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A week ago Sunday was National Ice Cream Day, and my recipe testing plans lined up so that I celebrated this important holiday: I made brown sugar bourbon ice cream with roasted apricots, and was it ever worthy of a celebration! I’ve had the idea for this ice cream for a few months and was just waiting for local apricots to ripen so I could make a batch. I was able to get some at the farmers’ market; they were fragrant, rosy-peach in color, ripe but not overly so– in short, perfect for what I envisioned. I love roasted stone fruit. With apricots, just a tiny bit of butter and sugar helps all the subtle floral notes come out, natural sugars caramelize and the juice factor multiply by about ten. Mixed with an ice cream base that shores up the sweetness, highlights those caramel flavors and adds creaminess… well, you have yourself a homemade ice cream home run.

The truth is brown sugar bourbon ice cream is a home run without the apricots. I made a batch for a work potluck and was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic response of my coworkers. There were second helpings taken, comparisons to a popular local ice cream shop… I was thrilled. Brown sugar gives the ice cream a subtle caramel flavor, and bourbon enhances the vanilla flavor. It won’t freeze properly if you add too much bourbon, so don’t worry about it being too boozy for the kiddos– unless you need an excuse to save it for the grown-ups. It is rich, creamy and decadent; a spectacular and special homemade treat. My husband declared it immediately the best ice cream I’ve ever made. On the flip side, the roasted apricots are great with pound cake, with biscuits and cream a la shortcake, or stirred into yogurt. This recipe gives you so many options.

On a hot summer day, it’s hard to say no to ice cream, and even harder when it is as delicious as this brown sugar bourbon ice cream. While apricots are at their best, treat yourself, your friends and family… maybe even your coworkers.

brown sugar bourbon ice cream with roasted apricots

Brown Sugar Bourbon Ice Cream with Roasted Apricots

For the ice cream:

  • 2 c. whole milk
  • 2 c. cream
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 2 T. bourbon
  • 1 vanilla bean, split

For the apricots:

  • 1 lb. apricots, halved and pitted (about 6-8)
  • 1 T. unsalted butter
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • pinch of kosher salt

To make the ice cream base: Mix the milk, cream, salt and about half of the brown sugar in a large saucepan. Add the vanilla bean. Mix the egg yolks and remaining sugar together in a small bowl. (The egg whites will keep in the freezer for months if you don’t have an immediate use.) Over medium heat, bring the milk mixture to the point where it is steaming but not boiling. Carefully temper the egg yolks by streaming in about 1/2 c. of warm milk, whisking constantly; add the tempered yolks immediately to the saucepan and whisk the custard over medium-low heat for 2 mins. Do not let the mixture boil; remove from the burner if it is heating too quickly. You should notice the custard thickening to the point where it will loosely coat a spoon.

Set a strainer over a clean bowl and strain the custard into the bowl. Discard any solids left in the strainer. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into your custard. Add the bourbon, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and put the apricot halves on the pan with their pit sides up. Use your fingers to tear the butter into tiny pieces, placing a small amount of butter into the hollow of each half. Divide the 1 T. brown sugar among the fruit in the same way. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of kosher salt. Roast the fruit for 20 mins., turning the pan halfway through the cook time, until the apricots are starting to color and become juicy, but still hold their shape. Cool until you can work with them. Chop the fruit roughly into bite-sized pieces and store, with all the cooking juices, in a covered bowl in the refrigerator.

Churn the ice cream for about 20 mins., until it is the consistency of soft serve. Transfer a third of the ice cream into a freezer-safe container. Add half of the cold apricots in an even layer. Cover with another third of the ice cream, then the rest of the apricots and juice. Cover with the remaining ice cream. Freeze for at least 4 hours. Scoop and enjoy!

apricots, ready to roast