I know I ranted about caramel in the past. I was critical of undiscerning food industry monkeys who dumped it willy-nilly into any and everything hoping to discover the next “it” junk food item. I have come to believe caramel is best enjoyed when it’s not vying for attention against peanut butter, chocolate, dried fruit, coffee and a laundry list of unpronounceable stabilizers. While it flirts outrageously with popcorn, I believe caramel has found its soul mate in cream.
My first attempt at salted caramel ice cream followed (to the letter) the Gourmet.com recipe Backseat Gourmet Cheryl sent me. This seductive version was French-style and called for eggs. I hate making ice cream with eggs but did it anyway. Straining custard is a royal pain. Straining custard during a heat wave in a small kitchen with no cross breeze or air conditioning is sadistic. The resulting ice cream was indeed silky. The taste was intense yet delicately balanced. It bordered on perfection, except it melted VERY quickly.
See. By the time I had the lemon balm in place the scoop was sitting in a puddle of caramel cream.
So I decided to try a Philadelphia style ice cream instead. With no eggs, this variation is less fussy and a bit firmer. The second version was soft as well, but it tasted just as good and took far less time. Phillies 1, French 0.
The high levels of sugar in caramel prevent the ice cream from freezing as solidly as a less sweet flavour, such as chocolate or cinnamon. This is the price one must pay for all this caramelly decadence. But I honestly don’t think your serving will last long enough to melt into a puddle of caramel cream.
See, I couldn’t get through a shoot without falling victim to its siren call.
The only trick to this ice cream is understanding that sugar can turn from delightfully amber to oh-my-god-what-have-I-done umber in seconds. To defend against the needless destruction of innocent sugar use a stainless steel pot with a light interior. It won’t prevent burning, but a light interior allows you to gauge the color of the caramel so you can stop the cooking before the contents slip irrevocably from perfection and inedible. Pots with dark interiors, such as non-stick, leave you flying blind and can lead to under or overcook caramel. Beyond that, this ice cream is a guaranteed hit.
So, here’s my “lazy” version for Cheryl from Cheryl. Ladies, it was a pleasure recipe testing for you.
I previously posted some ice cream making tips. Does anyone have more tricks or shortcuts they care to share before they start melting sugar and digging out the ice cream maker?
- 1¼ cup granulated sugar, divided
- 2½ cups heavy cream (35%), divided
- ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cups whole milk
- In a heavy skillet with a light-coloured interior (enamel or stainless steel are good), heat 1 cup sugar over medium heat. Stir gently until the sugar starts to melt. When it does, stop stirring but continue to cook the sugar, swirling the skillet occasionally to ensure the sugar melts evenly. As needed, brush the sides of the pan with a natural-bristle pasty brush dipped in cold water, to prevent the sugar from crystallizing. Keep a careful watch on the colour of the caramel. It can go from perfect to burned in a few seconds. The caramel is done when it turns dark amber.
- Immediately remove the pan from heat and carefully stir in 1¼ cups cream. Be careful, the mixture will spatter and steam! Continue cooking until all the caramel has dissolved. Pour the caramel into a bowl. Add sea salt and vanilla. Allow the caramel to cool to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, bring the milk, the remaining 1¼ cups cream, and remaining ¼ cup sugar just to a boil. Allow to simmer 15 minutes then set aside to cool.
- When both the milk mixture and caramel have cooled to room temperature, remove the skin from the milk mixture and stir it into the caramel. Refrigerate the mix, covered, for several hours (or overnight) and then pop it in the freezer for an hour just before churning. You want to churn this when it's really, really cold.
- Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. The ice cream will still be soft but should be firm enough to keep its shape when you remove the paddle. Transfer to an airtight container and freezer until firm. Note: Due to the high sugar content, this ice cream is unusually soft.