Brown Sugar and Maple Ice Cream

Brown Sugar Ice CreamMy dad used to call it a “fortuitous concatenation of shadows.” He is a physician, so it is certainly a term of his art and he and his ilk took it to mean something very specific with regard to imaging technology and reading or interpreting x-rays. It trickled down into our home vernacular as something slightly like great luck.

Several events had to concatenate to cause this ice cream to occur, namely, a gift and a gaffe. My dad’s wife, Melody, thought that the hot weather signaled the onset of ice cream making moods so she sent their grandkids a big box containing a wonderful ice cream maker.  Second, I did something I’m strictly not allowed to do…I ran out of sugar and did nothing about it for too long. Then, one evening without sugar and with an ice cream maker in plain sight I thought, “I wonder what would happen if I just made ice cream with brown sugar?” This was an awesome thing to wonder and resulted in ice cream that is out of this world good. This is truly one of my very favorite culinary inventions.

Brown Sugar Ice Cream IngredientsI had the cream and half & half on hand. I had a big one-pound bar of dark chocolate in my pantry, which is sort of a miracle because little something-or-others (small humans) are always decimating my chocolate stash. And, I had a half gallon jug of Vermont maple syrup that I recently bought from Mike Isham. I figured it might not be great, but whatever it turned out to be couldn’t possibly be bad. But, fortunately, it turned out great.

Preparing Brown Sugar Ice CreamI used equal parts half & half and cream. The result is almost too creamy and silky. Feel free to use all cream but you might spontaneously combust from the sheer toomuchedness of it all. The stunning thing about homemade ice cream these days is that it requires practically no specialized knowledge, especially in this world of electric ice cream makers. My hand cranked old fashioned ice cream maker requires actual skill and knowledge. The electric–put the insert  in the freezer then plug it in. With either method, you will truly end up with something as good or better than any product made by a so called pro or any company in operation. The only warning with this recipe is that as you heat the custard, you must stir almost constantly and watch the temperature, or it could curdle and look a bit like scrambled eggs. The cooking kills any bacteria and the heat thickens the custard, but it takes watching. Don’t go much past 160 or you could run into trouble. I used a sieve to pour the custard into the cooling bowl just in case there were any bumps.

This off-the-cuff formulation is a wonder. I’ve made it several times and I’d put it up against any ice cream, anywhere.

Cooking Ice Cream Custard

Brown Sugar and Maple Ice Cream
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
Take the easy way out and use a 2 quart electric ice cream maker for this recipe.
  • 16 ounces half & half
  • 16 ounces heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ cup real maple syrup
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  1. Place the half & half, whipping cream, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and eggs in the pitcher of a blender. Blend on a medium-low speed until it is well combined and the sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Avoid higher settings which will make the custard frothy.
  2. Place the custard in a heavy saucepan and heat slowly until the custard reaches 160 degrees, stirring constantly. Do not cook beyond this temperature or the custard could curdle.
  3. Prepare an ice bath by placing a bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice. Strain the custard into the bowl to allow it to cool. Add the maple syrup and stir to combine. Allow the custard to cool to at least 80 degrees before covering it and placing it in the refrigerator to chill completely. You can hasten this process by stirring the cooling custard often.
  4. When you are ready to proceed, pour the custard into the tank of the ice cream maker. In the case of the electric, the tank must have been in the freezer for 24 hours.
  5. Using a 2 quart electric ice cream maker, turn on the machine and let it freeze for approximately 20 minutes or until the ice cream is frozen like a very thick milkshake. Add the chocolate and let it mix into the ice cream.
  6. Pour the ice cream into a pre-chilled container and place it in the freezer to harden.
  7. If using a traditional ice cream maker, follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding timing and addition of the chocolate.

Brown Sugar Ice Cream FreezingNotes: The bit about the ice bath is this…if you put a giant container of thick, hot liquid directly into the refrigerator it will take a decade to cool. Also, before it does so, it will warm everything else in the refrigerator. Better to cool it off a bit first. The ice bath configured with a bowl is just one way to do it. You could also pour the batter into a big carafe or skinny pitcher and then set that in an ice-filled wine bucket. It may strike you that this process is similar to making ice cream and wonder if it will freeze. It will not. I assure you the ice will be long gone before the custard hits 60 degrees. The ice in an ice cream machine, in conjunction with the rock salt, and the constant restocking of ice creates a “super cold” situation capable of freezing cream. I just don’t want you to steam out your fridge and cause your other food to not be properly chilled. And, the chilled custard freezes beautifully once you put it in the ice cream tank later in the day.

Other wonderful frozen goodies…

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream (for a crowd)

Love Pie (an ice cream pie)

Sweet Mandarin Granita

Orange Julius Popsicles

Chocolate Cream Popsicles


  1. Becky, (central Or.) says

    Been meaning to tell you how much I am enjoying the new Header…banner…slide show…whatever…..
    on your blog.

  2. Marilee says

    This looks wonderful. Do you think the chocolate chips could be considered optional? Or do they make or break the whole flavor balance of the ice cream? The reason I ask is because my friend’s family has a traditional of buying maple ice cream, but I really believe homemade is best. If I could make them the ice cream without the chocolate chips — or perhaps with the addition of chopped walnuts — do you think that would work?

    Thank you. ^_^

  3. Kelly says

    Marilee, I actually think it would be great without the chocolate chips. I have even fantasized about chopped pecans, so I’m definitely on board with the walnut idea. Go for it.

  4. Marilee says

    Kelly, thank you for your response. Personally, I agree – I think pecans would be much better. But this family’s tradition appears to be walnuts. Perhaps I can convince them to broaden their horizons. :-)

    Also, I wanted to mention that I think using brown sugar in ice cream is brilliant. Of course, I’m patting myself on the back with that statement because I use brown sugar when I make my super easy vanilla ice cream. It is based on David Lebovitz’s recipe for a Philadelphia-style vanilla ice cream, which just means that the ice cream requires no eggs. (The use of eggs/custard in ice cream is the French style.)

    David’s recipe is simple: heavy cream, sugar, pinch of salt, a vanilla bean, and vanilla extract. You only warm up a cup of cream enough to melt the sugar and salt. Then you turn off the heat, add the rest of the cream, vanilla bean and vanilla extract; stir. You can refrigerate it from there since it never was very hot to begin with or you can do the ice bath – which is what I do – to expedite the process. What I love about this recipe is the almost complete lack of lead time called for in most ice cream recipes. You can decide that afternoon you want to make it for that evening’s dessert. If you would like the details, please don’t hesitate to let me know – I’d be happy to share. Feel free to e-mail me.

    Thanks for posting this most interesting recipe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *