How lucky can a gal get? My husband’s activities of late have me screaming for more, more, and more! During the last several months, he has been whipping up batch after batch of delectable ice cream and gelato. His most recent creation contains little bits of homemade salted caramel praline that become semi-gooey as they immerse themselves in a sea of buttery rich ice cream. It’s the perfect accompaniment to any fall dessert. What a sweet life I live!
Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream
For the caramel praline (mix-in):
½ cup (100 gr) sugar
¾ teaspoon sea salt, such as fleur de sel
For the ice cream custard:
2 cups (500 ml) whole milk, divided
1½ cups (300 gr) sugar
4 tablespoons (60 gr) salted butter
scant ½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
1. To make the caramel praline, spread the ½ cup (100 gr) of sugar in an even layer in a medium-sized, unlined heavy duty saucepan: I use a 6 quart/liter pan. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or brush it sparingly with unflavored oil.
2. Heat the sugar over moderate heat until the edges begin to melt. Use a heatproof utensil to gently stir the liquefied sugar from the bottom and edges towards the center, stirring, until all the sugar is dissolved. (Or most of it—there may be some lumps, which will melt later.) Continue to cook stirring infrequently until the caramel starts smoking and begins to smell like it’s just about to burn. It won’t take long.
3. Without hesitation, sprinkle in the ¾ teaspoon salt without stirring (don’t even pause to scratch your nose), then pour the caramel onto the prepared baking sheet and lift up the baking sheet immediately, tilting and swirling it almost vertically to encourage the caramel to form as thin a layer as possible. Set aside to harden and cool.
4. To make the ice cream, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl about a third full with ice cubes and adding a cup or so of water so they’re floating. Nest a smaller metal bowl (at least 2 quarts/liters) over the ice, pour 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk into the inner bowl, and rest a mesh strainer on top of it.
5. Spread 1½ cups (300 gr) sugar in the saucepan in an even layer. Cook over moderate heat, until caramelized, using the same method described in Step #2.
6. Once caramelized, remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt, until butter is melted, then gradually whisk in the cream, stirring as you go. The caramel may harden and seize, but return it to the heat and continue to stir over low heat until any hard caramel is melted. Stir in 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk.
7. 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 using a heatproof utensil, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture thickens. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read 160-170 F (71-77 C).
8. Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk set over the ice bath, add the vanilla, then stir frequently until the mixture is cooled down. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or until thoroughly chilled.
9. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
10. While the ice cream is churning, crumble the hardened caramel praline into very little bits, about the size of very large confetti (about ½-inch, or 1 cm). I use a mortar and pestle, although you can make your own kind of music using your hands or a rolling pin.
11. Once your caramel ice cream is churned, quickly stir in the crushed caramel, then chill in the freezer until firm.
Yield: One generous quart (liter)
NOTES FROM MR. LEBOVITZ
1. ” . . . use good salt. I use fleur de sel, but if you don’t have it, a mild-tasting sea salt will do in a pinch, such as Maldon, fine gray salt, or kosher salt. Don’t use ordinary fine table salt; it’s far too harsh.”
2. “Variations: Add some strong liquid espresso (or instant espresso powder) to the custard to taste, prior to churning the ice cream to make Coffee-Caramel Ice Cream.”
3. “As the ice cream sits, the little bits of caramel may liquefy and get runny and gooey, which is what they’re intended to do.”
4. “Because of the caramel in this ice cream, once churned and frozen, it’ll remain nice & creamy. To make it firmer, crank up your freezer a bit or store it in a shallow pan.”
1. My husband found this recipe to be easier if it’s made over a 2-day period. He makes the candy and the ice cream base one day. The next day he puts the chilled base into the ice cream maker and freezes the ice cream. After the ice cream is frozen, he stirs in the candy bits.
2. Be very careful not to burn yourself as you are making the candy! The molten candy can stick to your skin and create burn blisters. Handle it with care.
3. My husband breaks the hardened caramel praline by placing it in a bag and crushing it with a rolling pin.
4. Because this ice cream is so delicious, but makes so little, he always triples the recipe.