About a month ago we got a new toy for our stand mixer–an ice cream maker attachment! It’s been a lot of fun watching liquid magically whirl itself into a thick, refreshing treat. We’ve already used it twice, first for our yummy Lemon Gelato and most recently for Salted Caramel Ice Cream. I. Love. Caramel.
When I saw this recipe on Brown Eyed Baker I quickly pushed it ahead of all our other recipes in queue, this one had to be done right away! There’s nothing better than scooping yourself some ice cream, letting it sit for a few minutes until it’s reached the perfect soft state, then diving in on a warm spring day…er I mean cold and rainy Chicago day.
When we set out to tackle this recipe we contemplated using European Butter versus regular butter. First of all, where would one even find European Butter? And secondly, I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of money. As luck would have it I was at my regular, everyday grocery store and I saw it there…right smack dab next to all the other butters. And it wasn’t crazy expensive either. I think it was about $2.50 for 2 sticks. Score! Please don’t let European Butter scare you away!
The original recipe called for sea salt, but we used Fleur de Sel, which is basically the same thing. Fleur de Sel, was not as readily available as European Butter though. We ended up buying it online from Sur la Table. Definitely worth the investment. All in all, the ice cream turned out exactly as I dreamt it would. It was salty and sweet, it was creamy, and best of all it was uber caramely.
Note: Our caramel pieces seemed to dissolve into the ice cream. We were expecting them to be little crunchy pieces, but it didn’t work out that way. Oh well. But we just happened to have homemade Fleur de Sel Honey Caramels, so we decided to stick one of those in for a garnish. Don’t worry the Fleur de Sel Honey Caramels will post next week.
Yield: One quart
For the Caramel Mix-In:
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ teaspoon fleur de sel
For the Ice Cream Custard:
2 cups whole milk, divided
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
4 tablespoons salted butter
½ teaspoon fleur de sel
1 cup heavy cream
5 egg yolks
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
To make the caramel mix-in, spread the ½ cup of sugar in an even layer in a medium-sized, heavy duty saucepan. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or brush it sparingly with unflavored oil.
Heat the sugar over medium 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.
Sprinkle in the ¾ teaspoon salt without stirring, 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.
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 bowl (at least 2 quarts) over the ice, pour 1 cup of the milk into the inner bowl, and rest a mesh strainer on top of it.
Spread 1 ½ cups sugar in the saucepan in an even layer. Cook over medium heat until caramelized, using the same method described in Step #2.
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 the remaining 1 cup of milk.
Whisk the yolks in a small bowl and gradually pour some of the warm caramel mixture over the yolks, whisking 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. An thermometer should read 160-170 degrees F.
Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk set over the ice bath, add the vanilla, and stir until the mixture cools down. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or until it’s thoroughly chilled. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
While the ice cream is churning, crumble the hardened caramel mix-in into little bits, about ½-inch. When your caramel ice cream is churned, quickly stir in the crushed caramel, then chill in the freezer until firm.