Smoked Brown Sugar Caramel Swirl Ice Cream

Smoked Brown Sugar Caramel Swirl Ice Cream

Smoked Brown Sugar Caramel Swirl Ice Cream
I love adding caramel to my vanilla ice cream to give it texture and using smoked brown sugar adds intrigue. A little vodka added to the ice cream keeps it silky smooth. For crunch there’s some candied almonds to top it off and if you are lucky enough to find ripe peaches at the market, grill a few for the perfect summer dessert.
Makes about 1 quart, servings 8-10

Smoked Brown Sugar Caramel Swirl:
1/2 cup smoked brown sugar*
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Vanilla Ice Cream Base:
2 cups whole organic milk
1 vanilla bean
6 organic egg yolks, from large eggs preferably free-range.
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon vodka
1 cup organic heavy cream
Candied Almonds (see recipe)
Grilled Peaches, optional (see recipe)

1. To make the caramel swirl: place in a small sauce pan the smoked brown sugar, water and syrup. Press the sugar down with the back of a spoon; to level it. Using a pastry brush and water, wash down the sides of the pan to make sure there is no sugar left on the side of the pan. Cover and cook over medium high heat until the sugar has melted. Do not stir; it may cause the sugar to crystallize. You may swirl the pan from time to time as the sugar melts to help it cook evenly. Once the sugar has melted remove the lid and cook to 325°F.

Cook’s note: The caramel flavor depends on the sugar reaching 325°F. If it is doesn’t reach 325°F the flavor is bland and the caramel is nearly the same color as the ice cream when swirled in. It may smell burnt don’t worry just carry-on it will be delicious.

Remove from the heat and let stand for a minute before whisking in the butter, sea salt, and heavy cream. Be careful it may splatter. Stir in the vanilla. Pour into a metal bowl and place in an ice bath if you are planning to enjoy the same day. Cool to 50ºF. This can be made several days in advance and will keep for a couple of weeks covered in the refrigerator. You will only need half of the smoked brown sugar caramel for the recipe. Reserve the rest to drizzle over another ice cream or dessert.

2. To make the vanilla ice cream base: place the milk in a 1 quart heavy bottomed sauce pan (Le Creuset). Scrape the beans from the inside of the vanilla bean, and place them along with the pod in the milk. Cook stirring regularly until the milk is hot. When hot reduce the heat to low.

3. In a bowl whisk the egg yolks, salt, and sugar until the egg yolks are pale yellow. Slowly whisk in about 1/2 cup of the hot milk and mix well to temper the eggs. Then whisk egg mixture into the milk in the sauce pan. Cook the mixture constantly stirring with a wooden spoon over medium heat until it reaches 175°F, it will coat the back of the wooden spoon and leave a streak when you run your finger through it. Do not let the mixture boil. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a medium stainless steel bowl. Whisk in the vanilla extract, vodka, and heavy cream.

4. Make an ice bath of ice and water and in a large bowl. Place the bowl with the ice cream in the ice bath, stir regularly until cold to the touch (50°F or lower). Place in an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions until it is the consistency of soft serve ice cream. While the ice cream is churning, put a one quart storage container and its lid for the ice cream into the freezer.

5. As you transfer the ice cream to the storage container, quickly drizzle in the cool caramel after every few scoopfuls, using about 8 tablespoons of the caramel (or more if you like). When all the ice cream is in the container, immediately use a chopstick or table knife to swirl in the caramel. Enjoy right away or for a firmer ice cream, freeze for at least 4 hours.

Keeps 2 weeks in the freezer.

* You can purchase from If you can’t get smoked brown sugar make it with plain light brown sugar it will still be delicious.

NB: If it is a very hot day freeze the plastic dasher of your ice cream maker and storage container before making the ice cream. Make sure you don’t over spin the ice cream if you do it may form large ice crystals in your ice cream. If you really over spin it you will make butter (great on pancakes by the way). If you don’t have a vanilla bean one is equal to one teaspoon of vanilla extract. After straining the vanilla pod from the ice cream rinse vanilla pod and let dry; add to sugar to make a vanilla sugar.

Grilled Peaches
For the best flavor buy the peaches a few days before you plan to use them. Leave them on your counter so they fully ripen.
Serves 8

4 ripe peaches
Grapeseed/sunflower oil (for the grill grates)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat grill to medium high.

1. Cut the peaches in half and remove the pit. Combine the brown sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Oil the grill grate. Dip each peach half in the sugar mixture, shaking off the excess. Place on a tray.

2. Arrange the peach halves cut side down on the hot grate and grill until caramelized. Turn using tongs and a spatula and cook then another few minutes to cook through, about 5 minutes. Transfer the peach halves to a platter. When cool enough to handle cut each half into 1/3’s or 1/4’s and remove the peach skin if desired.

Candied Almonds
Brown sugar caramelized on almonds are addictive and only takes a few minutes to make. Use them as a snack to accompany a Manhattan; toss in a salad with blue cheese, ice cream or use to garnish a cake. They make excellent holiday gifts.
Makes 1 cup

2 teaspoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ¼ cups (4 ounces) sliced or slivered almonds

1. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat place the butter, brown sugar, water, vanilla, and salt. Cook until the butter has melted and the sugar is dissolved.

2. Add the sliced almonds all at once and cook for about 3-5 minutes until the almonds are toasted.

3. Place on waxed paper separate them as they cool. Store candied almonds in an air tight container for up to two weeks.

NB: if you want the nuts crisper place on parchment paper and bake in a 325°F oven for about 5 minutes.

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Did I miss something? Where do you tell us what to do with the vodka?

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Thanks for your question. The vodka is added along with the vanilla and heavy cream.

Copyright © Julie Logue Riordan, Cooking with Julie