Close your eyes and think of pecan pie. What do you think of?
Something gooey, right? And sweet, sure. Is nutty the first thing that comes to mind? Probably not, but maybe it's the second or third. And then think about the crust—wait, does anyone really think about the crust in pecan pie?
I don't think so. Because when we talk about pecan pie, we're really talking about gooey filling tinged with molasses, and the textural contrast of chopped nuts.
Which makes me think that perhaps the best pecan pie isn't pie at all. Maybe it's ice cream. Because if you have a sweet creamy base flavored with vanilla and nuts, and swirl in a salty-sweet-gooey mix of brown sugar, molasses, and pecans, you get everything pecan pie is all about, without that pesky crust getting in the way. There's sweetness, creaminess, a touch of gooeyness, and just enough crunch to keep it interesting.
What's more, you have an opportunity to let the pecans really shine by steeping them along with a vanilla bean in your dairy for an hour before making your ice cream. This pecan pie ice cream tastes way more like pecans than molasses—when's the last time you could say that about the pie?
That all said, a note of caution: let your freshly churned ice cream chill for a few hours before folding—not stirring—in the swirl. Otherwise you run the risk of integrating it into your ice cream, a tasty thing, but not the goal here. Even with that precaution your pecans may sink towards the bottom of the container, so use one that's wide and shallow, and scoop deeply.