Ice cream became magical. Special.
After Sophie was born, when we weren’t sleeping, weren’t going out anywhere, and were just beginning to face all Sophie’s health challenges, I was really struggling emotionally. Things were stressful and hard and as deeply and whole-heartedly as we loved Sophie, we were struggling. One afternoon, Michael sent me to the store by myself. I was afraid of leaving Sophie at home, not because I didn’t trust Michael to take care of her, but because I hadn’t ever left her before. It was my first time going anywhere by myself since her birth, and I walked down the grocery store aisles lost, not quite sure what to do with myself.
At one point, I felt cold and realized I was surrounded by frozen foods. Inspiration struck and I chose a few different flavors of the premium ice cream so we could have a date night at home. I chose the fancy kind that costs too much and comes in containers too small. Chocolate-hazelnut gelato, raspberry sorbet, and pistachio ice cream. After tucking Sophie in bed, we sat on the couch, exhausted, eating ice cream out of the containers with spoons.
And then the ice cream did something magical. As our spoons scraped dully against the ice cream containers, we started to feel more like ourselves. We traded containers and talked and laughed and let out a lot of our stress and frustrations. By the end of our date that night, we felt better and closer. Months later, when we felt more like ourselves and had Sophie’s health concerns under control, ice cream had become a date night staple.
Our current favorite is salted caramel truffle ice cream (yes, it’s as good as it sounds). If you’ve never tried salted caramel, it’s to die for! The salt balances the sweetness of the caramel and turns a good thing into a better thing. We tried making our own to top our dulce de leche brownies with, and it was spectacular.
While most homemade ice cream does best when it’s only been frozen a few hours, the caramel in the ice cream will keep it soft, so this needs several hours to freeze and harden, so I recommend making it in the morning before you plan on eating it for dessert, or you can even make it the day before you plan on eating it. The caramel can be made 2-3 days ahead of time and the custard can be made the day before you plan on churning and freezing it.
- 6 Tbsp butter
- ¾c sugar
- 1c cream
- 1tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2½c cream
- ⅔c sugar
- 4 eggs
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tsp vanilla
- Melt butter in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Stir in sugar and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring regularly until golden brown (it should be a little darker than peanut butter). Remove from heat.
- Stir in half of the cream (be careful–this can cause the caramel to bubble and sputter). Stir in the remaining cream, salt, and vanilla. Your caramel may have seized (mine did) and clumped up. Don’t panic, it’s still okay. If you have any lumps remaining, return pan to very low heat and stir until smooth. If there are any remaining small clumps, you can seive them out.
- You should have about 1¼c caramel. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- In a large saucepan, combine cream and sugar. Heat to a simmer over medium heat.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and salt. Whisk about ½c of the cream mixture into the egg mixture to temper the eggs. Continue whisking, and pour in the remaining cream mixture in small increments.
- Pour the custard back into the large saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until thickened slightly. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely cooled.
- When custard is chilled, pour into an ice cream mixer and process according to manufacturer’s directions (for my Cuisinart, I churned the ice cream for 30 minutes). Pour ice cream into a freezer-safe container and pour salted caramel over all. Swirl caramel into the ice cream with a butter knife. Cover and freeze at least 3 hours, or until firm.
- Makes about 1¼ quarts.
Salted Butter Caramel recipe adapted from David Lebovitz. Ice cream recipe my own.