Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Salty Caramel Ice Cream

Can you feel it?  Can you FEEL IT? By "it," I mean the crisp cool breeze that hits you when you walk outside first thing in the morning.  I mean that little voice inside your head that tells you to bring along a light jacket as you leave your house in the morning for work. I mean the sudden chill you feel as you let the dog out or take the trash out at night.  Have you been feeling it too? I certainly have.  I've got that fall feeling and I'm pretty ecstatic about it.  I absolutely love fall, and the fact that it's still 70 degrees is bumming me out.  I know I'll regret those words in a few months when we're stuck in the middle of a winter colder than last year.   I should take advantage of the few long, mild days we have left, but I just can't.  The fall bug has bitten me hard. 

Now that it's officially fall, whether it feels like it or not, it's time to change up my baking.  Ironic that I'm saying this in a post about ice cream, right?  This ice cream is special though.  It's salty caramel, so it's "fall ready."  It's got a rich and deep flavor and perfectly suited for the arrival of the new season. Since the weather is still on the warmer side, we might as well keep on enjoying scoops of ice cream, right?

This recipe is from my favorite ice cream book ever (Jeni's of course, no surprise there).  I'm actually very excited for this weekend, because one of things I'm doing on Saturday is heading over to Jeni's pop-up shop at Gotham West Market in New York City.  That's right, there's actually Jeni's ice cream in New York, can you believe it!? I was so happy when I made this discovery.  I actually found out that they'd be in New York until the end of September a couple of weeks ago, and for one reason or another just never made it over to the scoop shop. Leave it to me to wait until the last weekend in September to finally give this ice cream a try!  It'll be worth the wait though; since the three ice creams I've made from Jeni's book have been so good, I can only imagine how good authentic Jeni's ice creams actually are!

This ice cream is simple in the sense that it is no different than the other recipes presented in Jeni's book.  It uses the same type of cream cheese ice cream base and it's mixed in the same way.  To be honest, I find this method for mixing ice cream to be so much simpler than the traditional custard with eggs, because even though I've figured out the method to avoid scrambling the eggs in the hot cream mixture, the thought of ending up with scrambled eggs is always there.  Jeni's method removes that shred of doubt entirely though, since her recipe is completely egg-free.  It still amazes me how creamy her custard gets.  While the ice cream itself is straightforward, there is one thing that is slightly intimidating, and that's making the caramel.  Caramel-making can be a little daunting, because hot sugar can be dangerous if handled incorrectly, but if you're careful, it's not really difficult at all. This ice cream calls for making caramel using a dry method, meaning that no water is added to the sugar as it is heated.  The sugar is simply left on its own in a saucepan set over medium heat to melt.  Once the sugar on the outer edges of the saucepan have melted, you can begin to coax the melted sugar into the middle with a heatproof spatula to help melt the remaining sugar.  Once all of the sugar has melted, remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately stir in the cream.  The caramel will pop and burst and fizz, but if you're simply aware of what steps come next in the caramel-making process, you'll see that it's really not a difficult process at all.  Just make sure to keep a very close eye on the saucepan, because the last thing you want is burnt caramel!

This ice cream was all kinds of amazing, and I was so happy to have finally gotten a chance to make it myself. It was one of the first flavors I bookmarked from Jeni's book, and  finally tasting it gave me a huge feeling of satisfaction.  The ice cream is creamy and decadent.  It has a definite chew, which sounds strange to explain, but once you taste it, you'll understand the texture of the ice cream...it really is slightly chewy!  This flavor makes me think of fall so much.  It's comforting and the perfect accompaniment to a big slice of homemade apple pie.  Or, for a really indulgent treat, try adding a scoop to a cup of warm apple cider, to make a caramel cider affogato of sorts.  I have no idea if that'll work, but I can't see why it wouldn't!  It's something to try out this weekend, of course, after I head over to try Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams for myself!  Enjoy, and happy fall!  

Salty Caramel Ice Cream
recipe from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home


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


Begin by prepping all of the ingredients.  Mix about two tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the softened cream cheese and salt until smooth.  In a measuring cup, combine the cream and corn syrup.  

Add the sugar to a 4-quart saucepan and set over medium heat.  Without stirring the sugar, heat until it is melted and a deep golden amber in color.  Remove the saucepan from the heat, and while stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, slowly add in a bit of the cream mixture to the caramel.  Be very careful, because the caramel will fizzle and pop!  Stir until the cream is combined, then continue to add more of the cream mixture while stirring constantly.  Stir until the cream mixture has been fully incorporated into the caramel.

Return the saucepan to the stove and set over medium-high heat.  Add the milk and bring the mixture to a rolling boil,boiling for 4 minutes.  Remove the mixture from the heat, and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.  Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture has thickened slightly, about 1 minute.  Remove the mixture from the heat, and strain if any caramel bits remain.

Gradually whisk the hot caramel mixture into the cream cheese until smooth.  Whisk in the vanilla extract.  Pour the mixture into a gallon-size freezer Ziploc bag and submerge in an ice bath.  Let the mixture stand until it is very cold adding more ice as needed.

Pour the chilled mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.  Pack the ice cream into a freezer safe container, cover the surface with a sheet of parchment paper, and seal with an airtight lid.  Freeze the ice cream until firm, about 4 hours. 

Makes 1 quart ice cream


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