Not so long, ago, I actually heard someone utter the words "Salted caramel is so over." It was in line, in an ice cream shop. Referring to one of the most popular flavors.
Well, that just about knocked me off my unicorn. Because seriously, is salted caramel a flavor that can be "over"?
To me, salted caramel is among the ranks of mint chocolate chip, rocky road, or chocolate chip cookie dough. You don't have to like them, but they are going to be on the menu at an ice cream shop.
The fact that salted caramel is a relatively new addition to the ice cream (and baking, and confectionery) roster doesn't seem too important. When it rose in popularity is not as important as the fact that it's not going anywhere; now, it's largely considered a standard flavor.
I think the key to salted caramel's success as an ice cream flavor is that it's a flavor that tastes like it has always been around and that you've always loved it, even if you've never had it before. Nothing in it is new: you've had salt before. You've had caramel before. You've had ice cream before. But somehow, when united in one creamy, scoopable form, the combination is utterly irresistible.
Salted caramel, I believe that you have officially graduated from flavor of the month to forever flavor. And I'm so happy to have you on the menu.
This salted caramel ice cream is a variation of an upcoming recipe for New Mexico Magazine. This is not quite the version I went with for the magazine (that one has some add-ins and slight differences from this recipe--a hint above as to some of that!), but this version really was so delicious that it really, really needed to see the light of day.
Salted Caramel Ice Cream
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup half and half
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- ⅔ cup light brown sugar, packed
- 2 tablespoons water
Configure the supplies you’ll need for cooling your ice cream a few minutes down the line. Place a large bowl in an ice bath. Have a strainer close to the large bowl. Ultimately, you’ll be pouring your ice cream custard into the bowl through the strainer to cool.
Measure the cream and set to the side. It will be a few minutes before you need it again.
Measure the half and half and pour it into a medium sized bowl. Add the egg yolks, vanilla, and salt, and whisk together until combined. Set to the side.
Place the brown sugar and 2 tablespoons water into a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Place over medium heat, shifting the pot by swirling by the handle (rather than stirring with a spoon) as it heats. It will begin to bubble, first at the edges, and then all over. Continue swirling it every now and again, but keep a close eye on the mixture. When it begins to darken (you have to look really closely, because the mixture is already somewhat dark and it will be bubbling), remove from heat.
Off-heat, slowly pour the cream into the brown sugar caramel mixture. Brace yourself: this can be a firecracker of a reaction, complete with hissing and bubbling liquid. Don’t panic: the mixture will quickly begin to level off. Also, don’t panic if you notice hardened lumps of caramel in the mixture. This is normal.
Place the pan back on the burner, on low heat this time. Stir gently but frequently using a whisk, and you’ll notice that any lumps will gradually melt into a golden mixture. Once the mixture is smooth, remove from heat again.
Grab that egg mixture you set to the side. With a whisk at the ready, pour a small amount of the hot mixture into the egg mixture, and whisk constantly while you pour so that the egg mixture can acclimate to the heat and that the eggs don’t scramble. Add the remainder of the mixture in a slow but steady stream, whisking all the while.
Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan (no need to wash in between) and place it back on medium heat. This time, use a wooden spoon to stir until the mixture begins to thicken, five minutes or less. When the mixture has thickened to the point when it sticks to the back of the spoon and drops seem hesitant to drop off of the spoon when lifted, you can remove it from the heat.
Pour the mixture through the strainer and into the bowl perched atop the ice bath. Careful--you don’t want the ice water to slosh into your mixture.
Whisk the mixture every 10 minutes or so until it feels cold. Cover the bowl in plastic and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of three hours, or as long as overnight.
After the cooling period, transfer the ice cream to your ice cream maker and churn the ice cream according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for several hours before enjoying.