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The Batter Thickens: Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Salted Caramel Ice Cream

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This may or may not surprise you, but despite all the wonderful, delicious, and tantalizing baked goods we post on this blog, I don't often remake things. There are many things that I think are delicious and I enjoy every last bite of. But few things that are so out-of-this-world that I think I have to make it over and over again. A select few recipes make it into my common repertoire to bust out for certain occasions.

A shamelessly obvious list of links to other posts about things we've remade:
Root Beer Float Cupcakes
THE Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever
Christmas Cookies (duh, every year.)
This AH-mazing Chocolate Blueberry Cake
These Oatmeal Raspberry Dark Chocolate Scones- AKA, best scones ever
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Gingerbread Cake
Buckeye Blueberry Swirl Ice Cream


This ice cream.

The first time I made it was for a dinner party we threw last summer with two other families, with three young girls. I sandwiched it in between two chocolate whoopie pies. And wow. They were easily one of the best desserts I've ever had. SO good. Out-of-this-world-can-I-please-just-eat-a-little-more-and-by-a-little-I-mean-just-stand-by-the-tin-with-a-somewhat-large-spoon-for-a-while good.

It was also so delicious because I was proud it turned out, because the process was one of the most difficult I've ever encountered. You had to make the caramel from scratch, and carmel-making is a very delicate procedure (read the note that the recipe includes). I would keep it on the burner long enough for it to be done, but then when I took it off the pot was still hot, so it kept cooking the carmel and caused it to burn.

But I didn't give up. I pushed through. I used up a lot of sugar. There was much stress from me and both my mother and Molly (who were in the kitchen). Eventually I figured it out and just went for it and it turned out great. Beyond great.

But I must say, the first time I made it was superior to the second. The caramel taste was more defined, the color was much more caramel-y. Because while this ice cream in the pictures tasted like caramel, it certainly doesn't look like it. I am assuming I just didn't nail the caramel-making process the second time. Don't get me wrong, it was still good. But it was a let down after the first time. I was over-cautious about the process because of the problems with the first time that I took it off the heat too soon. It didn't fully caramelize.

That's why remaking can backfire on you- they might not meet up to the amazing standards you have in your head. Or maybe because when you had it the first time it was so good because of what led up to you eating it, and something was different about the atmosphere or your surroundings when you eat it the second time that just doesn't compare to the first. For example- the first time I had this ice cream it was so new, the flavor was so rich, it was the middle of summer and I was watching adorable little girls make s'mores and get the ice cream all over their faces. The second time, it was the middle of the school year and later at night and indoors and I didn't have anyone to eat it with.

(Note: this does not pertain to every classic remake recipe. Sometimes the opposite effect can occur and the taste can bring back the many great memories of the first (or several other) times you had it.)

But overall? Definitely make this ice cream. If you nail the caramel, it will blow your mind. If you don't nail it, it will still give you a wonderfully subtle and tasteful taste of carmel to compliment any rich dessert (like chocolate whoopie pies or chocolate cake). And maybe if you like it enough, you can make it again, like I plan to. I want to master the caramel.

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Salted Caramel Ice Cream
From: Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home

2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

"Danger! This is the dry-burn technique. I don't add water to the sugar before putting it on the heat, as some chefs do. Caramelizing sugar dry means it goes faster, but you have to watch it more closely and be ready with your cream. Here is an overview of what you are going to do:
Stand over the pan of sugar with a heatproof spatula ready, but do not touch the sugar until there is a full layer of melted and browning liquid sugar on the bottom with a smaller layer of unmelted white sugar on the top. When the edges of the melted sugar begin to darken, use the spatula to bring them into the center to help melt the unmelted sugar. Continue stirring and pushing the sugar around until it is all melted and evenly amber in color-like an old penny. When little bubbles begin to explode with dark smoke, give the sugar another moment and then remove from the heat. Immediately but slowly pour about 1/4 cup of the cream and corn syrup mixture into the burning-hot sugar. Be careful! It will pop and spit! Stir until it is incorporated, then add a bit more cream and stir, then continue until it is all in."

1. Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.
2. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.
3. Mix the cream with the corn syrup in a measuring cup with a spout.
4. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

1. Heat the sugar in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat until it is melted and golden amber in color (see note above). Remove from the heat and, stirring constantly, slowly add a bit of the cream and corn syrup mixture to the caramel: It will fizzle, pop, and spurt. Stir until well combined, then add a little more and stir. Keep adding the cream a little at a time until all of it is incorporated.
2. Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the milk. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 4 minutes. 3. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.
4. Bring back to a boil over medium-high and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. If any caramel flecks remain, pour the mixture through a sieve.

1. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth.
2. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

1. Pour into frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy, according to your ice cream maker's directions.
2. Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface*, and seal with an airtight lid.
3. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

*This is essential! Do it, and you ice cream will stay soft and like it was first opened every time you open it.

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