Now don't get me wrong, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. The kids love DIY-sundaes, and it gives party guests tons of agency to do what they want with their dessert. I wanted to take my two favorite elements, the ice cream and caramel sauce, and do them at home my way. And let me tell you what, folks, these two fairly simple recipes have lit the pilot light for future exploration in the sundae toppings and construction department, so stay tuned. These two recipes are only the beginning of greater, more decadent confections on the horizon.
Let's start with our ice cream, since it will take the most amount of time:
Batterie de cuisine:
- Small saucepan, heavy grade
- Ice cream maker
- Sieve or other fine strainer
For the ice cream:
- 1 C heavy whipping cream
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/2 C sugar, divided
- 1 C buttermilk
- 1/2 C creme fraiche
- 1 T fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 t salt
Dissolve half the sugar into the cream in a small heavy saucepan and scald. Meanwhile, whisk together remaining sugar and egg yolks in a medium bowl until blended.
Temper the egg yolks by gradually adding the hot cream and sugar mixture and quickly whisking it, a bit at a time. After fully incorporated, add the mixture back into the saucepan and heat on medium-low, stirring constantly.
After about three minutes on heat, the custard should be able to coat the back of a spoon. Remove it from heat and pour through a fine strainer into a clean bowl. This is a crucial step that ensures you won't have any scrambled eggs in your final product, often a by-product of the hot cream and egg tempering process. Cool the custard to room temperature. (This is an essential step! You must wait for the mixture to cool completely before adding the buttermilk, or the buttermilk will curdle.)
When the mixture is around room temperature, whisk in the buttermilk, creme fraiche, lemon juice, and salt. Reserve about a 1/2 C of the custard in a small, freezer-safe bowl. Chill the remaining custard in the refrigerator, covered, anywhere from six hours to overnight. Cover the smaller portion of custard with plastic wrap and place directly into the freezer.
To prepare the custard for the machine, remove both bowls from the refrigerator and freezer. With a small paring knife, dislodge the frozen custard and incorporate into the chilled custard until there is no further evidence of frozen particles. Process mixture in ice cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions. With the self-freezing units like the unit pictured below, I like to leave the machine running for about five minutes before I add the mixture.
Chill in the freezer after processing at least an additional six hours. I've found that chilling the near-frozen, soft serve-like custard in a 9"x9" pan and tightly covering the very top layer with plastic wrap helps in the freezing process. After that anxious six hours, you can transfer your ice cream to a more permanent, sealable vessel. Taking an ice cream out of the machine and freezing it directly in the vessel will result in a rock-hard. icy iced cream that's certainly not appealing in texture.
Serve after a minimum of two additional hours in the freezer and make sure to consume within five days of initial freezing.
Yield: scant 1.5 pints
And now for the sauce!
I wanted to create something inspired by recent rumblings from the food world: the almost yin/yang-ness of salt and sugar harmonized in dessert form. Incarnations of such pairings include chocolate-covered pretzels, bacon chocolate, and salted caramel. I consider these pairings to be some of the most marvelous things on the menus of today's happening restaurants. It's as if somewhere along the paths of Candyland, Princess Lolli met up with her long lost Prince Umami and together they bore a love child.
At any rate, I chose to do a salted caramel sauce adapted from one of my favorite lipid-laden recipe tomes, the aptly-titled Fat, by Jennifer McLagan.
A homemade salted caramel sauce takes only a bit of your time, notwithstanding a certain amount of patience. Remember that when you're dealing with sugar and butter, it takes only a few moments to scorch! (This isn't the time to watch Guy Fieri playing with his squirt bottles while you impatiently wait for sugar to melt)
Batterie de cuisine:
- Small, heavy grade saucepan
- Wooden spoon
For the sauce:
- 3/4 C granulated sugar
- 1/2 C plus 2 T whipping cream, room temperature (the 35% butterfat variety)
- 2/3 C salted butter, diced*
*NB: While Chef McLagan has recommended the use of salted butter to provide the salted flavor for the sauce, I prefer to use unsalted and to add sea salt near the end, to taste. This ensures that you have your own agency in the sauce's nuanced saline profile.
Chop the butter up. Don't worry--it needn't be pretty. It's quite an odd measurement of butter that doesn't fit neatly into the demarcated tablespoon measurements. Consider it to be between 10 1/2 T and 11 T.
Start to heat the sugar on medium-low heat in the saucepan until the sugar is completely melted. This takes practice and constant vigilance. A few, gentle swipes of the spoon will ensure that the sugar more uniformly melts, while too many vigorous schlags will spatter sugar on the side of the saucepan and cause unsightly browning and crystallization. Discretion is the better part of valor, I'll say that much on caramel. Take the sugar off the heat and dip the bottom of the saucepan in cold water to halt the cooking process. Next, add the cream slowly. It will foam and spatter, so add it slowly. Like really slowly. You will be left with a substance similar to the following if you get too excited and add the cream too quickly:
I wish I could explain to you gastronomically what is occurring in the photo. All I can say is that cold cream will quickly harden the sugar syrup, which is busily transferring its heat to the cream. Assuming you did alright with that last step and you began with room-temperature cream, we'll continue by adding in the marvelous quantity of butter which I've evaluated to be completely appropriate for this recipe. (Any stalactites on the whisk can be remedied by low heat and a bit of stirring)
It should resemble Anne Burrell's skin tone to some extent, but a little less orangey. For those that may be unfamiliar with my favorite Food Network star's obsession with the Mystic Spritz, see below:
Once all the butter is melted, you can either sprinkle a few dashes of sea salt to taste or leave it be if you've used salted butter. Allow it to cool a bit before pouring it on the wonderful "cultured" ice cream we made beforehand. The combination of something tart, and something that's both sweet and salty comprise a wonderfully-decadent flavor profile sure to wow any discerning palate.
I hope you've enjoyed this foray into the world of sundaes. You can apply the techniques applied in making homemade ice cream to other flavors as well. Simply remember that the extra time you spend on homemade products will always manifest good things in your life and on your tongue.
Keep it classy, y'all!