Modified Philadelphia Style Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream

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Original recipe from David Lebovitz. With ideas also from David Lebovitz and Saveur Magazine.

Modifications:

  • Make the larger batch of caramel wet (start with water) to avoid uneven cooking and scorching.
  • Instead of making an egg-based custard base, add 1 1/2 Tablespoons of corn starch and cook into base, gelato-style.

Tips:

  • For hard/dry caramel, do only one pour. Don't mess around with caramel stuck to the pan. Just do one pour and spread it out by tilting the baking tray at extreme angles, wash the pot, and if needed, do it again. The stuff stuck to the pan, unless you stop the cooking with a bowl of ice and water to dunk the pan in, will be busy burning. A second pour from the same pot will make all your caramel taste burnt.
  • Do dry caramel only for small amounts of sugar. A larger amount that piles up in the bottom of the pan can hide scorching caramel underneath. For larger amounts, see the second caramel making step in the recipe (wet caramel, step 7).
  • Let base mixture cool as long as you can in the fridge. For high-cream bases, you want to keep the churning time low to reduce the chance of churning the mixture into butter before it freezes.
  • A soft freeze is just fine. You'll need to somehow layer and mix the dry caramel into the base as you package it up for final freezing in your freezer. So a soft freeze can help you with that.
  • The dry caramel should soften into a caramel sauce while hanging out in and freezing in the wet mix.
  • Use a really big pot. We use a 6 liter saucepan. When you add cream or milk or water to caramelized sugar it really boils hard and can overflow a small pot. It's even better if it's heavy-bottomed, for better heat distribution.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar turned into caramel per David Lebovitz's instructions. (probably about 1/3 cup after cooking/prepping)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (for caramel)
  • 2 - 3 cups cream
  • (If only 2 cups cream, 1 cup milk - we did 2 1/2 cups cream and 1/2 cup milk)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter, cubed
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon corn starch

Method:

  1. Make the caramel praline. Spread the 1/2 cup of sugar to an even layer in the pot.
  2. Line a baking tray with a Silpat or lightly grease with unflavored oil.
  3. Heat the sugar over medium heat until the edges start to melt. Stir with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon (mixture should be around 350F) from the edges toward the center, until all sugar has melted. If there are small lumps, don't worry about it. Stir until the caramel starts smoking and begins to smell like it may burn (1-2 minutes).
  4. When it's the right color (read Lebovitz's recipe/method on that), immediately sprinkle in the 3/4 teaspoon salt, don't stir, and pour out the caramel onto the baking tray. Focus on tilting and swirling the tray to encourage the caramel to be as thin as possible while cooling, and don't worry about scraping or saving caramel from the pot sides.
  5. When cool, crumble this praline and set aside. Later you'll mix it into the ice cream after it's semi frozen.
  6. Prepare the corn starch slurry. If using milk, mix the corn starch into the milk to form a slurry. If not using milk, use some of your cream (slurry making is tricky with cream) or just a little water. Set aside for later use.
  7. Make a wet caramel. To do this, add a few tablespoons of water (no more than 1/4 cup) to your 1 cup sugar and mix. The sugar should be the texture of wet sand. Heat at medium, but do not stir. The reason we're doing wet caramel this time is that heat transfer is better for larger quantities of sugar with a little water in it - it helps avoid the scorching that you might have just working with dry molten sugar. That said, because of the water in the mix, we don't stir until all the water's gone to try to avoid crystallization in this super saturated solution. Cook until the caramel browns. If the color is very non-uniform, you may want to pick up the pot and swirl.
  8. When the wet caramel reaches the desired color, stop the cooking by quickly removing from heat adding the diced butter. Be careful, the sudden temperature change can spit and bubble. The butter should melt in an instant. Stir with a heatproof utensil. Add cream, which will also boil furiously.
  9. Stir the corn starch slurry and whisk it into the mixture. Put the pot back on heat and, stirring, bring it to just under or just boiling. At 205F, the corn starch will gel. Take off heat, package up and chill overnight in a fridge.
  10. Freeze the mixture according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  11. As you package up the ice cream to hard freeze in the freezer, layer it with the dry caramel you made at first, and mix it in. As the ice cream freezes, the dry caramel will soften into a sauce.