Monday, April 23, 2012
I had an out of body experience eating this ice cream. I had to pinch myself to make sure it wasn't a dream. If you've never gone to Bi-Rite Creamery in the Mission in San Francisco, you are really missing out. I remember when I was there last, I got caramelized bananas and they used a giant blow torch from a hardware store, not some dainty creme brulee kitchen torch. They mean business. But more importantly, I remember the salted caramel ice cream. That's because it's the flavor to be reckoned with. It's the flavor people travel far and wide for. And it's unreal.
This month, Bi-Rite released an ice cream cookbook to the world called Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones. Bi-Rite, the world thanks you! It means I can now make salted caramel ice cream at home. And living in L.A., it's not so easy to drive up to SF on a whim whenever I'm craving the stuff.
I saw that Serious Eats had posted the recipe and I decided it was important to test it out at home, make sure it was doable, that the recipe lived up to its reputation, and it wasn't just something to be left to the experts at the ice cream shop. If all went well, I would buy the cookbook because obviously where there's one to-die-for ice cream recipe, there are bound to be more.
Well, the ice cream lived up to its reputation. Ha! Understatement of the century. It was surprisingly doable, and the intense taste of salted caramel was unbeatable. The texture was perfectly smooth and so creamy that it felt almost too indulgent! Every spoonful was filled with guilt!
The bottom line is, I brought Bi-Rite Creamery to my L.A. kitchen and I'm so excited!
Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Adapted from a recipe in Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones by Kris Hoogerhyde, Anne Walker, and Dabney Gough
1 3/4 cups heavy cream, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
3/4 cup 1% or 2% milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5 large egg yolks
Note from Marni: Before you begin, be sure to read the instructions below completely. There are various ingredients to measure out or combine ahead, as well as having bowls, strainers, and even an ice bath ready. You'll be glad you prepped in advance because the recipe is time sensitive and you can't afford to be measuring things out while the mixture is cooking and you're stirring constantly. Consider yourself warned! :)
For the Caramel: Set a heavy bottom saucepan over the stove. Measure 1/2 cup of the sugar (the remaining 1/4 cup will go in with the egg yolks for the ice cream base). Start with 2 tablespoons of sugar from that 1/2 cup and place in the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar melts around the edges and turns an amber color, about 2 minutes. Add another 2 tablespoons of sugar until it melts, then continue, adding 2 tablespoons at a time until all the sugar is added and melted, stirring frequently. Be careful not to let the sugar burn; scrape the sides and bottom often.
When the caramel is a dark mahogony color, remove the saucepan from the heat and place it on a trivet. Immediately pour all of the cream in. Be very careful to use an oven mitt and protect your hand because the steam from adding the cream can burn you. Stir carefully to incorporate the cream so that no caramel lumps remain. If necessary because the lumps won't go away on their own, put the saucepan back on the stove and cook over low heat until the lumps are melted, then remove again from the heat.
For the Ice Cream Base: With the saucepan still off the heat, add the 3/4 cup milk and the salt to the caramel mixture and stir to blend. Place the saucepan back on the stove and cook on medium-high heat. Allow the mixture to reach a light simmer, barely bubbling, and then reduce the heat to medium.
In a medium heatproof bowl, such as a glass bowl, whisk together the 5 egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar.
Since you can't add this egg mixture directly to the ice cream base because the eggs will turn into scrambled eggs, you have to temper them first and bring their temperature up. To do that, carefully scoop out a 1/4 cup of the hot base mixture and whisk it into the egg yolks. The egg yolks will start to warm up. Add another 1/4 cup of the base mixture into the yolk mixture. Continue little by little until the eggs feel very warm when you touch the bottom of the glass bowl. They are now ready to be added back into the saucepan with the base. Pour all of the warmed up egg yolks into the saucepan, stirring constantly. Continue to cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the base is thick enough to coat the back of a heatproof spatula. This only takes about 2 minutes. You'll know it's ready if you run your finger across the back of the spatula and it leaves the mark of your finger.
Have another medium-size bowl ready, and sitting in an ice bath. Set a fine mesh strainer over the bowl. Pour the hot ice cream base through the strainer into the bowl. Stir the base constantly until it cools down from the ice bath and stops cooking. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight.
The following night, when the base is completely chilled, pour the base into the ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions and churn for approximately 20 minutes until the ice cream has thickened to a soft serve consistency and the churning slows down. While it is churning, place the ice cream storage container in the freezer so it is really cold when the ice cream is ready and needs to be transferred into its container. Store the ice cream in the freezer and let it firm up for a few hours before serving. Then enjoy a little taste of San Francisco heaven!
The Making of Salted Caramel Ice Cream in Photos
The chilled base is ready to get churned into ice cream...
Pour the base into the ice cream maker...
It's done when the ice cream has thickened to a soft serve consistency and the churning slows down...
Transfer the ice cream to a cold container and store in the freezer to set for a few hours...
Scoop and enjoy!