The truth about how J and I met is kind of boring, so we usually make something up when people ask us. For a long time we used to say that we’d met in an internet chat room, back when that sounded scandalous, but now everyone meets online and we have to be more creative. We met underwater off the Great Barrier Reef? We were seated side by side for jury duty in small claims court? We both worked at Baskin Robbins in high school?
That last one is true, actually, although the establishments in question were thousands of miles apart. But it proves an important point: we have a long history with ice cream around here.
So I am well-qualified to tell you that this one is outstanding. I already sang its praises here, but I feel wrong depriving you of this recipe for Seattle’s iconic ice cream flavor from Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream. Especially since, get this, you don’t need an ice cream maker to make it. Some magic having to do with the salt and the cream keeps the texture sublime, even if you make it with a pan and fork instead (directions below). If you do have an ice cream maker, you can save yourself a few minutes of stirring. Either way, this recipe will make your summer better. And probably the entire rest of your life.Salted Caramel Ice Cream: First, be brave, make your caramel. Line up your ingredients next to the stove: 1 1/2 c. sugar, 1 Tb. butter, 3 c. heavy cream, and 1 c. whole milk. (You’ll also need kosher salt to add later.) Put 1/8 tsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice in a light-colored, heavy-bottomed pot and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the sugar ¼ c. at a time, stirring each addition with a wooden spoon until it dissolves completely into liquid. (Some of the sugar may crystalize on the side of your pot, just ignore it.) When all the sugar is added and dissolved, continue to cook, watching like a hawk and stirring occasionally for about 4-6 minutes. During this time, the sugar will caramelize and the color will change from a light golden to a dark amber hue (it may also begin to smoke a bit). Use your eyes, nose, and good sense to decide when you have achieved a dark-but-not-burnt caramel, and immediately lower the heat to medium-low as you trade your wooden spoon for a whisk and whisk in the butter.
When the butter has melted, begin to add the cream and milk verrrry sloooowly. Seriously, slowly. The caramel will steam and bubble and some hard little caramel lumps may form. No worries, keep whisking, be patient, let them dissolve. When the mixture is smooth, remove it from the heat. Pour it into a shallow pan and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least an hour.
Remove the cold creamy pan of deliciousness from the refrigerator and whisk in 1 Tb. (yes, 1 Tb.) kosher salt. Process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions (I churned mine longer than a usual batch, about 35 minutes, because the salt makes this ice cream so soft). Or if you don’t have an ice cream maker (or if it’s busy churning another flavor already), leave the mixture in the pan and transfer the pan to the freezer. If you’re going the no-ice-cream maker route, stir the mixture thoroughly with a fork every half hour or so until the entire pan of ice cream is a uniform texture (at first it will freeze around the edges, then you will stir it up, then it will freeze around the edges again, etc.).
When your ice cream is ready (it will still be quite soft), transfer it to a sealed freezer container and freeze at least four hours before serving. This ice cream never freezes very hard because of the salt content, so plan to serve and eat it quickly!
Note 1: I thought that the saltiness of this ice cream was perfect. If you find the finished product too salty-tasting, however, serve it over a rich brownie or under a blanket of hot fudge. Now it’s perfect, right?
Note 2: This magic no-ice-cream-maker method works better with this recipe than with others I’ve tried it with. Just a heads up in case you plan to use this method with other recipes: it always works, but usually the texture of ice cream made with the fork-and-pan system is icier/grainer than ice cream made with an ice cream maker. With this recipe, however, the results were indistinguishable.