This week's TWD recipe, Burnt Sugar Ice Cream, combines two techniques that have caused me significant angst over the past two years: (1) making caramel, and (2) making custard. I knew this ice cream would be good if I got it right, but the chances of that seemed so remote that I almost skipped it.
My big problem with custard early on was that I didn't have any experience with it, so I really didn't know what it was supposed to look like when it was ready to come off the heat. Therefore, I was overly reliant on my (unreliable) thermometers, which consistently did me wrong. As I failed and failed again, I became an expert on what custard looked like right before the point of failure, so I felt more confident going into this that I would catch it in time and maybe, just maybe, not fail.
My main problem with caramel is that as soon as sugar starts boiling in my house, I think of one hundred other things that I need to be doing. Something about sugar boiling makes me ambitious (to do things other than watch the sugar). This time, I decided that if I needed to glue my feet on the floor in front of the stove, I would not walk away from the boiling sugar.
The next step is to lower the heat and add milk and cream, at which point Dorie warns us that things will get a little wild, what with all the bubbling and seething and hardening of caramel. All of the above did happen, but just as Dorie says it will, the hardened caramel smooths out as you continue to heat and stir. At that point you temper an egg yolk/salt mixture with the warm caramel/milk mixture, add the rest of the caramel/milk to the eggs, return all of it to the pan and cook over medium heat until the custard reaches between 170 and 180 degrees. I knew better than to rely on a thermometer to test for doneness, so I used the "spoon test" (the custard coated the back of a spoon); the "track test" (when I ran my finger down the bowl of the spoon, the custard did not run into the track); and the "instinct denial test" (in which my instincts told me to cook the custard for a few more minutes, and I ignored them).
The results - perfect custard!! Woo hoo!! This ice cream base tasted incredible. I could barely wait for it to chill sufficiently so I could churn it. In fact, I probably churned it a little sooner than I should have - it just couldn't chill fast enough for me.
My husband likes a lot of the desserts I have made, but I think this ice cream might have been his all-time favorite. He just could not take a bite without offering up a new compliment. I bake for praise, so I was all over that. I loved the ice cream too -- I found it to be veeeeeerrrry sweet, so sweet that I added hot fudge to my bowl to cut the sweetness a bit:
You know something is sweet when hot fudge neutralizes the sweetness. Still, this was far and away the best ice cream I've ever made, and possibly the best I've ever tasted. I sure hope that the caramel/custard success wasn't a fluke, because I can't wait to make this again.
Becky of Project Domestication chose the Burnt Sugar Ice Cream. Great pick Becky!