Dessert

Enjoying the so-called ice cream.

From a dessert standpoint, we’re kind of a strange household. I don’t really care about sugar. If it were up to me, the dessert menu in restaurants would include pommes soufflés, pommes gaufrettes, frico, and other savory potato- and cheese-based delights. My husband has simple tastes in dessert and would choose ice cream above any other creation, much to the chagrin of pastry chefs everywhere.

Luckily, ice cream is amenable to all kinds of flavoring, including bitter and smoke aromas. The parlor favorite, coffee ice cream, is a classic example – bitter coffee turned smooth and mellow with the addition of cold cream. I wanted to achieve the same effect with burnt sugar – not the milky sweet caramel of dulce de leche or the sticky caramel ribbons of supermarket pints, but an ice cream in which I could detect a bitter edge beneath the custard and vanilla. Enough bitterness to keep things interesting.

This burnt sugar ice cream is the result. Sugar caramelizes in a pan, and just before the point of no return, the caramelization process stops with the addition of cold cream. The mixture sputters and seizes; it seems nothing delicious possibly could result. Keep whisking – the stiff lump of caramel will dissolve into the warm cream.

Burnt Sugar Ice Cream

Chemically speaking, caramelization is the oxidation of sugar. Culinarily speaking, caramelization is remarkable because sugar – normally sucrose, a one-dimensional, bland, purely sweet substance – gains complex, nutty, toasty flavors and aromas, merely through the application of heat.

The process, once it starts, happens in an instant. Sugar melts and bubbles, turns golden, and, if unattended, dehydrates to carbon and smoke, beyond redemption, inedible. So when you make this ice cream, watch the sugar carefully and never leave the pan. Have your chilled cream ready – once the sugar turns to gold, and then to mahogany, it can blacken in the time it takes to measure the right amount.

1 1/4 c superfine sugar
1/4 c water
2 c milk
1 1/4 c heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1 tbsp superfine sugar
5 egg yolks
large pinch salt
Halen Môn smoked salt

Combine milk and cream. In stand mixer, beat yolks, 1 tbsp sugar, and salt until thick and lemony ribbons form.

Combine sugar and water in heavy 3qt pan; bring to a boil over low heat. Brush edges of pan to avoid crystallization as needed. Once sugar syrup boils, reduce heat and whisk occasionally until syrup turns golden. Monitor closely.

As syrup turns dark brown, add milk and cream all in one, whisking continuously. Caramel will dissolve. Add vanilla seeds and pod; bring to a simmer.

Temper about 1 c milk/ with yolk/sugar mixture and whisk slowly back into the milk. Return to simmer. Cook custard to 180F until mixture coats back of spoon.

Cool in bain marie. Strain through fine chinois into ice cream maker. Process and freeze hard. Garnish scoops or quenelles of ice cream with smoked salt.

Burnt sugar ice cream

Single Malt Scotch Ice Cream

Bitterness adds interest to sweet ice cream, and so does smoke. Try something peaty and smoky, like Laphroiag, Ardbeg, Lagavulin, or Macallan. And if you want to pair a drink with your dessert, consider a complementary Scotch.

The quality of the vanilla you choose does make a difference. Don’t use vanilla extract. You may think that, because this ice cream already contains alcohol, no one’s going to notice, but you’ll know, and you’ll be sorry. You’re already going to the trouble to use fresh heavy cream, top quality eggs, and single malt Scotch. Why skimp on the vanilla? I recommend the top quality vanilla beans from Madagascar or Tahiti, available from The Spice House.

1 c + 2 tbsp superfine sugar
2 c milk
1 1/4 c heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, scraped
5 egg yolks
large pinch salt
1/4 c single malt scotch

Combine milk and cream. In stand mixer, beat yolks, sugar, and salt until thick and lemony ribbons form.

Heat milk and cream with vanilla seeds and pod; bring to 180F and steep 10 mins. Strain.

Temper about 1 c milk/ with yolk/sugar mixture and whisk slowly back into the milk. Return to simmer. Cook custard to 180F until mixture coats back of spoon.

Cool in bain marie. Strain through fine chinois into ice cream maker. Process, adding scotch halfway through. Freeze hard.

Lagavulin ice cream

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3 thoughts on “Enjoying the so-called ice cream.

  1. Randye says:

    I’m not a fan of Scotch, but I do like bourbon. Do you think a little Maker’s Mark could work instead?

  2. eatingthrough says:

    oh dear gawd, burnt sugar ice cream is exactly what I was craving this afternoon. I thought I’d made it up in my head. Thank you, thank you!

  3. Randye, you certainly could use Maker’s or another bourbon. The results will be sweeter than Scotch ice cream, though, so consider reducing the sugar by about 2 tbsp.

    We bourbon-drinking chicks have to stick together!

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