Happy New Year everyone! I hope you've all enjoyed a festive, peaceful and wildly indulgent holiday season. For those of you who are waking up today with an eye toward acting on the New Year's resolutions you proclaimed last night in a drunken stupor, hold your horses. You're gonna want to make AND eat a batch of this amazing ice cream before you head down to your local gym to re-activate your membership.
This is another Jeni Britton Bauer recipe that I first made a couple of weeks ago to bring to my sister's for the Christmas holiday. I ended up leaving that quart behind for her to enjoy and upon returning home, broke out my ice cream machine again to make myself another batch. This stuff is so good that I couldn't bear the thought of not having any in my freezer.
I know it may seem odd to be posting an ice cream recipe during the winter months, and particularly silly given the arctic chill that is sweeping across the States at the moment, but hey, for the next day or two I plan on spending lots of time kicking back with a good book in front of my fireplace, and I gotta have SOMETHING to eat, don't I?
The caramel ice cream base of this recipe can be made and devoured as is, without the smoke-house almonds added in. If you choose to make plain caramel ice cream, then up the salt in the recipe from 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon and you're good to go, the rest of the recipe is the same.
My sister's reaction to trying this stuff says it all. "OMG – it's like a party in my mouth!" Yeah, what she said!
I was about to close by telling you to enjoy this in moderation, but I can't. Enjoy this in the most indulgent way possible, in fact, eat the whole thing at a single go if you want, the gym will still be there in the morning.
Cheers – Steve
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (1/2 teaspoon if you are making plain caramel without the nuts)
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup coarsely chopped smoked almonds
- Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a slurry. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
- Heat the sugar in a 4-quart saucepan set over medium heat until it is melted and a golden amber in color.
- Danger! - This the dry-burn technique. Jeni doesn't add water to the sugar as some chefs do. Caramelizing sugar dry means it goes faster, but you have to watch it closely and be ready with your cream. Stand over the pan of sugar with a heat-proof spatula ready, but do not touch the sugar until there is a full layer of melted and browning liquid sugar on the bottom with a smaller layer of unmelted white sugar on top. When the edges of the melted sugar begin to darken, use the spatula to bring them into the center to help melt the unmelted sugar. Continue gently stirring and pushing the sugar around until it is all melted and evenly amber in color. When little bubbles start to explode with dark smoke, give the sugar another moment and then remove from the heat. Immediately but slowly pour about 1/4 cup of the cream-corn syrup mixture into the burning-hot sugar. Be careful! It will pop and spit! Stir until it is incorporated, then add a little more cream and stir, then continue until it is all in.
- Steve's Note: The key to getting the best possible caramel flavor out of this ice cream is to let the sugar get to a nice dark amber color. Be patient and wait until the sugar begins to smoke before pulling it from the heat and adding the cream. I find that most people get anxious about burning the sugar and so pull it too soon making for a weak caramel.
- Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the milk. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.
- Bring back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heat-proof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and pour through a sieve over the cream cheese and salt, whisk until smooth. Add the vanilla and whisk. Pour the mixture into a 1 gallon zip-lock freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary until cold, about 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set the ice cream base in the fridge to chill overnight.
- Freeze in your ice cream maker per the manufacturer's instructions until thick and creamy. When done, pack into a storage container, layering it with the chopped almonds. Press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm at least 4 hours.