Caramels

Caramel Apple Piñon Ice Cream

If you recall, I proclaimed my love for the piñon previously, in my recipe for Banana Piñon Muffins. So it may come as no surprise that my second recipe on this blog has piñons in it. The next one probably won’t, but really I can make no promises.

This recipe started out with a simple idea:

It’s summer! Let’s make ice cream!

I love making ice cream. I have a nifty little countertop no-ice-required ice cream maker, so it’s pretty easy.

Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker
Cuisinart Countertop Super-easy Ice Cream Maker. No ice or rock salt required.

Plus, it’s fun to try out new things! I knew immediately that I didn’t want to just make vanilla or chocolate ice cream. I LOVE those two flavors, but you can get them at any grocery store, and I’m probably not going to do any better than, say, Haagen Dazs, who has their recipes pretty dialed in. I wanted to do something unique. Something with a hint of FALL and a hint of NEW MEXICO.

Caramel + Apple + Piñon = ALL THE THINGS

Caramel Apple Piñon Ice Cream
Homemade Caramel Apple Piñon Ice Cream

INGREDIENTS:

2  1/3 c heavy cream, plus 1/4 – 1/2 c for melting caramels
2  1/3 c whole milk
3 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1  c sugar
1/3 c piñons, roasted (see “A Note About Piñons” below)
1/2 c applesauce (I used homemade — see “A Note About Applesauce” below)
Caramels — about 15 little squares

A NOTE ABOUT CARAMEL:

I knew that I didn’t want to make my own caramel. I am a NOVICE in the kitchen, and I was on a deadline (wanted this ice cream for dinner that night), so if I messed up the caramel, it would throw me off schedule. So I grabbed the cheapest bag I could find of the little wrapped caramels and got my daughter to work unwrapping them. I think she only ate about 6 or 7. They worked just fine, but I admit homemade caramel would have been tastier.

Bowl Of Caramels
The individually wrapped caramels are a pain in the butt. But they are easy to melt and they are tasty!

 

METHOD:

This is a traditional custard-based ice cream, so it requires a little planning and working ahead (4+ hours minimum), because you have to make the custard base then let it cool in the fridge before putting in the ice cream maker.

  1. Combine the cream and milk in a medium saucepan. Bring to just a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, then remove from heat.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar in a medium sized mixing bowl. Use a hand mixer (mid speed) to beat until the mixture is thick, smooth, and creamy (about 2 minutes).
  3. Measure out about a cup of the warm milk mixture and, with the hand mixer on low speed, add the milk mixture in a steady stream to the sugar/egg mixture. (Adding it slowly tempers the cream. If you were to add the eggs straight to the hot milk, your eggs would probably cook — egg drop soup style.) You can add another cup of the milk mixture to the eggs in a slow drizzle, just to be safe.
  4. Pour the entirety of the mixing bowl’s contents back into the saucepan and stir to combine.
  5. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon — a few minutes. If you cook this too hot or too long, you will end up with LUMPY CUSTARD (which I will name my punk band some day — I called it). If you end up with LUMPY CUSTARD, see “A Note About Lumpy Custard” below.
  6. Transfer the custard mix to a mixing bowl and let it cool on the counter for a few minutes. Stir in the applesauce until combined. This does not have to be thoroughly blended, because some chunky pockets of applesauce in the ice cream will be pretty tasty.
  7. Melt the caramels in a small saucepan with 1/4 – 1/2 cup of heavy cream, stirring constantly. The more cream you add during the melting process, the thinner the caramel sauce will be. I used about 1/3 cup heavy cream. Once melted, stir the caramel sauce into the custard base.
  8. Cover the mixing bowl with cling wrap and put it  in the fridge until it is completely cooled (a couple of hours at least).
  9. Remove from fridge and freeze according to your ice cream maker’s directions. I use a Cuisinart counter-top ice cream maker. It took about 30 minutes to freeze this to a soft-serve consistency.  When the ice cream is ALMOST frozen to soft-serve consistency, add the piñons then let it go a bit longer.
  10. For a more solid ice cream, you can move the ice cream to a freezable container and leave in the freezer for a couple of hours to harden up.

A NOTE ABOUT PINONS

To roast/toast your piñons: Spread the shelled raw nuts out in an even layer in a dry skillet. Over medium heat, toast the piñons, shaking or stirring them every minute or so to check for color and prevent burning. You want to toast them until they are a nice deep tan color with some darker spots. Once you start to really smell them, they are about done. Remove them from the pan and spread evenly on a plate or paper towel to cool. Add a little salt if desired, then try not to eat them all.

A NOTE ABOUT APPLESAUCE

I bought a bag of “Manager’s Special” apples at the grocery store a while back. They were 99c for about 8 small Golden Delicious apples that were just this side of “iffy.” I was planning to juice them but never got around to it. There they sat, in the fridge, with a few other random old apples, dejected. Until one day I decided that the household needed some applesauce about as much as I needed to clean out the fridge. So I got out the crockpot.

To make chunky applesauce: Chop up all the apples (peels on for laziness). Put them in the crockpot with a little water (I used 1/2 c for about 12 apples). Add some cinnamon, brown sugar, and whatever other applesaucey spices you may have (nutmeg, allspice, etc.) Cook on LOW for 3-5 hours. Check on them now and then so they don’t get too soggy. Once they are cooked down, you can use an immersion blender or potato masher or fork to smash them into applesauce consistency. Add salt, sugar, brown sugar, and/or other spices as needed. This is good hot, cold, plain, as a relish, and of course, added to homemade Caramel Apple Piñon Ice Cream!

A NOTE ABOUT LUMPY CUSTARD

If, after cooking the complete custard base until it coats the back of a spoon (see step 5 above), you end up with LUMPS in the custard, do not worry! I ended up with lumpy custard at this stage, and I was really worried. Had I ruined my ice cream? Did something… curdle? Ick! So I did what anyone would have done. I googled it. The first answer I found was in a cooking forum, and it was, and I QUOTE:

“You gotta strain that shit, son!”

So strain it I did. I pressed the custard mix through a fine sieve and voila! No more lumps. And life made sense again.

Caramel Apple Pinon Ice Cream
Caramel Apple Pinon Ice Cream — make it happen

 

This ice cream was flavorful, decadent, rich, creamy, and awesome. The caramel added a buttery richness to the ice cream base, the piñons gave it a little nutty crunch, and the applesauce made the whole thing taste kind of like apple pie a la mode.

I hope you’ll try it!

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