Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Salted caramel ice-cream

Sometime last last year, just in time for summer, I inherited my friends' ice-cream maker. They were moving, their new kitchen didn't have as much storage space as the old one so they were shedding appliances and I was the lucky beneficiary. All through December, January, February, March and April, that ice-cream maker sat on my shelf gathering dust. How to explain this? Maybe that I recognised having ice-cream on tap all the time might not be such a good thing. Maybe it was that I needed to freeze the inner drum of the machine thoroughly first and my freezer was always jam-packed. Maybe it was because the box was out of my line of sight and I forgot about it. I'm not sure. All I know is that finally, last weekend, as the first day of winter approached, I made ice-cream while wearing a jumper with the heater on. I won't be waiting that long again.

Salted caramel is having a moment to be sure. With good reason. It's sweet, it's salty, it's sublime. This recipe, from master ice-cream maker David Leibowitz (author of The Perfect Scoop), was inspired by the caramel ice-cream of famed Parisan parlour Berthillion. The secret is in the making of the caramel - you push it to the edge of burnt, which, in combination with the salt, saves it from being too sweet, producing instead a perfectly balanced, utterly decadent yet simple dessert. All you need is a spoon.

Salted caramel ice-cream
Adapted from a recipe by David Leibowitz, as recommended to me by my friend Joanna

Just a note - you'll have to start this a few days ahead of time as you'll need to chill the custard before churning, and then, once-churned, the ice-cream will need some time to set in the freezer.

2 cups (500 ml) full-cream milk, divided 
1½ cups (300g) sugar 
4 tablespoons (60g) salted butter 
scant ½ teaspoon sea salt 
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream 
5 large egg yolks 
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

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.

Spread sugar in the saucepan in an even layer and heat 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 centre, stirring, until it's all 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.

Once caramelised, 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.
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).
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.

Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions then chill in the freezer until firm

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