A tropics-friendly adaptation of David Lebovitz’ stunning version.
For the ice cream custard
2 ½ cups (500 ml) whole milk, divided
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (60 gr) salted butter
½ tsp sea salt as above
1 cup (250 ml) heavy or double cream (use Bulla pure cream if in Singapore)
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (not essence as alcohol content too high)
For the caramel praline (to be churned in at the end)
½ cup caster sugar
¾ teaspoon sea salt, such as Fleur de Sel or Maldon
Salt, sugar, alcohol and fat are all inhibitors to the freezing process and so I played with the ratios just a little. I certainly didn’t want a rock solid ice cream, but I felt that Lebovitz’s (for our climate) was just a little too sweet and a little too soft.
Before you do anything, make sure you have the right kit and that everything is ready. You will need an ice cream machine. One with a bowl that you keep in the freezer (as opposed to a professional, always-ready, freon charged version) is fine. You will need an oven tray lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper greased with canola or corn oil ready to receive the molten sugar.
Make sure that any little people you may have at home are out for an hour or so – playing with boiling sugar is not difficult, but it does require undivided attention.
You will also need; two bowls that rest inside each other (the inner one metal), a further third bowl, a metal sieve, a metal whisk, a silicone or other heat proof spoon, a very large, deep, heavy bottomed saucepan and a sturdy, freezer-proof airtight container for the ice cream to live in.
1.To make the ice cream; make an ice bath by filling a large bowl about a third full with ice cubes and add water so they’re floating. Nest a smaller, inner, metal bowl (but still at least a litre or so deep) sitting in the watery ice, being careful not to let the lower bowl overflow! Pour 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk into the inner bowl, and rest the metal sieve on top of it. Measure out your butter, cream, vanilla, salt and other 1 ½ cups of your milk in easily accessible receptacles. Whisk egg yolks in another separate, large-ish, bowl nearby.
2. Spread 1 cup of caster sugar into a deep, heavy bottomed saucepan in an even layer. Cook over moderate heat, until caramelized, gently stirring with a heatproof spoon (silicone is perfect) as it starts to liquefy.
3. 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 or even seize up a bit, don’t panic, but return it to the heat and continue to stir over low heat until any hard caramel is melted again. Stir in the rest of the milk.
4. Very slowly pour about a third of the caramel mixture over the whisked egg yolks, stirring or whisking as you go. Then slowly scrape the warmed yolks into the saucepan of caramel (still constantly stirring or whisking) and cook the custard gently until the mixture thickens. Make sure you continue stirring and scraping the bottom of the saucepan so do you don’t end up with caramel scrambled eggs. The custard won’t thicken very much, but if using an instant-read thermometer, you should keep cooking until it reads about 160-170 F (71-77 C).
5. 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. Put the mixture in the fridge for about 8 hours, or overnight to ensure it is completely chilled before churning.
6. While your custard is chilling, make the praline. Get your silicone mat onto the oven tray and place nearby. Measure out your ¾ tsp of sea salt and have it close to hand too.
7. Use your large, deep, heavy bottomed saucepan again. Over a low to medium heat, melt the sugar in the pan until the edges begin to melt. Using a heatproof spoon (silicone is perfect) gently stir until all the sugar is melted and going golden.
8. Stir every now and then as the caramel goes darker and just begins to smoke or take on a smell as though it is about to burn. This can take only a few moments so don’t take your eyes off it.
9. Lebovitz tells us at this point to sprinkle on the ¾ tsp of salt – without even pausing to “scratch your nose”, and immediately pour it onto the waiting silicone mat or baking sheet/oven tray. He is right. Don’t even scratch your nose. Lift and tilt the sheet and allow the caramel to spread in as thin a layer as possible and set it aside to harden and cool. If you live in a hot and humid climate; place the tray on a heatproof mat and under the air conditioner or it will become sweaty and soften just about as quickly as it cools and hardens!
10. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
11. While the ice cream is churning, crumble the hardened caramel praline into very little bits, about the size of very large confetti (about ½-inch, or 1 cm). You can use a pestle and mortar or brute force and the end of a rolling pin in a deep bowl.
12. Once your caramel ice cream is churned and thick, quickly stir in the crushed caramel, then chill in the freezer until firm. It is best to leave it overnight if you can bear to wait. The ice cream will never be rock solid, and easy to scoop straight from the freezer, with little liquid pockets of melted salted caramel throughout. Heaven.