In the South, summer's as much about ice cream as it is about squeaky screen doors, slowly swaying hammocks, sweet tea, and fireflies.
Though there are oodles of store-bought ice cream varieties available, it's so easy and fun to make your own. And this recipe for Salted Caramel Macadamia Ice Cream (adapted from my next book The French Cook: Eclairs and Cream Puffs—Gibbs Smith, October 2013) even beats out Ben & Jerry's.
In the cookbook I serve the ice cream in a cream puff and top it with hot caramel sauce (a variation on a profiterole). While this combination is incredible, it's summertime and the living's easy, so take a little baking break and serve sans cream puff. You can even sandwich it between best-quality commercial chocolate chip, ginger snap, or dark chocolate cookies. (And while you're eating, be sure to give yourself license to get messy and let it drip down your chin—that's part of summer, too.) Bon appetit!
Photo by Alexandra DeFurio
Salted Caramel Macadamia Ice Cream and Hot Caramel Sauce
First, a few chef's notes:
1. If you don’t own an ice cream maker, it’s worth making the purchase. My Krups basic ice cream machine cost less than $50, has lasted 20 years, and has made countless batches of ice cream. But if you don't own one, you can make ice cream by stirring the blend with a fork every 15 minutes as it is setting up (though the results will be less creamy and less aerated).
2. Ice cream in French cooking = frozen Crème Anglaise (a basic vanilla custard sauce). Additional flavors can be made be made from the base recipe, as outlined in the one that follows.
3. To prevent crystals from forming, make the Crème Anglaise the day before and refrigerate overnight before freezing.
4. If you're cooking with an ice cream maker, freeze the machine's canister overnight, as well, for the same reasons. Shake it to test that the internal freezing agent is solid and not sloshing around. If you do this and the previous tip, you will be rewarded with creamy, smooth ice cream in just 20 to 25 minutes.
5. Turn the prepared ice cream out into a well-chilled glass bowl or container, cover tightly, and store in the freezer until ready to use. It should store well for a week.
Crème Anglaise: Basic Vanilla Custard Sauce
(Yields 2 ½ cups)
This creamy vanilla custard sauce is widely served with many classic French desserts. It also serves as a base for any and all flavored ice creams. Chef's note: It's easy to make but needs your full attention, mild heat, and constant stirring to avoid a pan full of scrambled, sweet eggs. (Which actually happened to me once as an apprentice at Fauchon, trembling under the ever-present watch of celebrated pastry chef Pierre Herme). The trick? If it looks like it’s starting to curdle or over-thicken, get it off the heat and through a strainer. To get it to safe temperature and stop the cooking, cool the crème anglaise over a large bowl of ice and water.
Special equipment needed: chinois or fine strainer
1 cup whole milk
1 cup Half & Half
1 fresh vanilla bean cut in half vertically to expose seeds
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch sea or kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions: Prepare an ice/water bath in a large bowl with a few cups of ice and 1 cup of water. Also, have the chinois or fine strainer nearby. In a large saucepan, heat together the milk, Half & Half, and halved vanilla bean over medium heat. Bring to a low simmer. Separately, combine the egg yolks, sugar and salt in a medium bowl and whisk vigorously until lemony and frothy, about 1 minute. Once the milk mixture is simmering, gradually stream it into the egg mixture, whisking the entire time, until it has all been added. Return the sauce to the same pan the milk was heated in, cooking over medium low heat. With a wooden spoon, stir constantly, reaching all edges and bottom of the pan. At first there will be froth on the top of the sauce. This will disappear after 3 minutes. Watch closely now. Keep stirring another minute or 2, or until the sauce has thickened slightly and naps the back of the spoon. You will know it is done when you run your finger down the back of the spoon and get a clear strip that holds without the sauce running back over it or when it reaches 170F. Pour the sauce through the chinois into a clean bowl. Set over water bath and stir until the sauce is cooled. Stir in the remaining teaspoon of vanilla extract. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.
(Yields 1¼ cup)
Making caramel sauce, basically cooked and caramelized sugar finished with cream and butter, is not difficult but it deserves attention and respect. Hot caramel is dangerously hot stuff. Keep your eyes on it at all times and prepare it when young children and pets are not around. It’s best to have everything measured and ready to go before you get started. It takes a few minutes to get there, but once the sugar starts caramelizing, it goes really fast. Your nose will know. Your kitchen will smell faintly of caramel after about 5 or 6 minutes. Once it’s a golden, nutty, toasted color, it’s time to finish it off. Like all of the sauces in this chapter, it stores beautifully in the refrigerator, covered, for several days. Heat gently over low heat to return to its warm, sauce form.
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter
1/2 cup whole cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Generous pinch sea or kosher salt
Directions: In a medium, sturdy-bottomed sauce pan, stir together the sugar and water with a wooden spoon. Cook over low heat, uncovered, until the sugar granules are melted, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium high and allow to simmer vigorously, stirring here and there (not constantly or it might crystallize) with a wooden spoon. After 5 to 6 minutes, large bubbles will start forming at the top. This, along with a tepid caramel aroma, is your sign that the sugar is about to caramelize. Keep cooking, swishing the pan carefully, but not stirring, until the sugar turns fragrant and a nutty, caramel brown. Remove from the heat. Incorporate the butter in 4 parts, gently dropping into the pan and whisking gently to incorporate. The caramel will react when the butter hits it by bubbling up aggressively. Proceed with caution to prevent at burn. Return the pan to low heat, drizzling in the cream and whisking to incorporate. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes, whisking to help re-incorporate any caramel that has hardened and until it becomes a thick, beautiful creamy golden sauce. Off the heat, stir in the vanilla extract and salt. Serve hot or warm.
Salted Caramel Macadamia Nut Ice Cream with Hot Caramel Sauce
A day before freezing, prepare the caramel sauce and Crème Anglaise (recipes above). Cover and refrigerate each separately overnight. The following day, whisk 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon of the cooled caramel sauce and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt into the chilled crème anglaise base. Freeze according to package directions, adding 1/2 cup coarsely chopped, salted macadamia nuts 10 minutes into the freezing process, before the ice cream is fully set. Continue freezing until set, about 15 more minutes. Warm the prepared caramel sauce over medium-low heat. Drizzle over bowls filled with scoops of the ice cream.