Jeni's ice cream has long been one of my favorite ice cream shops. They have really creative and always delicious flavors, made with local, high quality ingredients. So, I was delighted when they put out a cookbook so that I could try some of my favorite ice creams in California (Jeni's is based in Ohio, so I only get to enjoy their ice cream when I'm visiting my parents or when my dad is kind enough to send me a box on dry ice!).
The first ice cream I tried is one of my absolute favorites, Salty Caramel. It's got that perfect balance of caramelized sugar and salt, and I often get the version with smoked almonds, called Gravel Road. This time I went for the original, and it definitely did not disappoint! This ice cream tasted pretty much exactly like what you can get in the shop, and it stayed nice and creamy in the freezer, unlike many homemade ice creams. The one flaw was that - although I noticed some lumps in the chilled ice cream base - I failed to strain it before freezing. Although the recipe didn't specify to do so, I really should have known better - it turned out that the cornstarch had gotten a bit lumpy, which made the texture of the ice cream less than amazing at times. I actually ended up forcing the frozen ice cream through a strainer each time I wanted a bowl, which is a huge pain - just strain it before freezing and I promise you'll be much happier! Once strained, though, the ice cream was one of the best ice creams I've ever made...I definitely look forward to trying more recipes from this book!
Salty Caramel Ice Cream (adapted from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home)
Makes about 2 pints
1-1/2 ounces (3 T) softened cream cheese
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1-1/4 cups heavy cream
2 T light corn syrup
2/3 cup white sugar
2 cups whole milk, divided
1 T plus 1 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Mash together the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Set aside.
2. Whisk together the cream and corn syrup in a measuring cup with a spout.
3. Make the caramel. Pour the sugar into a 4-quart saucepan and place over medium heat. Let the sugar melt without stirring until there is a full layer of melted sugar on the bottom of the pot. Then gently use a heat-proof spatula to push the browning edges toward the middle and any un-melted sugar toward the edges. Continue this process until the sugar is completely melted and the color of an old penny. When the sugar begins to bubble and smoke slightly, remove it from the heat.
4. Very carefully pour about 1/4 cup of the cream mixture into the caramel - it is extremely hot, so stand back! Stir until incorporated, and then continue to add the cream a bit at a time, stirring after each addition until it is all incorporated.
5. Mix about 2 T of the milk with the cornstarch to create a slurry and set aside.
6. Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the remaining milk. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.
7. Return the pan to medium-high heat and cook until slightly thickened, stirring with a heatproof spatula, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
8. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese mixture until smooth. Cover tightly, and chill in the refrigerator until completely cold, at least 4 hours and preferably overnight.
9. Pour the ice cream base through a fine mesh strainer, and then process in an ice cream maker until thick and creamy. Serve right away for a soft-serve consistency, or chill in the freezer for about 4 hours for a firmer consistency.