Vanilla Salted Caramel Ice Cream

As you may have recalled from this post for a pistachio semifreddo I made, my very, very favorite kitchen gadget -- beating out my creme brulee torch and even my fancy mini food processor -- is my trusty ice cream maker. My ice cream maker, heavy and difficult to transport as it is, lives in Rhode Island. I live in Rome. You see the problem. 

Since I don't get to churn out vast quantities of ice cream in all different flavors like I used to, the ice cream that I do make when I'm home every summer has to be really good. I have no patience for ice cream that is flavorless, ice-y, or just so-so, no time for anything that is less than smooth, rich, frozen perfection. And how does one ensure such excellence, when cooking and baking always leaves room for error, you might ask?! The answer: for consistently impeccable ice cream (plus gelato, sorbet, sherbet, and granita) I look no further than "The Perfect Scoop," by David Lebovitz, which contains 73 foolproof, superb ice cream recipes, from milk chocolate to green tea, peach to basil, raspberry to white chocolate, plus everything you would ever need to know about ice cream making. A David Lebovitz ice cream recipe is like Simone Biles floor routine, or Michael Phelps's butterfly stroke; it's a sure thing, a guaranteed win, consistently great (can you tell I miss the Olympics?!) 

Given the awesome, extensive selection of recipes in the book I was torn as to what to make -- tiramisu ice cream? cheesecake ice cream? stracciatella ice cream? -- but after much contemplation decided to make the Philadelphia-style vanilla ice cream, combining it with a batch of David's salted caramel sauce. And thus this Vanilla Salted Caramel Ice Cream was born, which is not just good, but crazy good, careful-or-you-might-eat-the-whole-batch good, addictive-ly good as only desserts that combine salty and sweet can be (has anyone ever been able to eat only one chocolate covered pretzel, one peanut butter cup?! I rest my case). The ice cream base is thick and creamy and intensely vanilla-y, offset splendidly by generous swirls of salty buttery melt-in-your-mouth caramel, pure frozen summer dessert nirvana that puts any store-bought ice cream to shame (sorry, Ben & Jerry). And okay, wait, I know what you're thinking -- this sure looks great, but homemade ice cream is too difficult/time consuming -- hear me out! Making ice cream yourself is generally super simple, but this vanilla ice cream is even easier than average, as it is made without eggs and only requires a few ingredients that need to be whisked together and refrigerated until cold, then processed in the ice cream maker. The caramel also comes together quickly and is made in just one pot over the stove. Bottom line: this might be one of the best things that has ever come out of my kitchen, and a bowl of this for dessert is exactly how you will want to close out your summer. 

A couple of notes: David uses a vanilla bean in his original recipe (he scrapes the seeds into the cream and sugar in the first step). I didn't have one on hand and they tend to be on the expensive side anyways, so I just upped the quantity of vanilla extract from 3/4 of a teaspoon to 1 teaspoon. If you are using the vanilla bean, keep it at 3/4 of a teaspoon. I used 1 cup milk and 2 cups cream here, but feel free to use 3 cups of cream and leave the milk out all together; the ice cream is great both ways. Think of the vanilla ice cream as a kind of blank canvas; feel free to replace the caramel with different add-ins to create other flavors of ice cream; chocolate chips, chopped up brownies, chocolate sauce, or M&Ms would work here (or whatever else you can think up). The caramel sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Want to take things really over the top? Sandwich this ice cream between two chocolate chip cookies for the best ice cream sandwich you've ever had, or serve it over a warm brownie to create the most phenomenal ice cream Sundae you'll ever meet. 

Looking for other frozen treats to close your summer out with? How about these Butterscotch Pudding Pops, these Nutella Fudge Pops, this Watermelon Granita, these Raspberry Yogurt Popsicles, or this Chocolate Gelato?

VANILLA SALTED CARAMEL ICE CREAM

Ingredients for the ice cream:
2 cups (500ml) heavy cream 
1 cup (250ml) milk
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
A pinch of salt

Ingredients for the caramel:
6 tablespoons (85 grams) butter
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
1 cup (250ml) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

Directions:
To make the ice cream: In a medium saucepan, heat 1 cup of the cream with the sugar and salt over medium heat and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, the remaining cup of cream (or 2 cups of cream if you've decided to do all cream, no milk) and the vanilla. Whisk the cream and sugar mixture into the milk mixture. Let the ice cream base cool completely and then chill until very cold in the refrigerator.
To make the salted caramel: In a tall saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and let cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar-butter mixture is deep brown. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately and whisk in half of the cream (the mixture will bubble up furiously, so it's important to use a pan with high sides here -- it's a good idea to wear and oven-met during this process). Whisk everything together until smooth and then whisk in the remaining cream, vanilla, and salt. If there are any lumps of caramel, whisk the sauce over low heat until they're dissolved. Let cool completely and then refrigerate in a small container.
Once the ice cream base is completely cold, process it in you ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Put a layer of the ice cream (which will be very soft, like soft-serve) in a container (I usually use a tupperware container). Layer it with a good layer of salted caramel and swirl with a knife to combine with the ice cream. Cover the salted caramel with another layer of ice cream, and drizzle with more salted caramel. You will not use all of the salted caramel -- keep some to serve over the ice cream or for another use. Freeze the ice cream until solid (at least four hours) and then serve. Makes 1 quart, serving 8-10. 

Very slightly adapted from "The Perfect Scoop" by David Lebovitz.

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