in icecream it seems to create the ultimate taste experience… bring it on!

  10. But it’s compulsary to have at least one icecream a day in Italy especially when you live about 50m from Giolitti in Rome – At present I like mine at about 4 30 and I am having a pinoli and phase.This sounds deliciously lovely and would make it in a flash if i had an icecream maker – this post has in fact nudged me a little closer to the purchase, so i may well be trying this soon.My mum used to make a really nice brown bread icecream, i think they could be perfect partners.

  11. Sweet corn ice cream is so good, particularly with a coconut milk base! When I told my friends about it they all gagged. More for me! Sweet peas and mint make a lovely green ice cream that is delicious as well, despite the judgments of most people who hear about it.

  12. For all you serious ice cream fans, you must visit the Penn State Creamery before you die. Admittedly, nothing as exotic as sweet pea and mint – but conventional or not, nothing beats JoPa’s favorite fresh Peachy Paterno.

  13. Wow, what a great technique. I am currently without an ice cream machine, but bookmarking recipes just in case…this one is DEFINITELY going in the file. Thank you!

  14. that ice cream looks and sounds amazing! I love weird ice cream flavors too-have you ever tried rose ice cream? It’s a great and very unusual (to me anyway) flavor

  15. I made this recipe when I first got the book last year and I loved it!! What I especially loved the brown butter "mayonnaise" of eggs and melted butter. I wanted to eat the whole thing like pudding. Yum.

  16. I love this! Jeffrey Steingarten suggested a similar recipe in this month’s Vogue in his article about Brown Butter. I think I am going to have to feature a similar recipe in my site’s summer Ice Cream festival, it looks so delicious!

  17. One of the odder flavored ice-cream scoops I’ve tried was Avocado. I thought it wasn’t bad. Ice cream or gelato, don’t ask me to choose, cause then I’d have both and get a stomach-ache (though it’d be worth it).

  18. Oh my, happy days indeed. I have some imported French butter in my freezer that is calling out for something special to be done with it. I too adore brown butter. Its butter but better, if that’s possible. I’m very excited to try this, if only my beloved Krups ice cream maker wasn’t sick. Its in the shop, I’m hopeful it will come back home soon. June and no ice cream maker is just not acceptable. What kind of ice cream maker do you use?

  19. Though I’m more of the cake fanatic, these pics of brownbutter ice cream has got me drooling! Plus, the flavor is so intriguing. I’ve tasted butter ice cream many times, but brown butter? Anyway no matter what difference lies between them, I’m pretty sure my tastebuds and tummy wouldn’t even care. And do tell us when you’ll be opening your ice cream shop. I’ll have a taste of everything except the garlic ice cream.

  20. I’m into ice cream flavors lately, specifically ice cream cakes, but I’ve never tasted a brown butter ice cream. I will try one as soon as I get my hands on one. Anyway, I checked that Dessert Comes First is no longer existing, maybe you can replace it with my blog…

  21. Oh my goodness. I had to read the title twice to see if it’s true brown butter ice cream. WOW! Thanks for sharing!~ingrid

  22. Sounds yum.I do the same trick when I make pancakes so the warm butter doesn’t cook the eggs when I add the cold ingredients.

  23. This was dai-ry hea-ven. Even without an ice-cream maker it just turned out ever so lovely. Can´t wait to make it again…and again…

  24. Thanks for the recipe. I made it last night and churned it this morning. It’s so rich and yummy.I couldn’t help eating it before my breakfast.

  25. Melissa,The sweet corn ice cream is a ‘staple’ of the Brazilian ice cream diet so I know exactly what you mean on that one.A few more you may want to consider: coconut with pumpkim (similar sweetness as sweet corn), raisins with rum, and condensed milk.If you are even in Austin or San Antonio Texas then you must visit Amy’s Ice Cream. It is the best selection of ultra-premium ice cream I’ve ever seen. Don’t miss their Dark Chocolate ice cream. It is like biting into a frozen Lindor Truffle it is soooooo rich and creamy!

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