Salted butter caramel ice cream ...

ice cream trio
... is in the house. That is, what’s left of it. I made it on Sunday, and it is so incredibly delicious (if I humbly say so myself) it might not last long.

I am a
chocolate girl, by all accounts. I could (and sometimes do) eat it daily. Whenever dessert is offered, I usually pick chocolate. And sometimes I feel slightly shamed when I am in the presence of friends or family who choose fruit pie, raisin cookies or simple scoops of vanilla ice cream, which always seem more grown-up, respectable and healthy than my slice of chocolate cake, chocolate chip scones, ice cream with chocolate sauce, or chocolate malt.

However, this ice cream, with its toasty caramel flavor, tang of precious
fleur de sel and crunchy bits of slightly salty caramel praline, could almost draw me away from the temptation of chocolate. Almost, I say, as I sit here sipping a grande mocha, after having eaten a portion of dark Dove chocolate this afternoon at work. My daily dose.

I don’t remember how I found the
recipe for this frozen dreamfood on David Lebovitz’s scrumptious Web site (which is like a culinary field trip through France), but I knew I had to make it and the sooner the better. As usual, I modified and cheated my way through took a few liberties with the recipe to save time and energy, and still my mods yielded a smooth, creamy, deeply flavorful confection. Only David himself could possibly detect my shortcuts, and I can only hope he would approve.

For the first time in who-knows-how-long I used all the full-fat ingredients that were called for. I did substitute light cream (half-and-half) for heavy cream (the whipping kind). But I used real whole milk, since I could get a two-cup Chug that would leave no leftovers languishing in our fridge. Whole milk is an unknown commodity in our home -- it's skim, 2%, or bust.
I had only three eggs in the house (the recipe calls for four yolks), and was too lazy to go out and get more, so I used three egg yolks and two egg whites. I suspect I could have just thrown the three complete eggs into the mixture and no one would have been the wiser. No need to cheat on the other ingredients, which are as simple as white sugar (carmelized to the brink of a smoking burn), vanilla, and butter -- which melts and bubbles gloriously into the carmelized sugar. Oh the smells in the kitchen! You'll have most of the ingredients on hand already.

This recipe was my excuse to pick up a pricey container of
fleur de sel French sea salt. fleur de sel
I’ve wanted to try this fancy stuff ever since I first read about it, so now I have an 8-oz. jar in my cabinet that should last a good long time. If you spill any, don’t bother throwing a pinch over your left shoulder to keep the devil at bay. At $1.50 per ounce, it’s too dear for superstitious rituals!

Ice cream is pretty easy to put together -- it’s like cooking a custard, then freezing it. You mix ingredients, heat them in a heavy saucepan (gotta cook those eggs and thicken things up), cool the mixture, and pour it into your ice cream freezer. David’s recipe calls for measuring the temperature of the cooked custard, straining the mixture through a fine sieve, cooling it in an ice bath, and chilling it for at least 8 hours or overnight before freezing it. I couldn’t wait that long! I wanted it that night, so I skipped the thermometer step, the straining, and the lengthy cooling process. NOTE: I am not an
entirely reckless cook -- I usually judge how much I can alter a recipe after I’m completely (or at least pretty darned) sure it won’t negatively affect the outcome. I think, when all is said and done, this ice cream can be made using the same method as other ice creams--omitting the fancier steps--and you’ll still be happy with the results.
caramel custard
After many MANY necessary tastes of the creamy, golden brown caramel custard -- to make sure it had the correct proportions of carmelized sugar to salt -- I poured the cooled mixture into the aluminum freezer can, set it into the maker, nestled ice and rock salt all around, plugged in the machine, and went for a bike ride. I have an old Rival “ice cream and yogurt freezer” that I picked up at Target ages ago. It’s noisy, so I place it in a location where it won’t bother anyone for 45 minutes and let it spin merrily away. I used to stick it in the bathroom and close the door.
ice cream maker
You can get a reasonable facsimile for a decent price. Or if you insist on swank, by all means spend more.

When I came back from my bike ride ... voila! Ice cream. Almost. It is like creamy softserve at that point. I stirred in the salted praline, which I had chopped into small bits, and put it into the freezer until completely firm.
caramel praline
We kept ourselves busy with dinner while it froze, then sat on the porch and tucked into the finished deliciousness while fireflies drifted and glowed around us. Oh my! Heavenly, creamy, toasty, crunchy, divine. Thank you, David! I will definitely make this again.