Yeesh. What a mouthful.
It’s been almost two years since we posted anything (oops). I was texting with my cousin Jess yesterday after donating to her daughter’s Jump Rope for Heart campaign, and she kindly reminded me she hadn’t read anything recent from us…
In those many months, I’ve acquired a lot of fun things for the kitchen: a Vitamix (smoothies! tomato soup!), my Le Creuset mini cocottes (French onion soup!), several cheese boards (though cheese rarely lasts long enough around here to actually be displayed on a board). However, my favorite item may actually be the ice cream maker my parents got me for my birthday in January.
Ali & I did a sister date in December at one of Carmela Ice Cream‘s ice cream classes. They have a store around the corner from the apartment that is juuust a long enough walk away that I don’t feel completely guilty once I get there and inevitably order two scoops instead of one. Being from Wisconsin, we had definitely been exposed to “ice cream making” in our youth (a bucket of ice and rock salt, anyone?), but this class was thorough and awesome and taught us the basics of making ice creams and sorbets. My mouth still waters thinking about the cardomom and gingerbread ice cream sandwiches they gave us as samples. Anyways, Ali played the good sister and altered my parents that an ice cream maker would make a fantastic birthday gift for me, and a month later we had a new toy to play with.
My first experiment was a mango papaya chili pepper sorbet, some of which is still in the freezer waiting for a hot weekend so I can cheat and make the world’s easiet spicy margarita. Then, I decided to give up ice cream for Lent and went on a 40 day hiatus. After discussions with a chef friend about his mother’s addiction to popcorn flavored ice cream, I was inspired to go a little crazy and do a caramel corn-inspired version, despite his protests that it would not be “refined.” Let’s be real; I’m from Wisconsin and an ice cream addict. “Refined” is not part of my ice cream vocabulary.
It took me a little searching to find a salted caramel ice cream recipe that sounded good to me. Although I am a pro at making caramels themselves (thanks to Jess, again!), making “caramel” by simply melting sugar always freaks me out a bit. It takes a little getting used to and is one of those things that goes from perfect to disaster in a matter of seconds. I finally settled on this recipe I found on Pinterest, deciding to forego the praline mix-in step in favor of my popcorn.
What I love about Pinterest is the ability to find numerous different recipes for the same item and then pick and choose the pieces of each that suit you best. In this little endeavour, one recipe’s author left the tip to heat your heavy cream to hot hot hot levels before mixing it into your caramel so it would blend easily. That worked like a charm in the recipe I decided to use.
So after making my custard base and letting it chill overnight Friday, I got up early Saturday and made some coffee and set to work. First, I popped the popcorn so it could cool before getting mixed into my ice cream. We have a Crate & Barrel “theater popcorn popper” (a spontaneous purchase so Ali would stop making popcorn in my fancy stainless steel pots), so I heated up just a tiny amount of canola oil in that and then popped a tablespoon of kernels. Yes, a tablespoon. A half cup makes 16 cups of popcorn, and that was simply unnecessary at 7:45 am. Once it was popped, I spread it on some paper toweling and plucked out the unpopped kernels, and sprinkled just a touch of sea salt over the top. Once that was done, I pulled the ice cream base out of the fridge & the bowl out of the freezer and let the ice cream maker do it’s thang for 15 minutes.
This is the “freezing” step of making ice cream. Once it’s done you’re left with a delicious soft serve style treat that could easily be eaten as-is. I may or may not have eaten a serving that didn’t fit in our one quart dishes… It’s also the step during which you add all the delicious mix-ins you can dream up. Cue the popcorn. I folded it in with a spatula and scooped it all into the aforementioned freezer dish (ours are from Amazon & have a nice silicone lid that refuses to stick to your ice cream even if you fill it to the brim). I had toyed with the idea of making a salted caramel sauce to drizzle in as well (find my favorite recipe here), but nixed that mostly out of pure laziness (the three of us agreed upon eating the finished product that it would have been a lovely addition). The last step of the process is “hardening,” so you get that typical hard-pack ice cream we’re all used to at the grocery store. The ice cream goes in the back of the freezer for several hours to overnight and then it’s alllllll readdddy.
Let me tell you, I probably could have eaten this entire quart in one sitting. It is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. The popcorn was a fun, crunchy addition, but just the salted caramel ice cream would be amazing on its own. Now that I’m back on the ice cream train, I’m definitely looking forward to a few more experiments now that the weather is getting nice and hot