Thursday, September 1, 2011

Creme de la Creme

I love creme brulee, but I don't have many occasions to make it. So imagine my delight when I found this recipe for Creme Brulee Ice Cream with Caramelized Sugar Brittle. It is absolutely, positively delicious (and super rich - 10 egg yolks! 2 cups of cream!). I can't recommend it highly enough. If you like creme brulee, but also want something to cool you down on a hot summer day (and we need it here in Texas these days), this is it - hands down. Here's the recipe, with my notes in italics.

Creme Brulee Ice Cream with Caramelized Sugar Brittle
An original recipe developed by Lindsey Johnson

(Makes approximately 1 1/2 quarts)

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste)
10 egg yolks
3/4 cups sugar
pinch salt

Caramelized Sugar Brittle (optional, recipe follows) (not optional - this is what makes it creme brulee ice cream, instead of French vanilla bean)

Heat cream, milk, and vanilla bean in a saucepan over medium heat until bubbles form around the edges of the pan. (Don't let it come to a boil.) Set aside.

Prepare an ice water bath. (**See below for some tips on this.)

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and salt until light yellow and thick. Remove the vanilla bean. Slowly add the hot milk to the eggs. (Be careful to do it slowly enough so the eggs don't cook. (Very slowly.) Use a paring knife to slice the vanilla bean in half. Use the other side of the knife to scrape out inside of the vanilla bean and add to the hot milk and egg mixture.

Return the mixture to the pan and cook over medium heat until the custard thickens and reaches a temperature of 160 degrees. (Don't let boil or mixture will curdle. Mine reached 160 degrees quite quickly, so pay attention.) Quickly pour the custard through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl and place in the ice water bath to cool the custard. Stir occasionally. When custard is cold, place in the fridge to chill for several hours (I went with this option - fewer ice crystals this way). Or, you can freeze it in your ice cream maker, but it may take more time to freeze and won't freeze as solid.

While the ice cream is in the ice cream maker, make the brittle (see below.)

During the last few minutes of freezing, add the desired amount of brittle shards into the ice cream. (I mixed a few shards of brittle in, but I found it more effective - and easier - to layer the pieces into the container as I poured the finished ice cream in.) Place the finished ice cream in an airtight container and place in the freezer for a few hours to harden.

Serve the ice cream with the remaining pieces of brittle on top.

**You can prepare an ice water bath buy using two nesting bowls. Just make sure that the bowl holding the ice water is large enough to accommodate the bowl with the custard. You want most of the custard bowl to be submerged in ice water so the custard can cool sufficiently. Or you could also fill your kitchen sink with ice and water.

I like to use a large glass bowl to hold the ice and water, and my stainless steel Kitchenaid mixer bowl to hold the custard. The metal gets much colder, much faster than glass.

The colder you let the custard get, the faster it will freeze and the smoother it will be.

Brittle

1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. corn syrup

Oil a jellyroll pan or a pan with sides. Set aside. (Make sure you use a flat pan. Mine was warped and the brittle came out thicker in some spots than others. You want an even, thin layer of brittle.)

Place the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Heat over medium high heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, turn up the heat until the mixture is boiling over the entire surface. Stop stirring. Use a pastry brush and water to wash down the sides of the pan where any sugar crystals have formed.

Continue cooking until the syrup has turned a deep golden amber color. (If you use dark corn syrup, it will be harder to see when the mixture has darkened to that amber color. I tested it by dipping a spoon in it and holding it up to the light.) This can take up to 20 minutes or more. Make sure you don't overcook the syrup or it will be too bitter and burnt.

When it has reached the desired color, quickly pour the syrup on the prepared pan. Tilt the pan to spread the syrup into a very thin layer. Be careful not to burn yourself!

Let cool slightly, then transfer to the freezer for a few minutes to continue hardening. Break the brittle into shards. (I lift one edge and break off a piece. Then I smack it on the side of the pan to break it into even smaller pieces.) Use smaller ones to mix into the ice cream and use the larger ones as a garnish. 

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The finished product? Delicious. Creamy vanilla-flavored custard with crunchy bits of caramelized sugar. It really captures the essence of creme brulee, and it was everything I hoped it would be - absolutely yummy.


What's next? Lemon ice cream with ginger cookie mix-in, I think. I'll have to do a bit more experimenting with that one, but hope to get it right soon. Fingers crossed!

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