Spring is a busy birthday season at our house. My eldest daughter just celebrated her 27th birthday. She also just discovered she has a gluten intolerance. I think we're all asking ourselves... why didn't we figure this out sooner? Now, I will need to be extremely aware of the ingredients I'm using whenever she comes over for dinner.
My daughter's birthday cake was a flourless chocolate cake I've made for years. We all like this little dense, fudgy cake; but the stand-out at this birthday party was the Salted Caramel Ice Cream that was served alongside. We often treat ourselves to salted caramel at a local ice cream shop in St. Paul. This was the first time I've made it at home.
I found this recipe through the Barefoot Contessa. After I made the salted caramel, combined it with the ice cream base, and put it in the refrigerator to chill, I started scrolling through the "comment" section of the on-line recipe. Honestly, had I read the comments first, I probably never would have attempted this ice cream. Everyone agreed it was the best salted caramel ice cream they had ever eaten, but the majority also said it had its challenges -- number one being, it was practically impossible to get a frozen ice cream with a scoop-able consistency. This is what I found (and did)... 1. I made the ice cream base and let it set at room temperature while I immediately made the salted caramel. Be patient with the caramel. You will need to stir the mixture continually for some time before all of the caramelized clumps dissolve and give way to a smooth texture. After it's off the heat, stir the caramel over an ice bath until cool enough to add to the ice cream base. At that point, I used a whisk to combine the two until smooth with no lumps of caramel remaining. 2. I was more concerned with the finished ice cream having time to firm up in the freezer than I was with chilling the ice cream mixture before freezing in the ice cream machine. So -- I put the liquid mixture in the freezer for about two hours. It was just starting to freeze along the sides of the bowl. At that point, it was good and cold! I poured it into the ice cream machine's container and ran the ice cream maker for at least 45 minutes. It actually set up beautifully. Keep in mind, it is a soft ice cream. When I pulled the finished ice cream from the freezer the next day to serve, it scooped up beautifully and tasted delicious. It is not an ice cream you would want to leave unattended. It does start melting rather quickly. So eat up right after you've filled your dish!
• 1 1/4 cups sugar
• 3/4 cup heavy cream
• 2 teaspoons sea salt, such as Maldon ( I used Fleur de Sel)
• Ice Cream Base (recipe follows)
• 1 tablespoon good quality pure vanilla extract
1. Heat the sugar in a dry heavy-bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Stir with a fork just until the sugar starts to melt. At that point, do not stir, but instead, lift the pan to gently swirl the liquid so it melts evenly. Cook until the liquid is an dark amber color.
2. Pour the heavy cream into the mixture while stirring (it may splatter, so be careful). Continue to stir over medium to medium-low heat until there are no lumps remaining. Be persistent. The lumps will disappear. Transfer the mixture to a heat-proof bowl, stir in the salt, and place the bowl into an ice bath. Stir until the mixture has cooled down. At that point, combine it with the Ice Cream Base. Gently whisk the mixture until there are no visible caramel lumps. Be persistent with this and the lumps will eventually disappear. Add the vanilla.
3. Chill the mixture until very cold. This can take several hours. I placed my covered bowl in the freezer for about 2 hours. The mixture was just beginning to show signs of freezing around the edges. At that point I poured the mixture into the ice cream maker and "churned" the cream for about 45 minutes. It will become very thick, but will still be soft. Transfer to a freezer container and for best consistency, freeze overnight.
ICE CREAM BASE:
• 1 cup whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 2 cups heavy cream
1. Heat milk in a heavy sauce pan over medium-low heat.
2. Make an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice water. Rest a medium-size bowl on top of the ice water and place a fine mesh strainer over the bowl.
3. In another bowl, combine the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk the mixture until it is pale yellow in color and the sugar has dissolved. While whisking, slowly pour the warmed milk into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the sauce pan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it coats the back of a wooden spoon -- about 3 to 5 minutes. Do not overcook or you will scramble the eggs!
4. Strain the custard into the top bowl of the ice bath to stop the cooking process. Add the heavy cream and stir over the ice bath until cool. Set aside. Stir the caramel mixture into the custard (see instructions above), cover, and chill.
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