Gingerbread cookies and I have somewhat of a sordid and complicated past.
After an intense love affair that lasted until the age of 6, my affections for gingerbread calmed significantly as I yearned to explore other, more exciting Christmas cookie options.
Peanut butter blossoms stole my heart for years and years, only to be replaced abruptly with the seductive and mysterious dark chocolate peppermint bark. After that, I went through a brief snickerdoodle phase in college (but mostly because I found that the flavor paired remarkably well with Christmas Ale).
Lately, I’ve been lusting after simple sugar cookies, but have been unable to commit fully because of those sultry pecan pie cookies hiding back in the corner…
Through it all, gingerbread cookies have been my safety blanket…my constant. I always demanded that they be included in all my Christmas cookie platters, even if I did just take them for granted, year after year.
There they were, waiting patiently in the wings, while I had my fun with those other cookies.
But at some point, enough is enough, and gingerbread cookies removed themselves from my life (and my cookie plate) completely.
Now that I’m a little older (and a little wiser), I’ve come to my senses. This year, I decided to rekindle the flame with my first love – simple and delicious gingerbread cookies.
However, after our first few days reunited, I quickly realized why I strayed in the first place.
Gingerbread cookies are lovely, don’t get me wrong…but they’re just so predictable!
So, I did what I always do when a food disappoints me in its natural state – I turned it into ice cream.
I wish I could take all the credit for this recipe, but it was all my husband’s doing, from the gingerbread swirl right down to the brown butter base. I’ve married an ice cream genius, apparently 🙂
This ice cream was my first experience making anything “brown butter” at home, and it was surprisingly simple (although I think I could have let the butter cook just a tad bit longer for a more robust flavor, but my fear of burning the mixture held me back a bit).
I used a soft gingerbread cookie recipe so that the swirl would retain some moisture and have a more flavorful finish. I baked a batch, and once they were cooled, I pulsed them in my blender until the crumb was uniform and smooth. Then I alternated layers of ice cream and packed cookie crumbs until I reached the top of my storage container. When scooped, it gives a cool swirly effect. As such:
This ice cream signifies the evolution of my relationship with Gingerbread: we’ve had our ups and downs, but we’re both adults now. And let me tell you – I could most definitely settle down with this heart throb of an ice cream. In fact, we’re kind of exclusive 🙂
I hope you enjoy this sweet, salty, and spicy holiday treat that is reminiscent of an old favorite, but kicked-up a notch to keep things interesting.
Brown Butter Gingerbread Swirl Ice Cream
Base recipe adapted from Epicurious.com
Yield: Approximately 1 Quart
You will need:
6 tablespoons butter (I used salted, of course…but if you respect your palate, you might want to use unsalted)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
6 egg yolks
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
Pinch salt, or to taste
1.5 cups of finely crumbled gingerbread cookies (I used this recipe for soft cookies. Best. Cookies. Ever!)
1) In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until it bubbles constantly and turns a medium to dark amber color (about ten minutes). Pour through a strainer into a small bowl and set aside.
2) Combine egg yolks, both sugars, and salt into a medium sized bowl and whisk vigorously (yes, vigorously) until well-blended and thick. Whisk in browned butter, set aside.
3) Heat milk and heavy cream over medium heat until it begins to steam. Working a little bit at a time, whisk the hot milk into the butter/egg/sugar mixture, stirring constantly. Once all of the hot dairy is incorporated into the egg mixture, pour back into the sauce pan.
4) Cook over medium heat until mixture is thickened (about ten minutes). Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan with your spoon to get all those yummy bits at the bottom. If you want to get fancy and technical, the proper temperature is about 175 to 180 degrees.
5) Pour mixture through a strainer and into your storage container. Proper etiquette dictates that you should submerge in an ice bath until cooled – I usually skip that step because I’m lazy.
6) Refrigerate mixture for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
7) Freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Now comes the fun part: spread a layer of ice cream on the bottom of your storage container, then a layer of cookies (packed firmly down), then another layer of ice cream, then cookies, then so on and so forth. End with a top layer of ice cream.
8) Freeze overnight, or until firm (about 4 hours).
9) Start eating and try not to die of happiness. Enjoy!