I came across this recipe in the March 2009 issue of Bon Appetit and have been dying to make it since. It took me almost a year to get around to it, but it was worth the wait. I’ve always loved ice cream cake and this is a really cool spin on it. It’s made in a glass pie dish and instead of having those little chocolate crunchies in the middle, it’s got a graham cracker/pecan crust on the bottom which gives that crunch that you come to associate with an ice cream cake. It then has layers of caramel sauce drizzled between vanilla ice cream and is topped with a rich, decadent, layer of ganache with some pecans sprinkled on top for crunch. In summary, two of my favorite things (Turtles and ice cream) together in perfect harmony, in the form of a pie. I’m doing a happy dance.
This dessert is a bit time consuming, but it’s not difficult to make. Each layer needs about an hour to freeze (and there are several layers) and then needs to sit overnight in the freezer, so make sure you don’t try making it the day you need it (or at 9:30 the night before like I did). On the bright side, this can also be made days in advance which leaves you free to concentrate on other things, although in all honesty I would be able to think of nothing else knowing this was in my freezer!
A few things you should know about this recipe. The crust is a little thick which isn’t a bad thing necessarily. I found it a little difficult to cut through (but not impossible) but I don’t think I would actually attempt to make the crust thinner because it was almost like a crunchy cookie at the bottom of the pie and I actually loved that about it. I also, as usual, changed a few things in the recipe. Their recipe called for a whopping 4 ½ Tablespoons of dark corn syrup. Why? I have no idea. 3 Tablespoons of it were used in the caramel sauce so I just substituted my own caramel sauce instead, which by the way has less ingredients and less steps, which I am all about. For the ganache topping, I did use some corn syrup but only because I was concerned about it setting correctly if I omitted it completely. The recipe also calls for a “decorative” drizzle of caramel over the top of the ganache which I found unnecessary, although you may want to drizzle some after you plate it (entirely up to you of course). You can find the original recipe here if you want to make it exactly as published. Otherwise, follow my version below:
Crust (approx 1 ½-2 hrs to cook and cool)
1 ½ cups pecan halves or pieces (6-7 oz) divided (1 cup for crust, the other ½ cup for garnish
¾ cup graham cracker crumbs (from a box or about 5 whole graham crackers crushed in a zip top bag)
¼ cup sugar
6 T (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Caramel Sauce (takes approx 1 ½ hrs to cook and cool)
1 ½ cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1 ½ cups heavy cream
½ t vanilla
Pinch of salt
4 cups (2 pints) of vanilla ice cream (I used Edy’s Slow Churned to bring the calories down but any kind will do)
Ganache Topping (approx 45 min to cook and cool)
5 ½ oz bittersweet chocolate (cut into pieces or buy as chips)
½ cup heavy cream
1 T dark corn syrup
¾ t vanilla
Pinch of salt
For crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Using the pulse feature on your food processor, finely chop 1 cup of the pecans. Transfer to bowl and mix in the graham crackers crumbs and sugar. Pour in melted butter and stir until evenly moistened. Press mixture firmly over bottom and up sides of 9-inch glass pie dish (not on rim). Note: I used a measuring cup to help press the crumbs firmly into place. Bake until crust is golden brown (12-15 min). The crust may puff up a little, if so use measuring cup to press back into place. Let cool completely on wire rack Wrap in foil and then freeze for one hour. Note: can be made up to two days in advance and kept in freezer.
For caramel sauce: Pour sugar and water into a heavy medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until golden brown (approx 8-12 min). Keep a close eye on the mixture as this can go from sugar syrup to burnt mess very quickly. Once golden brown, turn off heat, add heavy cream and vanilla. Bring back to a boil, whisking until mixture is fully blended and slightly thickened. Pour into a measuring cup and let cool (stirring occasionally will help with the cooling process) before refrigerating, uncovered, for an hour or so before using. You can make this up to 2 days ahead, but if not using same day, cover with plastic wrap once fully chilled. Note: I start making the caramel sauce once the crust is in the oven (or right after it comes out). This way, they are both ready to be used at approximately the same time. This recipe makes more caramel sauce than needed but I like having the extra to drizzle over the top or for other uses (trust me, you will find these other uses easily).
Once the crust has been in the freezer for at least an hour, soften 1 cup of the vanilla ice cream by microwaving in 10-second intervals (or leaving out at room temp for 10 min). Spread ice cream evenly over the pie crust and top with 1/4 cup of the caramel sauce. Freeze pie until ice cream and caramel are firm, about an hour. Repeat with 3 more 1 cup portions of the ice cream and 2 more ¼ cup portions of the caramel (ending with a layer of ice cream), freezing for one hour in between each layer. Once the last layer of ice cream is put on, freeze pie overnight. Make sure to cover leftover caramel sauce with plastic wrap overnight. Note: the pie dish must be kept level in the freezer so that the layers freeze evenly. After all this effort, you don’t want a crooked pie!
Ganache topping: Put chocolate, heavy cream and corn syrup in a metal bowl placed over a pot of simmering (not boiling) water. Whisk mixture until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and salt. Cool for 20-30 at room temperature until thick but still pourable.
Pour ganache topping evenly over the frozen pie and sprinkle with remaining ½ cup of pecans. Freeze until ganache is firm, about an hour. Note: Can be made up to 2 days ahead (after ganache is frozen for an hour, just cover with foil and keep in freezer).
Take out of freezer 10 minutes before serving. You can take these 10 minutes to re-warm all or some of the remaining caramel sauce if you prefer. Just re-warm over low heat, whisking occasionally. Before serving pie, run a knife between the outside crust and pie dish. Cut pie into slices, careful to cut all the way through the bottom crust.
My Notes: Remember that the pie must be frozen overnight before you add the ganache topping so time this accordingly. Also the caramel sauce color is directly correlated to the color of your boiling sugar mixture. I like to take mine to the edge (fairly dark) but if you are new to caramel sauce making, you may want to stick to a light golden brown color until you are a little more comfortable making the sauce.
If this recipe seems a bit high maintenance to you, you can certainly simplify matters by using a pre-made graham cracker crust. It won’t have the pecans in it but it will shave about 2 hrs off the process. You can also use a pre-made jarred caramel sauce, but I will be honest and tell you that there is nothing like a homemade caramel sauce.
On the rare chance this recipe doesn’t seem high maintenance enough, you can certainly go a step further and make your own vanilla ice cream too!