Brown Butter Bourbon Salted Caramel Ice Cream

When a good friend loans you an ice cream maker for your birthday, you take advantage of it. Or at least I do. In the past week, I’ve made three different varieties, and I’m hoping to make a few more before Monday, when I return it. The three flavors I’ve made so far are 1. Guinness milk chocolate (David Lebovitz’s version), 2. Peppermint with crushed peppermint candy and 3. Brown Butter Bourbon Salted Caramel. 

I love Caramel (so much that it gets capitalized). It is easily my most favorite dessert flavor of all time, be it cake, cookies, candy, tarts, pies, sauces, or ice cream. This recipe calls for making your own caramel, which is surprisingly easy, and incorporating it into the custard. It was decadent, rich, velvety and smooth, and someone went so far as to tell me that it was better than Salt & Straw. I’m sure they were just being nice, but I’ll take it. The finished consistency even after being frozen for a few hours was pretty soft-bodied, tasting like a firmer version of soft serve, but it was nowhere near as firm as regular ice cream. The nutty flavor of the brown butter is present but not overpowering, and the bourbon adds the right note to take it over the top. This is so rich and fulfilling that if you choose to accompany it, it should be with plain shortbread.

This recipe is lengthy, but actually surprisingly quick. Be sure to read the ENTIRE recipe first, so you’ll know all the crucial steps and you can be thinking one step ahead. It helps, trust me. Making the caramel and the base took me no more than 30 or 35 minutes, so take the time to read every detail first, and you’ll be in the clear for a fairly simple endeavor.

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(Obviously, this is not my photo because I did not take one. But thanks, Sugarhero.com for capturing the essence of what my soft, luscious ice cream looked like. That was sweet of you.)

Brown Butter Bourbon Salted Caramel Ice Cream
(Yields about 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 quarts)
Special equipment: ice cream maker

For the Caramel: 

1 cup granulated white sugar
1 1/4 cup warmed heavy cream
3 tablespoons brown butter*
1 teaspoon kosher salt or flaked sea salt

For the custard:
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla or bourbon

To make the custard:
(This entire process should take no more than 10 or 15 minutes.)
place a large, 10 inch skillet over medium/low heat. Get all of your ingredients measured out and right beside you for convenience: a heatproof spatula, a fork, the sugar, cream in a liquid measuring cup with a spout, brown butter in a small dish, and salt. Add the 1 cup of sugar in an even layer and stir it with a fork until it begins to melt. When it starts to melt, use a heatproof spatula to start stirring it instead.

As you’re stirring it with a fork, the melting sugar will start to clump up with the dry sugar. Once this starts to happen, let it sit for a few seconds to get more melty. The sugar gets hot enough that the lumps disappear. If you start to see the sugar browning at all, begin stirring it gently again, and once it’s mostly melted, stir it consistently until it’s all melted and is turning a medium-dark rich amber color. At this point, begin streaming in the cream very slowly, but in a steady stream, taking care to stir constantly with the heatproof spatula and making sure that you’re getting the corners of the pan.

Because the cream is warm, it will be less likely to splatter, although the sugar may still start to seize up (this means that the part the cream has touched becomes cooler than the rest and forms a sticky clump. Just keep stirring and it will all be fine. This usually resolves itself within a few seconds but you have to keep streaming the cream in and stirring). When the cream is all added in, turn off the heat. Add the brown butter and salt, stir until combined. Remove the caramel from the pan and into a bowl, and let it cool.

 

To make the custard:
Crack your three eggs into a medium sized bowl that is flat and sturdy on the bottom and lightly whisk them. Get out another large bowl and set a wire mesh strainer over the top. In a sauce pan, combine the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla or bourbon. Place over medium heat. Do not allow this mixture to boil, and stir it frequently, but make sure it is steaming vigorously and is very warm.

When this is sufficiently warmed, transfer it to a 1 quart liquid measuring cup with a spout. Now begin streaming it very, very gradually into the eggs, setting down the measuring cup if you have to, while whisking constantly. (If this is your first time making ice cream or if you are new to cooking, it will help to have a second person assisting you.) Do not let the eggs curdle and make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl. When all of the hot liquid has been streamed into the eggs, transfer the mixture back into the sauce pan and place over medium-low heat. Stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, you will know when the mixture is done when it coats the spatula lightly but the eggs are not curdled.

Scrape the be-Jesus out of the bottom and corners of the pan while you stir…otherwise it will turn into scrambled eggs and that is nasty. Now, pour the mixture through the fine mesh strainer into the large bowl. Remove the strainer, add the caramel. Whisk lightly until the two are combined. Pour the mixture into an airtight container and refrigerate for three to six hours, or place in an ice bath (a metal bowl containing the custard set into another, larger metal bowl containing ice and water) and stir frequently until cool, about 20-30 minutes.

Do all your dishes immediately. Seriously, do them now. Custard is pretty hard to clean off dishes once it has cooled, and it will gunk up your sponge. And that caramel pan…the longer it sits, the more of your life and/or will to live you’ll waste on cleaning it. It will help to fill the caramel pan with water and bring it to a boil. This will loosen any stuck caramelized sugar. When the dishes are dry/washed/put away, relax until the custard is cool. Unless you’re using the ice bath method. Then you can’t relax. You have to keep stirring until the custard is cool. Sorry, but you chose this life.

Once the custard is cool, very cool, (oh and it shall be very cool) freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Et Voila!!

Disclaimer: this ice cream is like meth. Once you eat it, your only true form of happiness will be the other times when you are eating it. Otherwise, you’ll  just be drudging through your days waiting for this ice cream to bring you true bliss.

Notes:

*making Brown Butter: Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until the foam subsides. Continue cooking it, stirring frequently, watching constantly, to make sure that it browns but does not blacken. This should take about 3-7 minutes depending on the heat of your stove. You’ll know the butter is done when it omits a nutty, sweet aroma and the milk solids are browned. 

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