Thursday, July 7, 2011


Ice cream camp, chemistry class, and pastry school. All rolled into one. That was our June.
"Bella," I asked, "do you think it's possible to get sick of ice cream?"

Her eyes widened in horror. "What? WHAT are you talking about?"

She is my little addict. 

And the taste tester.
"Mama," said Dash, "we have to caramelize ALL the sugar next time so it's stronger."

Meet the recipe tester.
I'm Julie McCoy AND the fucking dishwasher. 
(photo by bella)
But I'm not complaining. Really.

And now I give you 18 steps, warnings, tips, links, emotional reactions, general observations, and LOTS of unsolicited advice about parenting and the making of ice cream (caramel in particular).

1. In a bowl, whisk together egg yolks, half and half, and salt. Be brave with the salt. The caramel needs it.

2. Measure out your heavy cream and set it aside. This is the fat that you're going to pour into the caramelized sugar. This is not a time for lowfat substitutions. Half and half or whole milk will curdle.

3. If you're a kid in my kitchen and you're not being safe around caramel, I will swear at you, grab you, or push you out of the way. Sugar doesn't even start to caramelize until around 330° F. Just remember that scary temperature. 330°F.
4. Danger aside, don't let the technical aspects of caramel scare you. In a deep pot, coat the sugar with a big splash of water (water gives you a bit more control). Swirl (by the pot handle) over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the water evaporates. It will boil, thicken, and start to change color. Swirl it a bit more if it's not caramelizing evenly. The burning sugar will smell woody, smoky, sweet. It's ready when it's the shade of Grade B maple syrup (or the color of my Ikea Stockholm coffee table). It will continue to darken even after you remove it from the heat.

5. Carefully pour in the heavy cream.

6. And then stand back.

7. Hitting caramelized sugar with heavy cream brings about quite a reaction. The mixture will rise up, almost overflowing. And then (big relief) it will start to settle back down into a calmer (but still confused) ocean of sugar, curds, and whey. Whisk it vigorously and it will unite into a creamy golden syrup.
8. At this point, Dash has been known to squeal, "Mama, this caramel is un-be-leeeeeeeevable." Caramel makes me feel this way too. It's one of those transformations that astonishes every time. The smell, the heat, the color.

9.  SLOWLY pour the caramel into the egg mixture. This allows the eggs to adjust to the change in temperature without getting stressed out.

10. Pour the mixture back into the original caramel pot (so as not to waste any little drips or drops). 

11. Set aside your whisk and bring out a wooden spoon. Place back on medium heat. And start stirring.

12. Don't walk away.  Or you will have caramel-flavored scrambled eggs.

13. Watch, feel, and smell for the shift in viscosity.

14. As you stir, the thin custard will slap against the sides of the pot like waves against the side of a boat. As it thickens, the gliding spoon will cause the custard to rise up and settle back down without much of a splash. The whirlpools will slow down. 

15. To confirm that it's done, do the drag-your-finger-across-the-back-of-the-wooden-spoon test. It's ready when your finger leaves a lovely lingering trail.

16. Pour the custard through a fine strainer and place in an ice water bath. 
17.  Cool the custard in the fridge for a few hours. Pour the custard into an electric machine. Or hand churn it. Or do David Leibowitz's no-machine method. Whatever works. Scrape finished ice cream into a chilled bowl.

18. Phew.
 "Mama, did you know we're masters of making ice cream?"

"Well, Dashi. We're trying."

Over.  And over. And over. And over again.

feeds 1-6 people

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups half and half
6 egg yolks
big big pinch of salt
a little less than 2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

Measure out heavy cream and set aside.

Whisk together half and half, yolks, and salt. Set aside.

Prepare a water bath. Place fine strainer over a medium-sized bowl. Immerse bottom of medium bowl in a large bowl filled with ice and water.

Place sugar and water in a medium-sized saucepan. Swirl around until all the sugar is wet. Add more water if you need to. Place over medium heat. Don't walk away. Swirl around a bit if it's not caramelizing evenly. Cook until it's almost at desired color (Grade B maple syrup). Remove from heat and carefully pour in the heavy cream. Whisk until it comes together. You might need to place it back on the heat for a minute to dissolve the caramel.

Very slowly whisk the caramel mixture into the egg mixture. Pour combined mixture back into the caramel pan.

Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon until it thickens slightly. It's done when you drag your finger across the back of the wooden spoon and it leaves a trail that stays.

Pour mixture through the fine strainer into the bowl that's over the ice bath. Leave bowl over the ice bath until it's cool. Stir every 10 minutes or so. Place sarah wrap on top surface of custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate custard for several hours. Freeze ice cream according to manufacturer's directions. Freeze for a few hours before serving.


  1. Feeds 1-6 people. That is subtle humor (and realism) at its best.

  2. Thank you Phyllis. What is it with kids and super hot, super burn-y things?!? Every time I open my oven my 18 month old makes a beeline for it.

    I've been reading your blog for a few months now and my husband and I love it. We're avid amateur chefs and bakers and hope to instill all the fun in our children. Many thanks.

  3. Bravo- you nailed it with kids i the kitchen. Amazing. And it looks great too.

  4. Caramel makes my heart beat just a little bit faster too. The Ikea coffee table is the perfect reference. Making caramel is not for the feint of heart, but when you get the perfect degree of caramelization, just stopping short of burned, it's magical.
    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Absolutely fabulous. You have such amazing children in the kitchen. Don't know how you're not peeing your pants half the time...curious hands, curious minds. What a beautiful love for the culinary art

  6. My kids love caramel too - it's magic stuff! This ice cream looks amazing.

  7. Mmmmmm. I have made a lot of ice cream in recent months and 4 batches of caramels in recent weeks, but I have failed to put the two together. Why?! It sounds divine. Thanks to you, I will be rectifying this very soon. Thank you for the recipe. I do not have the 'small child risk factor' in my house, but I will still take your tips into account and it was an amusing read.

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