Wednesday, July 14, 2010

OMG: Salted caramel ice cream

I get so cross with Sophie for punctuating far too many assertions with "Oh, my God!" as in "Oh, my God, Mama . . . " I point out that first of all, we don't believe in god, and second of all, if one overuses an individual locution, it ceases to have meaning. But in this case, we are in complete agreement.

OMG! My salted caramel ice cream is simply AMAZING!

It was amazing the first day

and the second as well. There's probably only one other day's worth, so we'll be making it again soon. We want MORE!

I was inspired after overpaying for a scoop of this flavor at a local gourmet chocolate shop following a painful visit to Sophie's orthodontist. Something cold and sweet was in order, and we had only a limited amount of time before her violin lesson. I sucked up the $4.00 charge and posed the question I always do when enjoying something delicious and expensive: "Could I make this??" Turns out I can.

My standard obsessive internet recipe research yielded this recipe from David Lebovitz, an apparently charming man currently living in Paris after cutting his chops at our local Berkeley pride, Chez Panisse. It is always so much fun to discover when searching for a specific recipe a site containing a treasure trove of other recipes you cannot wait to try.

Levovitz's recipe is well worth referencing. His instructions are clear and easy to follow and his illustrations helpful, which is good because I've always found melting sugar scary.

Husband wasn't paying attention, so I filched his laptop for a use I've always envisioned: Referencing on-line recipes while cooking. Having open two windows, one for the ingredient list and another for the illustrated procedures, was sublime. And even though Husband kicked up quite a fuss when he caught me in the act ("You will get FOOD on it!!!"), he agreed once he tasted the result that this was worth the risk to his favorite toy.

I wish I had followed David's (I think we should be on a first-name basis) recipe to the tee, but I made a couple of adjustments.

His recipe calls for salted butter, but whoever buys that anymore? I grew up in a household with only that, kept in the pantry rather than the refrigerator so it would maintain a spreadable texture, but converted to unsalted once I understood salt is used only as a preservative and can always be added to a recipe but never subtracted from butter when a baking recipe calls for unsalted. I increased the salt amount to compensate for my unsalted butter.

Second, the custard from his version did not taste quite sweet enough (remember that I was attempting to recreate Sophie's $4.00 scoop). I increased the sweetness by adding a couple teaspoons of light corn syrup, an ingredient I've noticed in other ice cream recipes and one I suspected would only enhance texture.

Third, I omitted his praline. I'm funny that way: I often do not like stuff in my stuff. Hence, nothing crunchy in ice cream, no ice cream with my pie, and nothing added to my coffee.

Here is my adaptation:


2 cups whole milk, divided
1½ cups sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fleur de sel or sea salt (not table salt!!)
1 cups eavy cream
5 large egg yolks
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoon light corn syrup

Get ready

Make an ice bath by filling a large bowl about a third full with ice cubes and setting in it a smaller bowl, at least 2 quarts. Pour about 1 cup of water around the smaller bowl into the larger one. Pour 1 cup of the milk into the inner bowl, and rest a mesh strainer on top of the bowl.

Make the caramel

Spread the sugar in a heavy saucepan.

Heat the sugar over moderate heat until the edges begin to melt. Use a wooden spoon to gently stir the liquefied sugar until it is mostly dissolved. (It's ok if there are still some lumps—they'll melt later.) Continue to cook stirring infrequently until the caramel starts smoking and begins to smell like it's just about to burn. Don't go anywhere! It won't take long.

Remove from heat.

Make the custard

Stir butter and salt into the caramel until butter is melted. Gradually whisk in the cream. The caramel may harden and seize, but that's ok.

Return mixture to the heat and continue to stir over low heat until any hardened caramel is melted. Stir in remaining 1 cup of milk.

Whisk the yolks in a small bowl and gradually pour some of the warm caramel mixture over the yolks, stirring constantly. Scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and cook the custard, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read 160–170 F.

Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk set over the ice bath. Add the vanilla and corn syrup, stirring frequently until the mixture is cooled. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or until thoroughly chilled.

Churn and freeze

Process the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. I churn for about 30 minutes in my Braun electric model. But with any model, you should churn until the ice cream is starting to set up and freeze—sort of the texture of soft-serve ice cream.

Chill in the freezer until firm—overnight is good.

A note about the timing: Start well ahead of when you want to serve this. The bowl to your ice cream maker should chill overnight (mine lives in the freezer when not in use). The custard mixture needs to be completely chilled before churning. And the finished ice cream is best frozen overnight.

I have been out of the ice cream business since losing the blade to my ice cream machine (surely it's in the house somewhere). I recently replaced it and am excited to be back. Next up may well be another of David Lebovitz's ice cream flavors, although I think I'll pass on absinthe
or candied bacon.


Brianne said...

I'm really surprised you haven't discovered David before now! I've tried several of his ice creams and never been disappointed (from both his book and his website). I haven't tried the salted caramel one yet, but I think I may have to do that tonight. Thanks for the nudge!

Mom on the Run said...

Sounds heavenly...I am such a fan of the salty/sweet combo. Your dislike for stuff in your food reminds me of my friend who always says "I like tea flavored tea, coffee flavored coffee, water flavored water and beer flavored beer".

Just Ask Beth said...

sounds good!

Purple Flowers said...

Salted ice cream sounds outrageous! My sister in law works as a pastry chef in San Francisco. Her name is Emily Luchetti, and she has a book "A passion for ice cream". My husband and I tested many of them for her, and I like the simple chocolate and vanilla the best. Nothing beats ice cream in the summer!

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Kate said...

I'm with Sophie - OMG!!! I always go for caramel & salted caramel...ahhhh!! Oh, I will be firing up the ice cream maker soon for this one! We've been making salted caramel popcorn this summer...not like kettle corn, but popcorn coated with fleur de sel caramel. So good!