Maple Pecan Ice Cream Recipe

Maple Pecan Ice Cream

I don’t think of ice cream as a seasonal thing. Let me clarify: I do think of ice cream flavors as seasonal things, but ice cream, as a general and cardinal food group, is very much a year-round treat for me.

To give you an example, I have just returned from Deauville in Normandy, wherein I attended the Omnivore Food Festival, a two-day event during which new-generation chefs demonstrate their craft onstage, and artisan vintners present their wines.

And in between demos and discussions that added a good dozen names to my restaurant dream list*, I felt compelled to sneak out and visit Martine Lambert‘s ice cream parlor: the Paris location is included in my book, but this is the original shop, and a bit of a pilgrimage destination for ice cream devotees.

It being February, overcast and misty, let us say there wasn’t much of a line, yet I shed my mittens and dug into my cup of vanille paillettes de chocolat — vanilla with flecks of chocolate — and caramel au chaudron — caldron-cooked caramel — as I scampered back to the conference center. As the modern French expression goes, c’était une tuerie (~ it was killer). The caramel in particular, which had been pushed almost to the tipping point of bitterness: caramel should not be timid, and Martine Lambert certainly gets that.

This wintry ice cream fix suddenly reminded me of a truly rapturous ice cream I made some weeks ago and, inexplicably, failed to post about: it is a recipe for maple pecan ice cream, a French-style, custard-based ice cream flavored with maple syrup and studded with pecans. I hope you won’t be scared off by the word “custard”: I’ve included detailed instructions in the recipe below, and you will be fine, I promise. (I myself learned the technique for this type of ice cream in David Lebovitz’s ice cream book; surely you’ve noticed I refer to it again and again, so I trust you’ve acquired your own copy by now?)

It is a typical winter ice cream, cuddly and smooth, that I prescribe you make at least once before spring. I definitely will, seeing as I’ve received a box of all-natural maple goods from Brien in Quebec, and can’t wait to put them to good use.

* Especially Laurent Chareau’s Le Chat in Villechaud, Emmanuel Renaut’s Flocons de Sel in Megève, Mads Reflund’s MR in Copenhagen, Stefano Baiocco’s Villa Feltrinelli on the shores of the Lake Garda, and the Marcons’ green restaurant in Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid.

Maple Pecan Ice Cream

– 240 ml (1 cup) milk (I used reduced fat, or lait demi-écrémé in French, because that’s what I have on hand to make yogurt)
– 1 tablespoon raw cane sugar
– 100 grams (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) crème fraîche or heavy cream
– 3 egg yolks
– 80 ml (1/3 cup) maple syrup, the darker the better
– 1 good pinch sea salt
– 75 grams (3/4 cup) pecans, coarsely chopped

Makes about 1/2 liter (1/2 quart).

Heat the milk and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

While the milk heats up, put the cream in a medium mixing bowl with a pouring lip, and set a fine-mesh sieve over it.

Beat the egg yolks lightly in a second, heatproof medium bowl.

When the milk mixture is warm enough that you see steam rising from the surface, pour it very slowly into the yolks, whisking it in to prevent the yolks from cooking. Pour the whole thing back into the saucepan and cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and scraping the sides and bottom well, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon (i.e. if you draw your finger across the back of the spoon, it should leave a neat path).

Pour this mixture through the prepared sieve — this will remove any lumpy bit of egg from the custard — and whisk it into the cream. Add the maple syrup and salt, and whisk them in.

Put a half-dozen ice cubes in a larger bowl, nest the mixing bowl containing the custard in it, and pour cold water carefully into the larger bowl. (This is called an ice bath, and it helps cool liquids down more quickly, which is recommended for such egg-based mixtures.) Whisk the custard in the ice bath until cool, cover, and refrigerate until chilled. This can be prepared up to 12 hours ahead.

Churn in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions, adding the pecans when the ice cream is almost set.

  • Joy

    Oh WOW…this looks and sounds absolutely delicious. :) I enjoy ice cream all year round, too. I actually like it more during winter — it’s something good to enjoy to match the snow in Vancouver.

  • Comfort food made even more…erm…comfortable. Wow. Grazie :)

  • Here in Canada, Maple Walnut is a national favourite and I agree, there is nothing like a scoop of maple walnut ice cream after a good winter dinner!

