Thursday, November 5, 2009

Philadelphia Style Salted Caramel Ice Cream and My Encounter with the Ice Cream Conoisseur

I will be the first to admit that I eat far too much ice cream. It doesn't really matter how balanced my diet is otherwise, it's all counteracted by excessive quantities of frozen deliciousness. I think its mostly about the cold, creamy texture because even though I have my preferences and not-so-subtle opinions, I will happily eat pretty much any flavor. On the other hand, I will only buy Turkey Hill All Natural Recipe. It's the only company I have found with a lower calorie and fat content that contains only cream, skim milk, sugar and real extracts such as vanilla or peppermint (no nasty mint green dye!). That being said, I was more than elated when my mother gave me her old Cuisinart ice cream maker circa 1998. It would allow me to create my own all natural ice creams and not worry about what inedible ingredients are lurking within.

This was over a year ago and my excitement soon died when I realized there would be no space for it in my small apartment. Not willing to part with it for good, I tucked it away in my father's basement with all the other kitchen gadgets I have acquired that are unnecessary for a college student, (think supersize roasting pan that doesn't fit in my tiny oven).

Well this year is a different story. I now have a fairly large house with ample storage space and once again dug out that wonderful machine, (the roaster remains in the basement collecting dust for now).

My original idea was to create fat-free frozen yogurts (think Pinkberry) since there is no such thing in Binghamton. But then one day I came across this Salted Caramel Ice Cream recipe in Gourmet Magazine (R.I.P.). I tucked it away to be churned in the near future and promptly forgot about it. That is until I happend upon this adaption for a Philadelphia style version of this recipe. I prefer Philly style ice creams for a couple reasons. For one thing they are are easier to make since you don't have to fuss with eggs to make a custard, but my main reason is the cholesterol, calorie and fat contents are significantly lower.

Of course, I can never just take a recipe for what it is so I swapped out the heavy cream for half-and-half in both the caramel and the ice cream itself. This worked perfectly for the caramel but once all combined the ice cream was very difficult to freeze. It took a series of churning and freezing and churning again over the course of 2 days to get to a proper (but still slightly soft*) consistancy. After I churned it the final time the texture was good and I returned it to the freezer to harden for a couple hours before serving at my party.

Later that night when I told my friends of the dessert they would be enjoying, my friend Bryan (who got me so addicted to ice cream in the first place) informed me he was going to be very critical of my ice cream since it is his favorite food. Well, ever the confident chef, I smiled smugly and went off to the kitchen to retrieve the ice cream. To my dismay, when I took it out of the freezer I noticed the caramel had slightly separated and sunk to the bottom. Not having time to churn it once more, I smiled brightly, returned to the living room and scooped the ice cream neatly next to thick slices of Apple Bundt Cake. Bryan's first comment was praise for the texture as i scooped, and then for the rich caramel flavor but we all agreed that the separation** caused some ice crystals in the top layer. All in all, It was successful none-the-less and definitly worth working on so try it out and let me know what you think!

*I read in both Gourmet and the Philly style recipe that this ice cream does stay pretty soft and melts especially quickly so I wasn't all that concerned. My best guess is that the caramel changes the freezing point and therefore it never really freezes hard.

**I think a quick fix for this would be to churn it once more just before serving. That should take care of the ice crystals as well

Philly Style Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Makes about 8 servings and goes great with Apple Bundt Cake.

1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
2 1/2 cups half-and-half, divided***
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt such as Maldon
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole milk***

***Next time I think I will take a tip from Turkey Hill and switch the half-and-half for cream and the whole milk for skim milk.

-In a heavy skillet with a light interior, heat 1 cup sugar over medium heat. Stir gently until the sugar starts to melt. When it does, stop stirring but continue to cook the sugar, swirling the skillet occasionally to ensure the sugar melts evenly.
-The caramel is done when it turns dark amber (I tasted just a tiny bit just to check but that's really a bad idea since its EXTREMELY hot).
-Stir in 1 1/4 cups half-and-half. Be careful, the mixture will spatter!
-Continue cooking until all the caramel has dissolved.
-Pour the caramel into a bowl. Add sea salt and vanilla. Allow the caramel to cool to room temperature.

-Meanwhile, bring the milk, the remaining 1 1/4 cups half-and-half, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar just to a boil. Allow to simmer 15 minutes then set aside to cool.
-When both the milk mixture and caramel have cooled to room temperature, remove skin from the milk mixture and stir it into the caramel.

-Refrigerate the mix for or overnight and then pop in the freezer for an hour or two just before churning. You want to churn this when really cold.
-Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. The ice cream will still be soft but should be firm enough to keep its shape when you remove the paddle.
-Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until firm.

Mine was still pretty very thin so i repeated the last two steps until it firmed up some more.

Picture By Katherine Hamilton


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