It’s Sweet! It’s Salty! It’s (Another) Ice Cream!

I know, I know. Another post about ice cream. Don’t worry, they won’t all be ice cream-centric, but if you read my first ice cream related blog, The Ice Cream Blogs Are Made Of, you probably pieced together quickly that I like ice cream. A lot. Really, who doesn’t? A dish or cone of ice cream satisfies my sweet tooth afternoon, evening, or night all year long – even in the dead cold of winter. I’ve tasted many different types of ice cream from scoop shops, fast food joints, and grocery store freezers. My all-time favorites include Haagen Dazs’ Pralines & Cream, Ben & Jerry’s Coconut Seven Layer Bar, Grand Ole Creamery’s Heath Bar, and Coldstone Creamery’s Cookie Doughn’t You Want Some. Frankly I’m surprised I’m not 400 pounds. Inspired by my ice cream shop favorites, I aimed to recreate some flavors at home. As already blogged, I recently produced my own interpretation of Heath Bar Ice Cream to great success. Before Heath Bar, though, there was Salted Caramel Ice Cream – one of the greatest treats featuring that amazing combination of sweet mixed with salty.

I encountered my first salted caramel ice cream at one of Sebastian Joe’s Ice Cream parlors in Minneapolis. The flavor hit me square in the mouth, surprising me in the best possible way. Immediately hooked on this new taste sensation, I got home and searched online for recipes and stumbled upon quite a few. I decided to give Andrea Albin’s highly-rated one at Epicurious.com a whirl even though the directions appeared somewhat above my amateur ice cream making skills. Turning granulated sugar into caramel? I wasn’t too sure about making that happen, but realized I needed to be game in order to replicate salted caramel ice cream. Tempering eggs, too? That I couldn’t bring myself to attempt. At least not quite yet. I soldiered on without the eggs, hoping the omission would not compromise the flavor and to my delight the recipe alteration worked. Rather splendidly, I might add.

Never content to stick to the status quo, I yearned to try my hand at other recipes I could find. As a fan of Food Network’s ‘Barefoot Contessa,’ I found a salted caramel ice cream recipe by Ina Garten and knew I needed to attempt her version. Since I mastered tempering eggs by the time I found her recipe, I enthusiastically went to work creating Ina’s salted caramel ice cream. (I guess ‘mastered’ may be a bit strong – perhaps the best way to describe my egg tempering ability was competent.) Anyhoo, I expected the outcome to be just as good or better than the earlier effort. I mean, the recipe is Ina Garten’s after all! Sadly I experienced no such luck. I either read her recipe and instructions wrong or the sum of the parts just failed to add up to their whole. Many of the procedures were identical to Albin’s recipe; however, Ina’s recipe called for nearly twice as much sugar. This produced an ice cream that while tasted sweet and salty never quite froze completely. The consistency more closely resembled a thick, syrupy goop. Not the best ice cream. I realize the blame fell on the increased sugar content and not the egg yolks, but because the earlier success altering Albin’s recipe skipped eggs, I returned to that recipe. After tinkering with the successful recipe a little, I arrived at the recipe I now use. Perhaps in the future I will be inspired to try adding eggs again, perhaps not. Why mess with an ice cream that tastes SO good! It’s sweet! It’s salty! It’s Salted Caramel Ice Cream!

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1  1/4 cups sugar
  • 1  1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt (like Maldon), though kosher salt works, too
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a heavy-bottom skillet (I use a 12″ stainless steel skillet), heat 1 cup of sugar over medium heat. Stir with a fork so the sugar heats evenly. As soon as melting begins, stop stirring with the fork. Using the handle of the pan, swirl the caramel occasionally to ensure the sugar continues to melt evenly. When the caramelized sugar turns a dark amber color, carefully pour in 2 cups of heavy cream and stir with a wire whisk. Adding the cream will cause the sugar to bubble, splatter, and seize up. The first time I made I made this ice cream, I thought I had done something wrong because the recipe from epicurious.com explained nothing in regards to the seizing of the caramel. Just continue to whisk until the hardened caramel dissolves. See images below for visualization of this process.

Once the liquid is homogeneous, remove from heat and pour into a heat-proof bowl. Stir in the sea salt and vanilla extract. Set aside. Meanwhile, combine the whole milk and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Allow caramel to cool 5-10 minutes before mixing in the whole milk/sugar. I then transfer the ice cream base to another bowl, pouring the mixture through a fine mesh sifter to remove any hard chunks of caramel that simply refused to dissolve. Place in the refrigerator over night to cool completely before freezing.

The next day, pour the ice cream base into your maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you prefer ice cream with soft-serve consistency, enjoy immediately upon completion of churning process. If you like a firmer consistency, store in the freezer for a few hours or overnight. Trust me, the final product is worth the wait.

CJC

Swirl the melting sugar in the skillet until it turns dark amber in color.
When you add the heavy cream to the melted sugar, the caramel will seize up.
Whisk the caramel and cream together – the cream will bubble and splatter.
Continue whisking the caramel/cream mixture until the hardened caramel (that’s stuck to the whisk) dissolves completely.
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