Perfectly divine. Salted caramel is a trendy craze whose time - in Seattle at least - is over-the-hill in my opinion. But that doesn't make the salty sweet caramelized flavor of this decadent dessert any less delectable. I offered to bring homemade ice cream to a small dinner party and didn't have any guidance on the menu or other taste preferences. So I wanted to break out of the vanilla mold, especially since I wasn't trying to pair with a cake or pie or other baked good. I wanted a flavor that could stand on its own as dessert.
This ice cream is incredibly rich, and it is quite sweet, but I did not find it cloying and in spite of the heavy ratio of cream to milk, because of the caramel it did not have that greasy coat-the-spoon texture of some ice cream that is really just TOO rich.
When it was finished churning, it still poured out of the freezing canister (rather than being scooped) so I was a bit concerned about how it would set up. But what that really meant is that after a couple of hours of freezing, this ice cream had an absolutely perfect, creamy, scoopable consistency. Just don't expect to make and serve this right away, you'll want to plan enough time to return the churned product to the freezer.
I like to add a bit of alcohol to my ice creams, to preserve the consistency by preventing a completely solid freezing of the mix and to inhibit the particular formation of ice crystals that diminish an ice cream's consistency. In this case, dark rum - even in such a small quantity - adds a lot to play off the deep notes of caramelized sugar. This is absolutely a full-star recipe and I can't wait to make it again.
Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
1 cup sugar
2 1/4 cups heavy cream, divided
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt such (I had fleur de sel)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon dark rum (or brandy)
Heat 1 cup sugar in a heavy, dry 10-inch pan over medium heat, stirring to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt. Stop stirring and allow sugar to melt to a dark amber, swirling occasionally. Once it gets going, it happens quickly, so watch the pan carefully.
Add 1 1/4 cups cream (mixture will spatter) and cook, stirring, until all of caramel has dissolved. This can take awhile, and at first the sugar will all turn into a hard clump, but jut keep stirring the simmering cream and it ultimately will all dissolve. Strain caramel into a bowl and stir in sea salt and vanilla. Cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, bring milk and remaining cup cream just to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally.
Lightly whisk eggs in a medium bowl, then add a bit of hot milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Pour back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until custard coats registers at least 160°F (do not let boil).
Note: most of my ice cream recipes use a maximum of two eggs and 3 cups of milk/cream so the ratio of this step of the custard making is much different. As a result, the eggs come to temperature much more quickly and it's easy for them to curdle, so be sure to whisk constantly and watch carefully.
Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, then stir in cooled caramel. Chill overnight, then stir in 1 scant tablespoon dark rum before freezing in ice cream churn. Allow enough time to return churned mix to the freezer to freeze for a couple of hours before serving. Mixture will still be quite soft after churning but will firm to the perfect consistency.
Coconut Ice Cream
I chose coconut ice cream to accompany blueberry pie for my dad's birthday. It was an excellent accompaniment with good strong coconut flavor, but the consistency of this batch was not comparable to the few I've made. I can blame it on coconut, which is not my favorite flavor to begin with, or I can blame it on the fact that I "upgraded" to heavy cream (which is 40% fat) compared to the 36% fat whipped cream that I usually use. I very carefully calculate the percentages of fat in all my recipes, accounting for whole versus skim milk, and I did not do that this time, and I think it makes a real difference. It could be an improvement that I am just not used to, or it could actually be what pushes it over-the-edge to "too rich." In any case, it worked great with sweet, fruity, berry pie but Will will have to work through the leftovers in the freezer on his own.
Bring 1 1/2 cups cream to simmer then stir in 2 cups toasted shredded sweetened coconut. Cover, and steep 30 minutes.
Strain mixture and stir in 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup milk, return to simmer. Separately beat 2 eggs, then slowly whisk in part of hot cream mix, then return egg mixture to remainder of cream and whisk constantly over medium heat until it reaches 160 degrees. Remove from heat immediately and stir in additional half cup milk and half cup cream, along with 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract and 1 tablespoon light rum. Chill overnight then churn and freeze.