Thursday, March 10, 2011

Burnt caramel butter ice cream

First published Canberra Times 9 March 2011

Photo by Steve Shanahan
 If you’re planning a trip to Paris and you’re an ice cream lover, make sure you include the Berthillon luxury ice creamery on your list of must-do’s. Berthillon’s is located on the Ile St Louis and is well-patronised by locals and visitors, with aficionados lining the footpath to eagerly wrap their tongues around their exquisite, creamy ice glacés. They use only natural ingredients, specialising in custard-based glacés, with milk, cream, sugar and eggs.

As good as Berthillon is, you don’t actually have to go to Paris to have good ice cream. You could go to Italy, or you can make a burnt-caramel butter ice cream that will rival any of the best ice creameries in the world.

Don’t be put off if you don’t own an ice cream machine, because you can easily break up the ice crystals by hand and the result will still be deliciously creamy. People have been making ice cream by hand for many years still with fabulous results. I have included instructions for making this ice cream with or without a machine.

Because of the addition of the praline, this recipe does not freeze rock-hard, but retains a creamy silkiness that’s perfect with poached fruit or a fruit based cake. I made this ice cream to accompany a Jewish Apple Cake (see recipe on blog) for Steve’s birthday.

A couple of tips - as crazy as it sounds, you need to take the caramel up to a burnt stage to get the intensity of flavour that is the signature of this ice cream. The recipe calls for sea salt, make sure you use good quality sea salt flakes rather than table salt, which is too harsh. Adding chopped peanuts to the mixture conjures memories of eating scorched peanut bars, but I don’t like to fiddle too much with the flavours, as the balance is just perfect as it is. You can make the custard base and the caramel the day before, storing the praline in an airtight container out of the fridge and the custard in the fridge to chill for at least 8 hours before churning.

Ice cream custard

1 cup of heavy cream
2 cups of whole milk, divided into 1 cup each
1 ½ cups castor sugar
60g salted butter
½ tspn sea salt flakes
5 large egg yolks
¾ tspn vanilla extract


½ cup castor sugar
¾ tspn sea salt flakes

Firstly make the caramel praline, spread the ½ cup of sugar evenly in a medium sized, heavy based saucepan. Line a baking tray with a silicone baking mat or spray lightly with vegetable oil.

Heat the sugar over moderate heat until the edges begin to melt. Use a heatproof utensil, such as a silicone spatula, to gently stir the liquefied sugar from the bottom and edges, scraping towards the centre and stirring till all the sugar is dissolved. Some lumps may be visible at this stage, these will melt in later.

Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the caramel starts smoking and begins to smell like it’s just about to burn. This does not take long, only a few minutes. At this stage, the colour of the caramel will be dark-copper like an old penny.

Working quickly, sprinkle in the ¾ teaspoon of salt flakes without stirring, then immediately pour the caramel onto the prepared baking sheet, tipping and tilting to form as thin a layer as possible. Set aside to cool and harden. When completely cool, break up and store until needed in an airtight container.

To make the ice cream, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl about a third full with ice cubes and adding a cup of cold water so they’re floating. Nest a smaller metal bowl over the ice and pour 1 cup of the divided milk into the inner bowl. Set aside.

Again, spread 1½ cups sugar in the saucepan in an even layer. Cook over moderate heat until caramelised, using the same method as for the praline above. When the mixture has reached the copper colour stage, remove from the heat. Stir in the butter and salt flakes until the butter is melted, then gradually whisk in the cream, stirring gently. The caramel may spit at this stage. The caramel may harden and seize a little at this point, return to the heat and continue to stir over low heat until any hard caramel is melted. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of the divided milk.

Whisk the yolks in a small bowl and gradually pour a thin stream, about a ¼ cup, of the warm caramel mixture over the yolks, stirring constantly so as not to cook the yolks. Scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and cook the custard on a medium heat using a heatproof utensil, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. If using a thermometer, it should read 71 to 77C.

Pour the custard into the chilled milk set over the ice bath, add the vanilla, then stir until the mixture is cooled.

If mixing by hand, the intention is to break up any ice crystals as they form. Freeze a deep sided dish for an hour or so before you need it. Pour the cooled custard into the frozen dish and return to the freezer for about 1 hour or until the mixture starts to freeze at the sides of the dish. Remove and break up vigorously with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon and return to the freezer. You could even use a stick blender to mix. Do this every 30 minutes for 3 hours.

If using a machine, refrigerate the custard for at least 8 hours before churning. Churn the mixture according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

When the ice cream is mixed or churned add in the crushed praline then chill in the freezer until firm. The praline will liquefy and become runny and gooey. Serve with poached fruit or cake. Adapted from the Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.