Do you ever have those moments where you taste something fantastic at a restaurant and you just want to rush right home and try to replicate it? Happens to me all the time. Which is a really good thing, because it pushes me in new and tasty directions on a regular basis. This recipe was inspired by a recent lunch with a foodie friend at one of Ottawa’s best restos, the incomparable town. While their version was served up sundae-style with whipped cream, crunchy caramel corn, peanuts and a hidden morsel of chocolate ganache, I decided to stick with the star of that dish – the salted caramel ice cream itself. I have to confess, this is one of the sweetest, richest things I have ever concocted. A little goes a long way, but you might find yourself sneaking bites from the freezer throughout the day because once you’ve tasted this, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be hooked. And this from a chocoholic, no less!
For the caramel sauce:
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon water
1 cup heavy (35%) cream
1/2 teaspoon good salt (Maldon, fleur de sel, etc.)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the ice cream base:
1 cup milk (anything but skim)
1 cup heavy (35%) cream
1/4 cup white sugar
3 large eggs
Equipment: digital thermometer, ice cream maker
Make the caramel sauce:
- Put sugar and water in a 9 or 10 inch skillet. Melt sugar over medium heat, swirling pan occasionally so sugar heats evenly.
- As the sugar begins to turn amber, swirl more often and pay close attention to the pan so it does not burn – the goal is a dark amber colour and just ever-so-slightly scorched aroma. If you burn it, start over, as burnt sugar will ruin the flavour of your ice cream.
- When the melted sugar is dark amber, add the cream. Be careful as the mixture will bubble and spatter. The caramel may also seize (harden slightly) but it will remelt as you cook in the cream.
- Over medium heat, cook the caramel sauce, stirring often, until it is smooth and any hard bits have melted. Remove from heat and stir in sea salt and vanilla.
- Pour into a clean heatproof bowl or measuring cup and let cool to room temperature. You can speed this up by refrigerating for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Make the ice cream base:
- Put milk, cream and 1/4 cup sugar into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Over medium heat, stirring often, heat the mixture until it is steaming but not boiling.
- Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a medium bowl and whisk gently.
- When milk mixture is hot, add half of it in 1/4 cup increments to the eggs, whisking constantly to combine. This will warm the eggs so they do not cook too quickly.
- Return the egg and milk mixture to the saucepan and cook until the mixture is thickened and reaches 170F. Do not let it boil.
- If custard is lumpy, strain it through a fine-meshed sieve into a large bowl, then stir in cooled caramel. Do not worry about mixing them too thoroughly; this will happen in the ice cream maker.
- Chill custard for 3 – 6 hours or until very cold. When ready to transform into frozen deliciousness, combine custard and caramel sauce.
- Freeze following instructions for your ice cream maker. It will be quite soft after the specified amount of churning time but once you transfer it to an airtight container and freeze for 1 – 2 hours it will firm up (though it won’t be as rock-hard as some homemade ice creams).
Makes 1 litre.