salted caramel ice cream

Salted. Caramel. Ice cream.

This is the reason you wait in a line that goes out the door and around the corner for a scoop of ice cream. This is how you get hooked on Bi-Rite Creamery.

Bi-Rite Creamery just released Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones, a collection of their most beloved ice creams and sweet treats. I have a few favorites, like brown sugar ice cream with a ginger-caramel swirl, and malted vanilla ice cream with peanut brittle. But because I am a purist, I had to go for the salted caramel first.

This is surprisingly easy to make. It starts with a dry caramel, which is then incorporated into the ice cream base. And then the whole thing goes into the ice cream machine, and POW! You’ve got the richest, deepest caramel-flavored bowl of frozen heaven. It’s all at once sweet and salty and just a tad bitter. And oh so creamy. Give it a go if you’ve never been to Bi-Rite. Then you’ll know what all the fuss is about.

salted caramel ice cream

from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones by Kris Hoogerhyde and Anne Walker

makes about one quart

1-3/4 cups heavy cream, at room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup 1% or 2% milk

1 teaspoon kosher salt

5 large egg yolks

for the caramel:

Set the cream by the stove so it’s at hand when you need it. Measure out 1/2 cup of the sugar and set near the stove; you’ll use this for the caramel (the rest will go with the yolks). Put 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a heavy nonreactive saucepan  and put the pan over medium-high heat. When the sugar is melted around the edges and starts to turn amber in places (about 2 minutes), stir the mixture gently and add another 2 tablespoons sugar to the pan.

Continue to add what remains of the 1/2 cup of sugar 2 tablespoons at a time, stirring frequently and allowing most of the sugar to melt before you add more. Watch carefully as the sugar darkens, stirring gently to help it melt evenly.

When the caramel becomes a dark mahogany color, remove the pan from the heat and immediately but slowly pour the cream into the pan. (The mixture will steam and bubble up, so wear oven mitts and be very careful to avoid splatters and steam burns.) When the bubbling subsides, gently stir to completely blend the cream into the caramel. If you have lumps of hardened caramel in your pan, simply put the pan over low heat and stir until the caramel is melted.

for the base:

Once the caramel is completely smooth, stir in the milk along with the salt and put the pan over medium-high heat. When the mixture approaches a bare simmer, reduce the heat to medium.

In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks just to break them up, then whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Set aside.

Carefully scoop out about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture and, whisking the eggs constantly, add the cream to the bowl with the egg yolks. Repeat, adding another 1/2 cup of the hot cream to the bowl with the yolks. Using a heatproof rubber spatula, stir the cream in the saucepan as you slowly pour the egg-and-cream mixture from the bowl into the pan.

Cook the mixture carefully over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, coats the back of a spatula, and holds a clear path when you run your finger across the spatula, 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Strain the base through a fine mesh strainer into a clean container. Set the container into an ice-water bath, wash your spatula, and use it to stir  the base occasionally until it is cool. Remove the container from  the ice-water bath, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the base for at least 2 hours or overnight.

freeze the ice cream:

When the base is completely chilled, freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. While the ice cream is churning, put the container you’ll use to store the ice cream into the freezer. Enjoy right away, or for a firmer ice cream, transfer to the chilled container and freeze for at least 4 hours.

Note: This ice cream has a much softer consistency than other ice creams due to its higher sugar content. As a result it does not work well with ice cream cakes and pies.