Dulce de Leche Ice Cream with Date and Pear Compote and Candied Pecans
Dulce de leche (caramelized milk sauce) is called confiture de lait in French. We had the most delicious Tres Leches during our anniversary trip to Cancun last month, and it inspired me to make ice cream that captures the flavor.
I've made my own dulce de leche in the past by heating a can of condensed milk in boiling water but I remember it took forever. So this time, I took a shortcut and used a can of ready-made dulce de leche.
Dried fruits, pear, honey and candied ginger are very common during the holiday season, so I made a compote out of these ingredients to pair with the ice cream. The final touch is a topping of candied pecans to give the dessert a nice crunch.
This is a dessert that has decadent written all over it. Dieters need not apply. It's a fabulous way to end any holiday meal.
Yields: 10 servings2-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
1 (13.4-ounce) can dulce de leche (see tips), (1-1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons brown sugar, as needed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 ounces dates, (7 dates)
2 Comice pears, ripe
juice of half a lemon
1 (1-inch) cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons honey
3 slices candied ginger, finely chopped
3 tablespoons pear nectar
1/2 teaspoon imitation Brandy extract (optional)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup pecans, halved
1 teaspoon superfine sugar (or granulated sugar)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon sea salt (or regular salt)
1/4 cup crème fraîche
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon butter pecan extract (see tips)
In a mortar and pestle, finely grind the sea salt into a fine powder.
For the candied pecans:
In a stainless steel bowl, combine a tablespoon of melted butter, sugar, 1/8 teaspoon of salt and maple syrup.
How to roast the pecans (at very low temperature): Spread the nuts onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Place the tray in a preheated oven at 170°F. Roast the pecans for about 10 minutes. Let the nuts cool completely. Rub the nuts between your hands, the skin should come off easily. Do not roast the nuts at a temperature over 170°F or you'll risk breaking healthy fats and lose all the nutrients of the nuts. Add the pecans to the maple mixture. Toss well. Once the pecans are coated with the maple syrup, transfer back onto the baking pan (with the parchment paper still on). Place in the warm oven for about 5 minutes. Separate them (I used chopsticks) and remove from the oven. Allow to cool completely on the baking pan.
For the dulce de leche ice cream:
In a large non-stick saucepan, bring the milk to a near boil and lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Add 1 cup of dulce de leche and the brown sugar. Gently stir the mixture until dissolved and turn off the heat. While waiting for the milk to boil, you have to be very careful. Don't go anywhere else. If the phone rings or someone's at the door, let it go. You really have to focus until the milk is hot, otherwise you'll be cleaning your stove and scraping off burnt milk all night long!
Once off of the stove, add the heavy cream, vanilla extract and 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Transfer to a tall pitcher. Allow to cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap. Let cool in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. To check if the mixture is ready to be churned, the temperature of the liquid shouldn't exceed 45°F.
Remember, the ice cream mixture should be slightly sweeter to your taste before placing in the ice cream machine because it will taste less sweet when it's frozen.
Make sure the ice cream mixture is as cold as possible before you transfer it to the machine.
Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker canister. Fill up two-thirds of it as the ice cream will expand, and let the machine do its magic. The consistency will be firm but still soft-serve. Drizzle the remaining 1/2 cup of dulce de leche and create a swirl using a butter knife. Transfer the ice cream into an airtight container in the freezer to harden for at least 2 hours. Patience is a virtue.
For the dates:
Pit the dates. Place the pitted dates in a small stainless steel bowl. Pour a hot cup of water over the dates. Soak the dates for at least 30 minutes. Drain all the liquid and discard it. Stir the mixture and turn the dates into a thick paste. Add the candied ginger. Plastic-wrap the bowl and place in a warm area. It's best to make it the night before.
For the date compote with pears:
Peel, core and dice the pears. Drizzle with lemon juice.
In a small saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the diced pears (without the juice, reserve it in a bowl). Toss well. Add the honey and toss until the pear pieces are nicely coated. Add the date and ginger mixture. Thin the compote with the pear nectar. Simmer for about 3-4 minutes. Finish with the reserved juice and the brandy extract (if used). Allow to cool completely.
How to make crème fraîche (click on the link for the recipe) and butter pecan-flavored whipped cream:
Whisk the remaining heavy cream using an electric blender. As the volume of cream doubles, the peaks become a little stiff. Add the powdered sugar and the vanilla and rum extracts.
In another bowl, beat the crème fraîche with a tablespoon of powdered sugar, then gently fold the whipped cream into the crème fraîche to get an airy batter.2-1
How to make molasses and butter pecan whipped cream: Whip the cold heavy cream with 1/4 cup of molasses and the butter pecan extract. Transfer to a little bowl and store in the refrigerator.
It's preferable to make all 5 steps a day in advance. Just assemble at the very last minute.
Serve a large scoop of ice cream per cup. Add about a tablespoon of date compote, a dollop of butter pecan-flavored whipped cream and a few candied pecans.
For the aesthetic of the picture, I didn't add the butter pecan whipped cream but used store-bought cream instead, since as I do not own a professional cream whipper. I tried several times to pipe it but it didn't look pretty.
1-1/4 quarts of ice cream yields about 10 servings. I serve about 1/2 cup per person. Count a little more ice cream in case kids want seconds.
I used pear nectar but you can use any other juices or water for the date compote.
I bought the dulce de leche (Nestle brand) at a local Mexican store but you can also get it online. You can also make your own dulce de leche.
How to make your own dulce de leche: It's very easy to make but it takes such a long time! Wash a can of sweet condensed milk. Make 2 holes on the top of the can. You can use a skewer and a hammer. Place the can (hole side up) in a sauce pan. Fill the saucepan with water; the water should go two-thirds of the way up the side of the can. Bring the water to a boil. After 3-4 minutes, remove the wrapper from the can. Cook for about 3 hours. You really have to watch it and keep re-filling the saucepan with more water as it evaporates. After 3 hours, the condensed milk will turn into a thick dark caramel. I made it once a long time ago, after watching Alton Brown's show, Good Eats.
I usually buy Medjool dates. They're always very sweet and not pitted. I recommend not buying the pitted ones as they seem to have less flavor.
If you find roasting the pecans at a low temperature too tedious, you can dry roast them in a small pan for about 2-3 minutes, then sprinkle the sugar and drizzle the maple syrup. Sautée the pecans for another minute by shaking the pan so each nut is coated in sugar and syrup. Remove from the heat. Let the pecans cool down. Set aside.
I found butter and pecan extract at my local market but you can also find it online or replace it with vanilla extract or any other flavorings you like such as cinnamon, maple or even cognac.Published By: on November 28, 2009.