Sometimes Smackdowns don’t work out as well as I’d like and that’s okay, I love them all just the same. Well, except for this one. Oh, and this one; this one was just the nastiest one of the year and I repudiate it completely. But all the other ones, I love just the same. Especially when they leave me with leftover custard sauce. Because what is leftover custard sauce, really, other than inchoate ice cream waiting to be made into ice cream?
Also maybe some of it I just ate with a spoon. But only a little.
There was about a cup and a half of it left, confronting me whenever I opened the fridge to sneak some more cookie dough from the log that had been destined for baking this weekend but which I might have eaten entirely in dribs and drabs over the course of the week. Don’t judge.
I’d been thinking lately about some kind of candied yam ice cream with a marshmallow ribbon running through it, so I decided to use the leftover custard sauce as my base and make something entirely different from that. I mean, it’s not like I had leftover yams from Thanksgiving or anything, and even if I did they’d be perhaps not so safe for human consumption at this date, if candied yams ever really are. And I don’t actually like marshmallow.
I know that if David Lebovitz had made this ice cream, it would have been much better than mine. But I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, there are some people that kinda like me.*
What I did have was (1) a leftover can of pumpkin puree, (2) leftover toffee bits, (3) leftover dark brown sugar and (4) leftover vanilla. Ergo: Pumpkin-brown sugar-bourbon ice cream with toffee chips.
Actually, this was originally just going to by pumpkin with toffee chips, but once I’d mixed the pumpkin into the custard and tasted it, it just wasn’t exciting enough for me. Pumpkin, after all, isn’t terribly complex; that’s why pumpkin pie has a bazillion spices in it. But I didn’t want this to taste like pie, because if I wanted pie I would just make a goddamn pie. Hence the brown sugar, bourbon and additional vanilla. Some deep sweetness, a little floral note, a little Zing! created a nice balance.
*I like to think that all my food would be better if I lived in Paris, too. Although if I DID live in Paris, I would probably just subsist on baguettes, cheese and ennui.
Desserty-type things are often more sciencey, requiring actual measurement and attention, than cooking, where you can just throw some crap in a pot and things usually work out for the best. Taking stock of my one-and-a-half cups of leftover custard vanilla ice cream base, I did some quick mental math and decided to add a can of pumpkin, whatever dark brown sugar was left in the bag, another teaspoon or so of vanilla and what I think was about 2 or 3 tablespoons of Maker’s Mark and whisked the whole mess together until the sugar was pretty much dissolved.
So you can be sure that when you follow the recipe at the end of this post, you’ll be guaranteed consistent results! I live to serve.
The resulting orange-brown, puddingesque mass tasted a little overly boozy, but I wasn’t too worried since I knew all the flavors would mute as the ice cream chilled. It was already pretty cold since the custard had been sitting in the back part of the fridge where string beans have been known to freeze solid, so I dumped it right into the ice cream maker without any further chilling.
You should make toffee just so you can have leftover bits in your fridge to sprinkle on everything.
While what I hoped would become ice cream churned and chilled, I got the leftover toffee out. It wasn’t in bits, but in long jagged sheets leftover from the edges of the cooled sheet of candy after it had been scored. I broke them down into more manageable chunks, put them in a ziploc bag and went to town with a big fucking rolling pin.
Every time I try to add some kind of solid chip-like matter to churning ice cream, I seem to wait a little too long, until the ice cream is already a little too hardened, and the effort of trying to incorporate the chips causes the machine to make this terribly whiny dying cow noise and rock back and forth like it’s trying to generate enough momentum to fling itself off the countertop and end the relentless torment of its existence. It does this even when the ice cream is still sub-soft serve consistency. Sometimes I think it does it to torment me.
This time was no exception.
Taste = better than looks.
Eventually the fricking ice cream maker did its damn job, incorporating the toffee and chilling my ice cream. Although it would need to chill for at least 4 hours to reach hard ice cream consistency, it had a good smoothness right out of the maker and the Maker’s Mark had rounded out nicely.
Photographing ice cream is my Waterloo.
The finished product was, in all honesty, better than I had any right to expect given the slapdash nature of its creation. The molassesy brown sugar and vanilla gave the pumpkin some complexity, the bourbon was present to lend its own complex caramelly and vanilla notes without being assertively boozey, and the toffee bits brought both their crunch and yet another layer of dark sugary flavor. The texture, once the fully hardened ice cream spent a few minutes softening on the counter*, was almost there – nicely creamy and not overly rich, although I think next time I’d actually cook the pumpkin puree down a bit (or set it in a strainer over cheesecloth with a weight on it) to drive some of the excess water out before incorporating it into the custard. I’d also push the pumpkin through a strainer; not that this was stringy or anything, but ice cream can never be too smooth.
Best of all, this is a true wintery ice cream. Ice cream is not something I normally crave when it’s 19 degrees outside – I’ll take that cup of hot cocoa with peppermint schnapps, please – but this ice cream is so full of warm flavor that you somehow don’t notice your esophagus seizing up with the cold. Presumably you’re eating this inside your heated home, which also eliminates some of the chill issues. Also the booze helps.
The moral of the story is this: don’t throw any leftover food away, because you can always try throwing it all in an ice cream maker with some liquor and seeing what happens.
*In my ice cream haste I tried to scoop too soon and it turned an ice cream scoop – that I had JUST fucking purchased – into a heap of scrap metal.
Pumpkin Bourbon & Toffee Ice Cream
NOTE: This recipe is how I would do it NEXT time, so there is no guarantee it will actually work.
1 1/2 c. your favorite vanilla ice cream base or custard sauce. use lebovitz. all his recipes are fucking perfect.
1 14 oz. can pure pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 c. packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp. good vanilla
2-3 tbsp. bourbon, whiskey or cognac of choice
1 c. toffee chips (homemade or purchased) OR if you are daring enough to try: candied bacon. that would be effing good in this.
Prep your ice cream base and set it to chill in the fridge.
Dump the pumpkin puree into a pot and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the puree thickens and darkens to a deep orange. Mix in the brown sugar, vanilla and bourbon and cook for another minute to make sure the sugar is well-combined. Push the mixture through a mesh strainer into a small bowl. Let cool to room temperature.
Whisk the pumpkin mix into the ice cream base. Chill the whole thing a bit longer if necessary, unless you’re one of those lucky motherfuckers who has an ice cream maker with a compressor.*
Chill the mixture according to your ice cream machine’s instructions. When the ice cream is approaching soft-serve consistency, pour in the toffee chips.
Scoop the finished ice cream into freezer-safe vessels and chill until hard, at least 4 hours. Let sit on the counter for a few minutes before scooping.