I come from a family that loves its ice cream. Now even as an adult who has a baking/pastry degree, a simple bowl of ice cream is still my favorite dessert. Growing up in Texas, we were loyal to Blue Bell ice cream and its traditional flavors such as Cookies n' Cream, Rocky Road, Pralines and Cream, Neopolitan, etc. Over the years, the company has expanded its flavor profile with some fun modern twists (King Cake ice cream is a huge win with me). However, I still prefer the classics over some of the more unusual flavors that brands like Ben and Jerry's has to offer. For instance, Phish Food is chocolate ice cream with marshmallow swirls, caramel swirls and fish-shaped fudge. I know it sounds good, but sometimes less is more in your bowl!
I remember when we got a homemade ice cream maker when I was a kid. I thought it was so fun to watch our parents make ice cream and my brother, sister and I would gather around that plastic tub waiting for it to finish churning. A while back, my parents gave me that old Sterling ice cream maker, and I've been making homemade ice cream ever since (before that, I made this no-churn version to satisfy my ice cream cravings). I broke it out of storage last weekend for my first batch this summer when my parents were visiting. We calculated that the machine is now 35 years old, so I always hold my breath as I plug it in. And to my delight, it always works!
Although I love a simple vanilla ice cream with seasonal fruit like peaches, I had just finished off a batch of vanilla ice cream that went with a Cherry Lattice Pie I made recently. So, I was in the mood for something different. I turned to a friend who I consider an expert in homemade ice cream and she recommended this Salted Caramel Ice Cream as her go-to favorite. I've added tips and tricks throughout the recipe to make sure your batch is as good as mine!
Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
2 1/4 cups heavy cream, divided
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt such as TCB Big Flake sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
3 large eggs
Ice cream maker
Ice cream salt or rock salt
1. Heat 1 cup sugar in a dry large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring with a fork to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt, then stop stirring and cook, swirling skillet occasionally so sugar melts evenly, until it is dark amber.
2. Add 1 1/4 cups cream (be careful: the mixture will spatter) and cook, stirring, until all of caramel has dissolved. Some of it will clump together and cling to the fork, but that's fine. Keep cooking it, and the candy will eventually melt.
3. Stir in sea salt and vanilla. Cool to room temperature.
4. Meanwhile, bring milk, remaining cup cream, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar just to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally.
5. Lightly whisk eggs in a medium bowl, then add half of hot milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. This process is called tempering. Gently and gradually adding hot liquid to the eggs ensures they won't scramble as they cook to a safe temperature.
5. Pour the eggs back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard coats back of spoon and registers 170°F on an instant-read thermometer (do not let it boil).
6. Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl. This prevents any cooked egg from getting into the ice cream base.
7. Stir in cooled caramel.
8. Chill custard until very cold in fridge, about 6 hours or even overnight.
9. Freeze custard in ice cream maker. Be sure to have plenty of ice on hand!
Pro tip: Freeze the canister and beater overnight in the freezer so that they are very cold when it comes time to churn your ice cream.
Typically, I churn my homemade ice cream for about 45 minutes, but this one takes a little longer so don't be afraid to let it go for about 90 minutes. My old school ice cream maker actually stops when it's ready. Note that the ice cream will still be quite soft at this point, so put it in the freezer overnight to firm up.
This ice cream is the perfect balance of flavors and textures: sweet, yet salty; rich, yet light; creamy, yet dense. Despite the rumors, making caramel is not hard, but it can be a little tricky. I like this caramel sauce because although you have to keep your eye on it, it cooks very quickly and is easy to make. Just be sure to pull it off the heat just before you think it's done to prevent any burning. Feel free to make the sauce on its own and pour over a batch of vanilla ice cream!
Ice cream is the challenge for our private Facebook group this week. Perfect for the Fourth of July holiday weekend, don't you think? So, whip up a batch of homemade ice cream or use store-bought ice cream to make a dessert such as profiteroles with ice cream and chocolate sauce. If you need more ideas, these wine ice cream floats are to die for, and you can even make ice cream in your Vitamix. Even a pup-friendly version counts!