Given the choice, I’d choose ice cream over cake any day. And since today is the 119th anniversary of the ice cream sundae, I do believe I’ll celebrate with some. I’ve turned into somewhat of an ice cream snob, however – I’m not typically a fan of small appliances and gadgety things in the kitchen, but I adore my ice cream machine. It cranks out divine ice cream for a fraction of the cost of even the cheap stuff. And why spend those calories on anything but the best? If you’re going to eat ice cream, it may as well be fantastic.
You could start with simply cream sweetened with honey, maple syrup or sugar, or do it properly and make a simple custard to chill and freeze. This burnt sugar ice cream is made with a custard base, made by whisking cream and egg yolks on the stovetop until thickened. The addition of burnt sugar gives it a caramel flavor and color with more of an edge than the usual sugary caramel or butterscotch – it’s like caramel with personality.
Burnt Sugar Ice Cream
adapted (and simplified) from the Martha Stewart Living Cookbook
1 cup + 3 Tbsp. sugar
a few drops of lemon juice (optional-to keep the sugar from crystallizing)
2 cups whipping cream
2 cups whole milk or half & half
6 large egg yolks
Put 1 cup of the sugar into a medium saucepan (one big enough to ultimately accommodate all the ingredients, keeping in mind that the cream will bubble up when you add it) and set it over medium-high heat. If you like, add a few drops of lemon juice – this will help keep the sugar from crystallizing, but it’s not necessary.
Let it sit until the sugar begins to melt, then swirl the pan occasionally, watching carefully so that it doesn’t burn (don’t stir it) until the sugar melts completely and then turns a deep amber. Remove from heat and whisk in the cream – it will sputter and froth, and some of the sugar will solidify – that’s OK. Put the pot back on the heat, turn it down to medium and add the milk or half & half and cook for a few minutes, until the sugar is completely melted. Remove from heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining 3 Tbsp. sugar. Whisk in some of the hot burnt sugar cream, pouring it in a thin stream and whisking vigorously so as to not cook the egg yolks. Add about a quarter of it, then pour the egg yolk mixture back into the pot, pouring and whisking the same way. Put the pot back over medium heat and cook, stirring almost constantly, until it starts to bubble and thicken, and has the texture of thin custard (it should coat the back of a spoon – that is, leave a trail if you run your finger through it). Pour through a fine sieve into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap (I lay it directly on the surface to avoid getting a “skin”), and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
Freeze according to your ice cream machine’s directions. And try to share.