Sunday, May 3, 2015

If ice cream were a currency, what would the exchange rate be?

I don't want to brag, but I have this ice cream recipe that has a cult following. It's just tasty like that.

Of course, that cult is my mother, who has now made it roughly 10 times more often than I have. I mean, I'm flattered, but my sister, who's a temporary sous chef in my mom's kitchen, is a little tired of making strawberry lemon ice cream.

Enter Ice Cream 2.0 The Quadrillionaire!

What? is what you're probably thinking right now. And not because whatever I put into this ice cream looks a little weird. No, you're thinking, how much is one quadrillion? I actually have no idea, but I do know that once some guy filed suit in a Utah County courtroom, asking for punitive damages to the tune or $38 quadrillion. I believe the defendant's exact words when he read the lawsuit were, "Wha .....?"

Anyway, a quadrillion dollars, although undefined by any language known to man, is clearly a crapload of money. In other words, a quadrillionaire is very, very, very rich.

(I'm mentally elbowing you in the side right now. Do you get where I'm going with this?)

Yes, this ice cream is quite rich -- so rich, in fact, that when my sister tells my mom she's going to make it, my mom will hear what goes into it, make a face and say, "I'm not eating that. Too rich." 

You know what else is rich, Mom? How you told me last week that you don't like cookie dough, when I have multiple cookie-making experiences to the contrary! (I really don't have any deep-seated pathological issues with my mom. I do, however, have a deep-seated pathological issue with people eating my food. We'll call it the Tribbiani sequence.)

Anyway, quadrillionaire ice cream. It's a browned butter ice cream with caramelized chocolate and pecans mixed in. The ice cream is a spinoff from a recipe that suggests combining it with peanut brittle. Don't do this. Peanut brittle is about the seventh best thing you can do with peanuts, the first six being peanut butter. But still, don't.

The caramelized nuts is a Runner's World recipe. So it's healthy. And by healthy I of course don't actually mean healthy, but doesn't have any added fat. The nuts and cocoa nibs take care of that.

Onto the ice cream! There are three reasons it's so rich: 1) heavy cream, 2) almost half a cup of butter, and 3) 6 egg  yolks. Six. Throw in a little sugar and there's your ingredients list.

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk (I always use skim, but if you want to go beyond quadrillionaire, whatever that is, use whole milk or half and half)
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vanilla sugar (or granulated; I just happened to have a vanilla bean hanging out in some granulated sugar, which is all vanilla sugar is. Not even sure you can taste the difference.)
7 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (OPTIONAL -- I'm serious.)

1. Put butter in skillet on medium heat and let it cook until it turns brown. If you're starting with room temperature or out of the fridge butter, this should take 5-6 minutes. You'll see little flecks at the bottom. That's good. DO NOT let it burn. Blackened butter is not a delicacy. When the butter starts to smell really caramelly and nutty, take it off the heat.

2. Mix the cream and milk in a large saucepan over low heat until it starts to simmer. No boiling. As a general rule, you should never let custard boil. 

3. Mix the egg yolks, sugars and salt in a bowl until they're well blended. Add the butter when it's done browning.

4. When the cream mixture is quite warm, add about a cup to the egg/sugar/butter mixture and whisk it all together. Then slowly add this to the saucepan with the rest of the cream. Whisk that until it's all incorporated, then let it cook on medium low to medium, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens. More fat = quicker thickening.

5. Put it into a container and let it sit on the counter for about an hour until it cools. At this point, if you want to, add the vanilla and mix it in. I assume at this point you've sampled the custard in front of you and discovered that you want to stick a straw in it and drink it straight up. That wonderful caramel flavor comes from the brown butter (aided by the brown sugar). Adding the vanilla will dilute that flavor somewhat. It will still be delicious, but it will teeter almost at the brink of very rich vanilla as opposed to browned butter. You were warned.

You can also strain it at this point, but I didn't, for two reasons: I like the little specks of browned butter, and I don't have a strainer.

6. When the mixture's cooled, put it in the fridge for several hours to overnight. 

7. Process in the ice cream maker as you would any other ice cream. When it's almost done, add bite-size pieces of the caramel-choco-nut extravaganza. 

Gajillionaire candy (Gajillion is what I Googled when I was looking for the quadrillion guy and couldn't remember what ridiculous collection of sounds this amount entailed.)

For anyone who's not aware of what a cocoa nib is, it's part of the chocolate process that is all chocolate. It has no sugar. They are delicious. These can be a little hard to find; I've seen them at Whole Foods, HEB and, for those of us in Lubbock, Natural Grocers on Slide just south of the mall.)

1/4 cup flaked, unsweetened coconut
1 egg white
1/4 cup vanilla (or granulated) sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup pecans, chopped coarsely and not too small
1/4 cup cocoa nibs

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil, shiny side up.

2. Mix the coconut, sugars and salt together. Don't skimp on the salt. Desserts, counterintuitively, benefit from salt the most. It brings out all the other flavors and gives the flavors, especially the dark chocolate, a good contrast. Just trust me. And use kosher. No table salt here.

3. Whisk the egg white by hand (egads!) until it's "frothy." With a good solid whisking arm (that will be sore the next morning), this will probably take about five minutes. It's still very much liquidy, but there's not really any liquid left.

4. Add the nuts and nibs to the egg white; stir until it's all coated.

5. Add the sugar mixture; stir until well blended. 

6. Spread the mixture evenly onto the prepared pan, giving it plenty of room to breathe. Don't layer. If you double or triple this recipe (I doubled it and used a full-sized pan), and you can't get it all into the pan in one layer, don't be a hero. Just use another pan.

7. Bake at 300 degrees for 30-35 minutes, stirring partway through.

8. When they're done (the caramel should be hard, not sticky), take the pan out and just let the candy sit and cool completely. (This is after you've sampled, of course. Just watch the caramel. It burns.) Break it up into reasonable ice cream pieces. Add whatever is left after generous sampling to the ice cream.

Y'all, I doubled this so I could give some to the missionaries at dinner yesterday. As I was mixing it up, I thought maybe I should make something else for them that's a little less weird. As I was pulling it off the pan and divvying it up (one piece to the ice cream container, one piece to the missionary container, one piece into my mouth), I thought maybe I should make something else for them that's a little less delicious.

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