  • swan

    So I have a ‘cream’ question .If you say ‘ creme fraiche’, do you mean like a whipping cream – or the slightly soured cream that’s sold in the Netherlands as creme fraiche – which is somehow different than sour cream? In other words – is your creme fraiche a bit thick an sour??(ish)?

  • mmmmm… I recently went to a travelling restaurant dinner based on all foraged foods.

    We had acorn ice cream. I have an inkling that these two could join forces and be superb. Acorns grow in my parents’ back yard… oo the wheels are spinning.

    Also, I had this candy cap (type of mushroom which has a strong maple flavor) ice cream at a mushroom festival. This could be a good addition too!

    I wish I had an ice cream maker! My friend tried to send me one and it never got to my house.

    Summer is around the bend. hmmmm

  • Swan – Crème fraîche is, to quote the Wikipedia page, “a soured cream containing about 28% milk fat. It is slightly soured with bacterial culture, but is less sour, and thicker, than sour cream.” My guess is it’s pretty close to what’s sold in the Netherlands as such — not identical, because Dutch cows likely produce milk that’s a bit different in flavor, but very similar.

    Katie – Acorn ice cream? Fascinating! In France, acorns are considered pig fodder only, and I believe they’re very high in tannin. Could you describe the flavor?

  • WOW!! What a gorgeous shot and dessert too. Love the Maple and Pecan combo, tasty! :))

  • This sounds creamy and just sweet enough without being too sugary. The sea salt is a great addition.

  • I think it’s such a shame that peppermint ice cream gets yanked from the shelves as soon as the Christmas tinsel goes on sale.

    Seasonal flavors be damned, who wouldn’t want to tuck into a bowl of creamy peppermint ice cream in the dead of summer? It would be perfect!

  • Oh my, that looks fabulous. I love the addition of creme fraiche in your recipe. I ususally only use it for the fruitier ice creams, but I bet it is perfect in this. I think I’ll have to start playing around.

  • Mmm, Maple Pecan sounds so much more modern than Maple Walnut, which, as Dana pointed out, is a Canadian national favourite. I worked at an ice cream store for a while and it always seemed to be people over 50 who ordered Maple Walnut (it’s my dad’s favourite – don’t tell him I told you he’s over 50!)

  • ML Harris


    Coming to Paris in March and would LOVE the restaurant dream list (or at least the Paris portion). Is it on the site somewhere? Might be a fun feature to add if it isn’t.

  • I love walnuts, so I would probably want the maple-walnut. But I’m not over 50, so apparently I’m bucking the trend. I’ve only experienced acorns once and they tasted green and bitter. According to the SAS survival guide (yes, I’m a geek. Well spotted.) they can be roasted and substituted for coffee. I’m not sure how helpful that is, though. :)

  • this. looks. divine. when i get an ice cream maker, this is tops on the list!



  • I love the idea of throwing in some salted pecans for a little salty/sweet combination. I think it’s time for my ice cream maker to come out and play :)

  • Wow! I have been reading for a long time and this is my first time commenting. I have been known to drizzle maple syrup on my ice cream in winter, but this sounds even better! Can’t wait to try it.

  • This just makes me weak in the knees. with the pecans and everything… I just might have to make it.

  • OMG, this ice cream looks amazing. I love it.

  • Ice cream… seasonal?!?!? Sacrebleu! Part of my love affair with ice cream is seeking out the perfect flavor to pair with the weather conditions, or your mood, or the mood you’re trying to achieve…

    In Giverny, I had a pistachio gelato sold from the back of a truck that seemed to actually change the weather in all of France.

    (Clotilde’s “Edible Adventures” was my bible on that trip, by the way.)

    Bring on the ice cream, any day, any time.

  • ohh… maple pecan ice cream – one of my favorites! Excellent choice for February. :)

  • I was looking for ideas for my next batch of ice cream… I found it!! :D Thank you for sharing.

  • Chris

    Here’s another Canadian who’s suddenly salivating at the memory of a bowlful of Maple-Walnut.

    One thing about it: rather than being incorporated, the maple syrup (thicker than in the bottle, almost a caramel – and probably completely artificial) was marbled through the custard. The colour combination worked very well, even better than Blueberry Ripple.

