It has been a long time since I had made ice cream, but I recently came out of ice-cream-making retirement for a dinner party/book club meeting hosted by L. We had planned a breakfast for dinner theme and I wanted to finish with a stack of pancakes layered like a cake and topped with ice cream. The obvious choice would have been a quick maple ice cream, but I wanted to step left. As someone who prefers dessert than are not sugar bombs, maple ice cream was out, but what else do people put on flapjacks? Yes, butter.

With a strong desire to stay out of “Paula Deen territory”, I wanted to push more complex flavors into the ice cream. If I wanted ice cream that tasted like only butter, I’d whip it and freeze it. I wanted a complex ice cream that would not be mistaken for anything but butter. That is it. I wanted it to taste exactly like butter while not being limited to simply tasting like butter.

The way I thought about adding complexity was to think of it like an ice cream flavor that seems to be everywhere – salted caramel ice cream. I do not begrudge anyone this delicious flavor, but it is everywhere – in cupcake form, in doughnut form, and in ice cream flavor. What is caramel, but sugar that has been burned and supplemented, at times, by butter or cream. In this case, the sugar would remain below temperature needed to caramelize, but I would not forget to add salt. In this case twice. First in making the base and second as a garnish, for saltiness and crunch.

Additionally, I wanted to add another boost of flavor, so in place of the whole milk standard in the ice cream base, I added buttermilk. The acidified tartness of buttermilk would add additional complexity and, in my opinion, is the key to making an ice cream that claims butter as its primary flavoring something more than state fair food.

The ice cream paired extremely well with the short stack, held together by a light maple pudding. The salt cream, which is  a flakey Portuguese sea salt, provided an almost pop-rocky burst when you bit into them. The butter came through almost like a sweet, buttered popcorn, but with an almost sour tartness. With a little more time or desire, I would have sliced each stack to show the cross-section, but by that time I was simply happy to serve the dessert. As soon as I did, I knew that it was probably the last ice cream that I would make.

As I do not eat ice cream, but for a few times per year (I had a spoonful to taste this preparation) and my dessert of choice when I do have it is shortbread made by Allie Levitt, making ice cream is better left to the experts. As I retreat back into retirement, I count this as one of the best ice creams I have made.

As for the other dishes made for the party, it was a nice little dinner party. They started out with deviled quail eggs with the yolks hit with country bacon cure and topped with a lardon of bacon. Next came a bloody mary ants on a log, pureed sun-dried tomato and kidney beans with horseradish, lemon, celery salt, and Worcestershire spread into celery stalks and topped with pickled peppercorns. These were served next to a piece of pumpernickel bagel topped with ale jelly. The first two were small plays on bacon and eggs and bloody and a beer.

Next up came chilled celery root soup topped with puffed rice and truffle salt. Then, smoked steel-cut oats with roasted butternut squash and red-eye vinaigrette. The final savory course was one that I have been playing around with for a while. Using a cast-iron waffle iron, I adapted my favorite recipe for breakfast sausage into a waffle sausage. Then I blended Belgian waffles with an egg and rolled them into mini-torchons, poached them, and griddled them in butter and maple syrup. They looked like “Swift Premium Brown and Serve” that my grandmother cooked up for visits to her house in the 1980s before she started serving egg beaters. Luckily she still has Trident original flavor in the cabinet.

Salted Butter Ice Cream

  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon salt cream

Step one: Combine buttermilk, heavy cream, salt, and butter in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Step two: Whisk sugar and yorks. Temper with heated mixture and pour back into saucepan. Whisk until the custard coats the back of a spoon. Pour into a large bowl. Refrigerate overnight.

Step three: Prepare ice cream per the instructions. With about 10 minutes remaining, add salt cream to the mixture and complete the process. Freeze mixture for overnight before eating.