Pumpkin Pecan Ice Cream Pie with Salted Bourbon Caramel

Critical lessons that were learned during the making of this week’s post:

1) Patience is a virtue and unfortunately, I have none.

2) Hissy fits in the middle of the kitchen when things don’t go your way are most definitely a thing, even when you’re 30 and theoretically “know better”

3) My piping skills remain a crushing disappointment, with little to no hope for improvement anytime in the near future

Every fall, I briefly succumb to what I refer to as “Pie Aspirations.”  After all, what better time than when the air begins to chill to shove your face full of warm, buttery pastry (or in this instance, cold delectable ice cream layered with fluffy pillows of whipped cream)?

The problem with my annual Pie Aspirations is that I’m start starting to realize that I don’t necessarily want to make pies as much as I want to eat pies, which is problematic for a multitude of reasons. Those of you who have been following me since the beginning know my general aversion to homemade cakes pies, and pastries…or any dessert that takes any amount of finesse, really. I lack the sound design sensibilities inherent in building something statuesque and visually appealing, and truthfully, I consider this one of my greatest shortcomings as a human being.

Because tragically, there’s really nothing higher on my bucket list than crafting the perfect pie…someday.

Although I consider myself a relatively modern, progressive gal, being barefoot in the kitchen making pies is a stereotype that I long to embrace with every fiber of my being. Even though I spend the majority of my days cubicle-bound, I’ve come to realize that my true spirit animal exists somewhere in a tastefully decorated country-style kitchen, adorning a frilly apron and perfectly winged eyeliner, gracefully sprinkling sanding sugar on the world’s most perfectly-spaced lattices.

Alas, my pie-making reality tends to look slightly different than this imagined version. Put me in a messy kitchen with stained countertops and mismatched appliances, swap out the adorable apron for tattered sweats, and cue the tears of frustration (bye-bye, eyeliner), and you’ve got a picture that’s a little closer to the real thing.

So here I am yet again, on the cusp of pie season, and I find myself in the same predicament as every year: Pie Aspirations as big as the moon, but lacking the time, patience, and skill to see it through. What’s a girl to do??

Well, she can make this big bear of an ice cream pie, of course! No pastry, no dough, just graham cracker crust and sweet, sweet Compromise. It’s the stuff autumn dreams are made of, without all the painstaking attention to detail.

A few things to keep in mind when making an ice cream pie (or cake):

Make sure you let the ice cream thaw appropriately before you spread it out on your crust; it should almost be the consistency of a well-prepared Wendy’s Frosty. Then, once assembled, give it a full day to re-harden. DON’T RUSH IT. Or else, when you cut through the pie, you’ll have a soft, mushy mess of broken dreams and endless despair (not that I’d know anything about that).

Flavor-wise, this pie is a home run. What’s not to love? Salted bourbon caramel, sweetly spiced ice cream, and crispy pecans. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but sometimes, groundbreaking isn’t what we need this time of year. Visually, I’m sure you could do a much better job than me (as exhibited by the mediocre piping that I angrily wiped away in a fit of rage; see comparison below).

In the continued spirit of making things easier on myself, I used store-bought ice cream rather than make my own. The great thing about Pumpkin Spice Madness is that nearly every ice cream brand worth its salt has some variety of pumpkin flavor this time of year; even store brands have Pumpkin Spice This or That, and you know what? They’re all fantastic.

I used one of my local ice cream faves, Velvet, which comes in a giant, 56-Ounce container – perfect for building a larger than life ice cream pie. I used a springform pan because I knew I wanted to get pics of the sides of my creation, but you can certainly use a regular pie dish (you’ll just need less ice cream – about two pints should do it).

One of my favorite parts of this pie was the topping. Because my pie was inevitably ending up in a photoshoot, I knew I needed to make stabilized whipped cream (aka, whipped cream with some extra ingredient added in to give it some stiffness). Many stabilized whipped cream recipes include gelatin, which I was vehemently against (I can’t explain why, I just have a weird aversion to gelatin). I added in some softened cream cheese instead and VOILA – not only did I have peaks that lasted for days, but my whipped topping had a delicious, cheesecake-like tang.

I do recommend adding the topping right before you serve the pie, when it’s at its freshest and fluffiest. By the time you’re done decorating the top and adding your finishing touches, the pie should be at the perfect temperature for slicing. Dipping your knife in hot water creates an even easier slice (I wish I could say I remembered to do that for this post, but learn from my mistakes, everyone!).

To recap:

Assemble crust. Drizzle with caramel. Sprinkle on pecans. Pile on ice cream. Freeze. Pile on topping. Drizzle with more caramel and more pecans, to your heart’s content. Got it? Good.

This pie is perfect for a special occasion, or just a weekend craving – with a little planning ahead.

For those of you lucky enough to officially be ascending into the greatest season of all, congratulations – happy fall! For those of you who aren’t, I still highly encourage you to partake in any and all ice cream creations this week as a show of solidarity for unrealized Pie Aspirations everywhere.

Happy scooping 🙂

Pumpkin Pecan Ice Cream Pie with Salted Bourbon Caramel

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print

Yield: 1 Pie

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons of butter, melted

10 sheets of graham crackers (about 1.5 cups)

1/3 cup sugar

pinch of salt

1 cup of my Vanilla Bourbon Caramel (or just buy store-bought caramel, that’s fine too!)

2 cups pecans

1.5 to 1.75 quarts of pumpkin ice cream (or 2 pints for smaller pie)

1 8-ounce package of cream cheese

2 cups of whipping cream

4 tablespoons powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

Make the Graham Cracker Crust

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Prepare a springform pan or normal pie pan with baking spray.
  3. In a food processor, process the sheets of graham cracker into fine crumbs. Mix together with sugar in a medium bowl until well-combined, then incorporate the melted butter. Mixture should be coarse and sandy.
  4. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of your pan. I like to use a metal measuring cup to pack down the mixture so that it is tight and compact.
  5. Bake crust for 10 minutes, until golden, then set aside to cool completely.

Toasted Pecans:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degress.
  2. Spray a cookie sheet lightly with cooking spray.
  3. Spread pecans on pan toast just until they become aromatic, about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with sea salt.
  5. Once cooled, give them a rough chop.

Assemble the pie for freezing overnight:

  1. Thaw your ice cream until you can easily spread it (about the consistency of a Wendy’s Frosty).
  2. While ice cream is thawing, pour about 1 cup of your room temperature caramel sauce onto your graham cracker crust – I like to pour mine in the center of the pan and then lightly move the pan around until the bottom is evenly coated.
  3. Sprinkle the caramel with toasted pecans – about ¾ cup.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, spread thawed ice cream on top of crust, caramel, and pecans, making sure ice cream is spread evenly. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let harden for a full 8 hours or preferably, overnight.

Make the Whipped Topping (The Next Day):

  1. Whip the cream cheese in a small bowl for a minute or so, until it is soft and fluffy.
  2. In a larger bowl, whip the heavy cream until it forms very soft peaks that collapse.
  3. At this point, scrape in the cream cheese and whip on high speed until you get stiff picks.
  4. Beat in the sugar and vanilla.

Final Touches:

  1. Remove your frozen pie from the freezer. Top with whipped cream, and any extra caramel and pecans.
  2. Use a hot knife to cut beautiful slices of pie.
  3. Store leftovers covered with plastic wrap in the freezer for 3 to 4 days.