    I guess to reproduce it, the syrup could be thickened by further boiling, and the marbling would just be a question of folding into the churned-and-frozen ice cream just before the final freeze?

    Hmm. Haven’t used the ice cream maker in a while…

  • If you ask my daughter what her favorite thing about Paris is…she will say, without missing a beat: Bertillion. The last time we were in Paris we went three times, and each time the check grew. Your maple-and-pecan combo looks right up there, even for a pathological chocoholic. Thank you!

  • This sounds so lovely. I love crème fraîche in ice cream recipes. Love the slightly tangy accent.

  • Oooh, growing up we always made home made ice cream, it is far superior, even to Ben & Jerry’s!

    check out my site for some great Canadian recipes.

  • Clothilde,

    Your writing is so smooth, soothing and calme, every time I read you, I feel like I could do and buy anything you say ma belle.

    Moi aussi, je pense que l’ice cream is a year round treat. (ok, forgive me for trying to write in frenchie..)


  • Mmm I agree with you – ice cream is definitely not seasonal! I could eat it every day all year round.

  • Joan

    maple + pecan + ice cream = wonderment!!!

    Ice cream with texture is one of my great food loves…When the Sydney Olympics were on, a member of the Canadian team gave us a tin of maple syrup. A truly scrumptious gift.

    And a thumbs up to ice cream all year ’round. Forget this seasonal business when it comes to things creamish..:-)

  • Janka

    Oh my… now I definitely NEED a ice-cream machine, the sooner the better… Now that we rearranged our pantry, a little room for a new ice-cream maker should be possible ;-)
    I love maple syrup. I’m not sure whether I will get pecans now here in Austria (they’re available only before Christmas, how funny is that), but walnuts could work just as fine.
    But before I can try your ice-cream creations, I need to make room in my freezer… I’m getting hungry even from reading ;-)

  • Rob

    Looks delicious!

    Is the ice cream machine definitely needed? I’ve made sorbet a few times without one, just by putting it in the freezer and stirring with a fork every so often, but I’ve never been sure whether this would work with ice cream too. Maybe I should just give it a try…

  • I absolutely adore pecans in vanilla ice cream! The best ever combination :)

  • Love the maple and pecan combination. Hmmm, I wonder if this would work without an ice cream maker??

    Beautiful tempting opening photo!

  • Junecutie

    This Maple Pecan Ice Cream was beyond wonderful. I also made the Coconut Ice Cream from the pantry and loved it. As I always say: “Life is short and unpredictable -Eat dessert first!” I am hoping you can print a recipe for the rose ice cream, and the lavender ice cream sounds heavenly, too. When I see a new post from you, I always feel as if someone has sent me a surprise gift! Many thanks and blessings.

  • Brian

    Oooooh, I have to do this. I get Grade B maple syrup from Trader Joe’s, that will be perfect here…dark and lots of flavor. Like the person said before me, though…I’m still hoping for that rose ice cream! I always have a bottle of rose water in my cupboard to put drops in green tea as you suggested, which is a fantastic way to start the day, but it’s also hanging out waiting for that ice cream recipe!

  • This is the only flavor of ice cream that I eat. Something about it is so… crunch-meltingly good..!

  • Lore

    Hi! I just served the last scoop of this cloudy caramel ice cram I made during the week…it was a complete succes. I don’t own an ice cream maker, nor the pateince to stir it so often, so I tried my own experimental method and the result is a smooth and easy to scoop ice cream. When I finish mixing the ingridients and chilling it, I pou it into a plastic little container, pop it into the freezer and forget about over the night. The next morning I cut it with a knife (don’t panic it will be hard and icy as an iceberg, the solution is to use microwave for few seconds)just into the necessary pieces thatwill fit into my blender and give it a goood swirl, put it again in the container and into the freezer goes again…in the evening you will have a prefect texttured ice cream. mmmm!

    • Thanks for reporting back, Lore. One thing I want to caution you about is that this ice cream contains egg yolks and dairy, so it’s probably not the best idea to microwave it (however shortly) and then freeze it again, because of the possible development of bacteria when thawing/re-freezing. The risk is probably not very high, but still, I want to mention it.

  • Lore

    Hhhmm…a thing to have under consideration, thanks! Plus, I don’t know if this will work with a diffrent ice-cream base, say milk+cornstarch…

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