Celebrating National Ice Cream Day with Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ever since I came back from San Francisco, I waited impatiently for the book Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones from Bi-Rite Creamery to arrive.  It came just in time to whip up a few batches of ice cream before National Ice Cream Month is over.  In 1984, President Ronald Reagan declared July as National Ice Cream Month and established the third Sunday of July as National Ice Cream Day.   He couldn’t have picked a better time to celebrate ice cream.  July is the peak of summer, and everyone needs a frozen treat to counter these warm days.  

I knew exactly which recipe to try first.  I wanted to recreate that magical moment when my taste buds were introduced to the salted caramel ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery.  

The complex taste of sweet caramel heightened by a bit of salt.  Pure bliss.  I couldn’t be happier with the result.  

Three batches later and I still crave for salted caramel ice cream.  I appreciate recipes that deliver exceptional results and this couldn’t be more true of Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones.  While Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home wins the prize for originality and creativity, Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones takes the trophy for delivering consistency and taste.  If you are new to homemade ice cream, this book is a great resource.  Most recipes call for very few ingredients that are easily accessible through your local supermarkets and farmers market.  

Enjoy the rest of National Ice Cream Month whether you’re enjoying homemade ice cream from the comfort of your kitchen or ready-serve scoops at a neighborhood ice cream parlor!

Salted Caramel Ice Cream (from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones)
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 ¾ cup heavy cream, at room temp   

5 egg yolks

¾ cup whole milk (the original recipe calls for 1% or 2% milk)

½ tsp salt
(the original recipe calls for 1 tsp)
caramel sauce (optional)
Toasted almonds (optional)

1. Get all the ingredients ready and set them near the stove.
2. For the caramel sauce, measure out ½ cup of sugar (the rest will go in the yolks).  Put 2 tablespoons of sugar in a nonreactive saucepan and set the pan on medium heat.  When the sugar is melted around the edges and starts to turn amber, about 2 minutes, stir the mixture gently and add another 2 tablespoons sugar to the pan.
3. Continue adding the remaining sugar to the pan 2 tablespoons at a time, stirring frequently and allowing most of the sugar to melt before adding more.  Watch carefully as the sugar darkens, stirring gently to help it melt evenly.
4. When the caramel becomes a dark mahogany color, remove the pan from the heat and immediately but slowly pour the cream into the pan.
5. The mixture will steam and bubble up so be careful not to burn yourself.  When the bubbling subsides, gently stir to completely blend the cream into the caramel.  If you see lumps of hardened caramel, put the pan over low heat and stir until the caramel is melted.
6. Once the caramel is completely smooth, stir in the milk and salt.  Put the pan on medium-high heat.  When the mixture approaches a bare simmer, reduce the heat to medium.
7. In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks just the break them up, then whisk in ¼ cup of sugar.  Set aside.
8. Carefully measure out ½ cup of hot cream mixture.  While whisking the eggs constantly, whisk the hot cream mixture into the eggs until smooth.  Continue tempering the eggs by adding another ½ cup of hot cream to the bowl with the  yolks.
9. Pour the cream-egg mixture back to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it is thickened and coats the back of a spatula. 
10. Strain the base through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container.
11. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziplock freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in an ice bath until cold, about 30 minutes.  Refrigerate the ice cream base for at least 2 hours or overnight.
12. Pour the ice cream base  into the frozen canister of your ice cream machine and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

13. Spin until thick and creamy about 25-30 minutes.

14. Pack the ice cream into a storage container, 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.

15. When ready to serve, scoop the ice cream into bowl, drizzle with caramel sauce, and top with some toasted almonds. 

Caramel sauce
¾ cup heavy cream, at room temp
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Repeat steps 1-5.
2. Let the sauce cool until just warm.  If not using within a few hours, transfer the caramel sauce to a container and refrigerate.  Re-warm before using.

Red Currant Financiers

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Red currants!  I was drawn to those red little gems the minute my eyes caught a glimpse of them.  I couldn’t believe my luck finding them at the Hillcrest farmers market.  Currants are around for a limited time in summer, especially July, and local chefs snatch them up as quickly as they appear.  I immediately grabbed a basket and gingerly carried it home. 

I toyed with the idea of making a currant jelly since the vendor mentioned that it goes well with a lamb roast or game meat.  But with one basket, I didn’t want to waste these precious gems.  Instead, I used them to flavor financiers.  A financier is a small French cake made with brown butter and almond meal (ground almond).   

The tartness of the currants added a nice contrast to the sweetness of the financiers. Traditionally, financiers are served with ice cream or other frozen confections, but I found them quite delightful by themselves.

Red Currant Financiers (adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Desserts)

60 gm butter, unsalted
120 gm sugar
120 gm almond meal (ground almond)
60 gm red currants
3 medium egg whites

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan on low heat until it becomes a light brown in color.
2. Remove the saucepan from heat and let it stand for a few minutes.  Pour the melted butter into a bowl and discard the milky solids. 
3. Cool the butter to room temperature.  It should be runny and not solid.
4. In a bowl, combine the sugar, almond meal, and flour.
5. In a stand mixer, beat the egg whites on slow speed for 5 minutes.
6. Stir in the melted butter.
7. Beat in the sugar, almond meal, and flour.
8. Transfer the batter to a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and leave it in the fridge for 24 hours.
9. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
10. Combine the currants with the batter.
11. Line a 12-hole mini-muffin pan with paper liners.
12. Dive the batter evenly and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry.  Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool completely.

Cherry Tomato Salad

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tomato is in season right now and abundant at the farmer’s market.   

One of my favorite things to make is a tomato salad.   

I threw together some cherry tomatoes and basil leaves, and dressed them with a balsamic vinaigrette.   

I used cherry tomatoes, but you can use any tomatoes.  Heirloom tomatoes would make a wonderful salad.   

I have been eating this a few times a week.  It’s my go to salad.  Not a lot of prep work needed.  No fuss.  Very simple but refreshing.  And calorie friendly.

Cherry Tomato Salad      

2 cups of cherry tomatoes
¼ cup basil leaves
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsps honey
a pinch of salt

1. Wash the tomatoes and halve them if they are on the larger side.
2. Wash and chop the basil leaves.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey, and salt.
4. Place the tomatoes and basil leaves in a serving bowl, drizzle with vinaigrette, and toss.

Picture of the day: the brick wall

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

I love the colors of this wall.  The colors are a bit muted but still gorgeous.