Sunday, 1 July 2012

Spitting and spurting: home-made caramel frozen cream

This is not ice-cream. It is cream that is frozen but it has no egg yolks, and no darned ice-crystals to battle with whilst trying not to freeze your fingertips to the base of the freezer. So that's an upside, both for those who don't like raw eggs or cryo-emergencies. It still feels like I've committed a fraud and really shouldn't be calling it ice-cream. Hence the cumbersome frozen cream name. But it is delicious, and once you get the thing in the freezer, it is complete, save the waiting. 

So, making the caramel (this is actually step 4 of the recipe but I wanted to get to the good stuff first). I used a recipe that the author called dry-burn technique. I think this is rather a disingenuous name because if you hit burn then you've overshot. But then dry-melt sounds like an oxymoron. Anyway, the basic premise is very simple. Sugar in pan. Add heat. Look at it.

The amount of sugar to pan diameter meant that I had quite a thick layer so you could see sections of the sugar start to caramelise and then at this point I folded in the surrounding sugar that had not yet started. I had this at quite a low heat as caramelising sugar can be smoky, capricious and death to your pan. 
I hope you are reading this first without having some sugar on the go as I want to point out that there are several preceding stages that you must get done. You may be, like me, someone who will open a recipe book, embark on steps 1-3, have pans boiling and then read step 4 that says 'taken the xxx that has been resting overnight'. Reading recipes to the end is a definite 'good thing to do', like flossing and recycling. So here it is.

Pour 2 cups whole milk into a bowl. Take 2 tablespoons and mix with 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch in a seperate container (I used a I heart NY mug).
Whisk 2 ounces cream cheese with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Remember to take the cream cheese out of the fridge a good 5 mins before you attempt this or all that happens is you skim off the edges of the cold hard cream cheese and spatter them on your front and the surrounding walls. Once again, I used a handheld whisk when really I should have used an electric beater. It seemed such a small amount to use the big proper whisk and the handheld worked, although a non-electric would probably work better and give you less spattering. Oh, and ignore the bowl I used in this picture. It was a terrible choice and I transferred it all to a larger metal mixing bowl.

Mix 1/4 cups heavy cream with 2 tablespoons corn syrup. I used homemade sugar syrup which I have in the fridge for (ahem) cocktail emergencies. This is just sugar melted in boiling water. 

Ok, so now these are all on stand-by, get to your caramel which you make by dry-burning/melting 2/3 cup sugar. Really, it was just a case of pouring the sugar into the pan, turning on the heat and watching it until you start to see the dark caramel at the edges, then fold in the unmelted sugar.
Once all the sugar is combined, take off the heat and add a small pour of the cream/syrup mix. It may pop and spit a bit so stir stir stir. Add some more cream/syrup, stir, add more cream/syrup, stir, until all added.

Return to the heat, pour in the milk and bring up to rolling boil, which is my favourite kind of boil as it that nice controlled 'boiling cauldron' type effect.

Keep this up for 5 minutes (bit less is fine) then take off the heat again and whisk in your milk/cornstarch mix (I used a fork as my whisk was busy hanging out with the cream cheese).
Return to the heat, bring up to gentle boil and stir until it thickens slightly (one minute). The thickening was, like the pickle, minimal but definitely thicker than heavy cream if that helps?

Find your mixing bowl with cream cheese, pour in the caramel cream and whisk together. Now. In the recipe I used, there was vanilla essence in the ingredients list but I could not find where it got added. So I added in 2 tablespoons of vanilla essence at this point. I also put in another grind of salt for good measure.

The whole mixture was then put in the sink that was filled with cold water and left to cool. My husband actually has bottles of frozen water in the fridge for his beer making so I used those but I am not about to suggest you go to that level of preparedness. 

This makes about one quart of caramel cream which I poured into a plastic container that we had (from where, I have no idea) but I think a good robust ice cream tub should work as well. And would be thematically consistent. As this recipe needs no stirring to break down crystals then it does not need to be a shallow container I guess (I haven't tested this). We then went out for dinner and three hours later it was set and delicious. 

Adapted from Cooking Channel TV online recipe for Salty Caramel Ice Cream which was itself 'excerpted' from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Briton Bauer.

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