Salted Caramel Ice Cream

When I was 13, my mum took me and my brother to France on holiday. We spent a few days in Paris, and then jumped on an overnight train and woke up in Nice. We stayed in this pink hotel with a pool and a tennis court. There was an American family staying there, with a boy my age who I kind of had a crush on. I asked him where he lived, and he told me he lived in a condominium. I’d never heard of such a thing, and so he explained to me that it’s a building with lots of small houses all together, with a mall and a swimming pool and a movie theatre and tennis courts. It sounded like heaven on earth to my 13-year old brain. A few years later, when we moved to the States, I looked for such a condominium place but never found one. He must have been pulling my 13-year old leg.

One day, on this trip, we popped into Cannes for the day, and wandered around for a bit, eating in cafes, walking along the beach front, and stopping for ice cream. It’s the ice cream I was getting to all along. There was an ice cream place that had about 40 different flavours. It was the most colourful ice cream display I’d ever seen in my life with flavours I’d never even heard of. I pointed to a green one that I was sure would be mint-choc-chip, and the richest darkest looking chocolate I’d ever seen. My cone was massive– not one of those cheap foamy cones but a big wafer cone towering with ice cream that, when I took a bite, wasn’t actually mint-choc-chip at all. It was pistachio. I was gutted.

But I kind of have a thing for ice cream. I mean, who doesn’t. In Glasgow, in the two weeks of summer that we had, we’d go to the park and by the pond was this little boathouse that sold ice creams… a plain vanilla ice cream cone, with a flake stuck in the top and drizzled with raspberry sauce. It’s called a ’99’ in the UK, at least it was back then. I’d walk around the pond licking the ice cream off the cone and my fingers, and then at some point I’d bite the bottom off the cone and suck all the liquid out.

Or in Italy– those gelato stands that quite honestly are more attractive than the piggish men who would wolf-whistle at me and my friends everywhere we went. The gelato was my solace for being treated like an object for 3 weeks. I vowed that before I went back I’d get a breast reduction, but have since decided that no country of pig-like men is going to make me ashamed of my body and I might take some baggier clothes just in case…

And it’s so simple, and elicits such wonderful memories.

And this is my current favourite. I’d already mentioned it before, in a haphazard, this-is-what-you-do-with-leftovers kind of way. But I’ve been working on it weekly, refining both the ingredients and the method. Aforementioned foraging hedgehogs greatly contribute to the need for a constant supply. Well, that and that whenever I go to have a bite it’s all gone.

Please try it before the summer is over. Smooth, creamy caramel, a hint of salt (it’s good for electrolyte balance during the summer– see, it’s a health food). The custard, the cream, the delicious cool sweetness of it all. Add a white wine spritzer, a good friend, and a front stoop and I can’t think of many better ways to spend a hot summer afternoon.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream

makes about 55oz– fills 1 1/2 large yogurt containers 😉

2 cups sugar

7 tb butter

1/2 tbsp sea salt

2 cups cream

6 egg yolks

2 tsp vanilla

4 cups milk

Put the sugar in a heavy-bottomed pan, on medium heat. In about 7 minutes or so, it should start to melt a little. Let it melt, but watch it closely– if it starts to smoke either turn the heat down or take off the heat for a few seconds. Stir it every now and then, until all of it is melted, and a warm caramel colour. Turn off the heat, and add the butter and salt– it will bubble and hiss and make a big fuss, but just stir away and it will calm down. Then slowly add the cream. It might bubble and hiss again. If the cream is too cold and the sugar too hot, it might even solidify some of the sugar. Never fear– this is home-cooking at its best… just turn the heat back on very gently and stir it until it’s all runny again.

Beat the egg yolks in a big bowl, add the vanilla, and add approx half a cup or so of the caramel, and whisk it all together. Add another half cup, and do the same, then pour the whole lot back into the pan, and turn on the heat to medium. Watch it until it starts bubbling a little, then stir it constantly. It will thicken into a custard*, in about 5 minutes. It won’t be a super thick custard, mind you, it will just be significantly thicker than it was before.

Pour back into the big bowl, and pour in the milk. Stir it all together, and then taste it. Add more salt if you want it– I like to sprinkle a little salt over it to serve so I don’t make it too salty.

Refrigerate at least 8 hours, until fully cold– this is really important as the faster it freezes, the smoother it will be. Then proceed as directed on your ice cream maker.

If you don’t have an ice-cream maker, then stick in a tub in the fridge, and stir every hour or so until it’s frozen. It won’t be perfect, but it’ll still be good.

*If you’re doing this with raw milk, then try not to let it bubble at all– I usually keep it on low heat and don’t let it custard-ify quite as much as I would with pasturised milk– no point in wasting all that good bacteria…

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