Oh heyyyyyyyyyy. I’m…sorry.
Yes, consider this your advance apology for the recipe I am about to share with you.
I’m sorry for ruining your diet. I’m sorry for kiboshing your plans to start eating healthier after a summer full of patio beer-drinking and ice cream-eating. I’m sorry for giving you a cold recipe just when the weather is starting to turn cooler (much cooler, if you live in my part of the world) and you’re craving all things warm and toasty. But mostly, I’m sorry for not appreciating the amazingness that is salted caramel a hell of a lot sooner.
I realize that salted caramel everything has been rather trendy for the past while, but in all honesty it didn’t really appeal to me. Sure, I like caramel. And yes, I am a big fan of the salty/sweet combination. But as my wise mama said, “if all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” And so while everyone else was choosing salted caramel ice cream, I was sticking to ye old faithful – chocolate chip cookie dough. Or mint chip. I would not be sucked in by this new salted caramel kid on the block.
But then I came across a recipe for Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream by David Lebovitz. (The word “butter” may or may not have been mostly responsible for capturing my attention). One look at photos of the creamy, deep caramel-colored ice cream dotted with little rivers of gooey caramel was enough to change my tune. It was time to see what all the fuss was about.
And dangggggggg. You trendy foodies know your stuff. (Not that I ever questioned your expertise). I’m tempted to say that this is some of the best ice cream I have ever tasted. Like, ever. My words will not do this ice cream justice. You simply must try it for yourself.
But I couldn’t stop there. Chewy ginger cookies are one of my favorites in the Fall and Winter months due to their spicy flavor profile. I had the sense that ginger cookies with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream smashed between them would be rather epic and I was right. But again, don’t take my word for it.
A couple of notes about these two recipes: First of all, be warned – the ice cream recipe is a bit involved and will take you some time. However, I can promise you that it is worth the effort. Please be careful though, as the salted caramel is as hot as Hades and will hurt (a lot) if you splatter yourself with it. I have a rather sizable war wound from a stray droplet that found its way onto my hand while I was scraping the caramel praline mixture onto the cookie sheet. Ouch! Secondly, both the ice cream and the cookies are lovely on their own. The ice cream tastes magnificent scooped into a sugar cone or a plain ol’ bowl, and the cookies are wonderful with a cup of coffee or tea. In fact, this is my new favorite ginger cookie recipe – the raw cane sugar adds an incredible texture and crunch to the outside of the chewy cookie. So if making the ice cream sandwiches seems like too much all at once, pick one part and have fun with it!
Ginger Cookie and Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sandwiches
For the Salted Caramel Ice Cream (from David Lebovitz)
Makes 1 generous quart.
For the caramel praline (mix-in):
½ cup sugar
For the ice cream:
2 cups whole milk, divided
1½ cups sugar
4 TBSP. salted butter
½ tsp. sea salt
1 cup heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
¾ tsp. vanilla
To make the caramel praline, spread the ½ cup of sugar in an even layer in a medium-sized heavy duty saucepan. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or brush it sparingly with unflavored oil. Heat the sugar over medium heat until the edges begin to melt. Use a heatproof utensil to gently stir the liquefied sugar from the bottom and edges towards the center, until all the sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook, stirring infrequently until the caramel starts smoking and begins to smell like it’s just about to burn (this doesn’t take long). Working quickly, sprinkle in the ¾ teaspoon of salt without stirring, then pour the caramel onto the prepared baking sheet and lift up the baking sheet immediately, tilting and swirling it almost vertically to encourage the caramel to form as thin a layer as possible. Set aside to harden and cool.
To make the ice cream, prepare an ice bath (fill a large bowl about a third full with ice cubes and add a cup or so of water to cause the ice cubes to float). Nest a smaller metal bowl (at least 2 quarts) over the ice, pour 1 cup of the milk into the inner bowl, and rest a mesh strainer on top of it. Spread 1½ cups sugar in the saucepan in an even layer. Cook over moderate heat, until caramelized, using the same method described for the caramel praline. Once caramelized, remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt, until butter is melted, then gradually whisk in the cream, stirring as you go. The caramel may harden and seize, but return it to the heat and continue to stir over low heat until any hard caramel is melted. This happened to me, but be patient! It will become smooth with time. Stir in the second cup of milk.
Whisk the yolks in a small bowl and gradually pour some of the warm caramel mixture over the yolks, stirring constantly. Scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and stir constantly to cook the custard (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture thickens. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read 160-170°F.
Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk set over the ice bath, add the vanilla, then stir frequently until the mixture is cooled down. Cover and refrigerate the mixture overnight. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. While the ice cream is churning, crumble the hardened caramel praline into small pieces. Once your caramel ice cream is churned, quickly stir in the crushed caramel, then spread into a container to chill in the freezer until firm. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the plastic wrap to touch the surface of the ice cream to prevent ice crystals from forming.
For the Ginger Cookies (adapted from A Couple Cooks)
Makes about 24 cookies.
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup raw cane sugar (plus extra, for rolling)
1/2 cup molasses
Enjoy the rest of your week, friends!