Crème Brûlée ice cream
Crème Brûlee – this fantastic dessert, with its rich (typically vanilla-) custard and crisp layer of burnt caramelised sugar, has a special place in my heart.
Also known as Crema Catalana or Burnt Cream, its exact origins (France? Spain? England?) have become lost in time. The first known recipe, however, dates back all the way to 17th century France. Like many ice creams, Crème Brûlée is based on custard. In other words – this classic dessert would seem to be a perfect candidate for transformation into an ice cream!
When preparing the custard base, I let myself be inspired by the South American tradition of using condensed milk for dishes like this (like flan) but used the unsweetened variety, evaporated milk. In case you do not have any evaporated milk available, however, the recipe should work well also with ordinary milk. For flavouring, I went with the traditional vanilla. But there are so many varieties of Crème Brûlée out there, so in case you would like to flavour your custard base differently (adding fruits, almonds, spirits or what have you), do experiment to your heart’s content:-)
As for the preparation of the custard base, this follows the “standard way” for French/Italian ice cream making. The usual caveats apply – monitor the temperature carefully and whisk continuously during the heating in order to avoid scrambled eggs in your ice cream base.
When it comes to the caramelised sugar, I have seen a few different ways of how to go about it.
Since I don’t have any Brulée blow-torch, however, I opted for simplicity: While still mixing brown and white sugar, I simply melted the part to be caramelised in a saucepan and kept it on the stove until it reached the stage of liquid golden. Then, I poured the melted sugar out to cool down and harden (make sure your surface can handle the heat), ending up with a rather thin ‘sugar mirror’.
Using a rolling pin, I then crushed this cooled down and hardened ‘sugar mirror’ into smaller pieces of caramelised sugar – For the recipe as such, you need about 4 tablespoons but the left-overs can be sprinkled over the ice cream at the moment of serving – it both looks and tastes really nice!
Ah, the final result – Delightfully smooth, with a rich and enticing custard flavour of the right kind, and loaded with golden, caramelised sugar pieces.
This ice cream quickly qualified as one of my favourite flavours, and has met with general acclaim both amongst family and discerning friends. Clearly, this frozen cousin to the classic dessert can stand its own!
- 375 ml (1½ cup) evaporated milk (or "ordinary" whole milk)
- 375 ml (1½ cup) cream
- 1 whole vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon high-quality vanilla powder)
- 2 eggs
- 3 egg yolk
- 150 gram (3/4 cup) light brown sugar
- 150 gram (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
- (possibly some further additional sugar of the two types, to prepare even more caramelised pieces of sugar for later use).
- Pour together the milk and the cream in a saucepan. Cut the vanilla bean in two (lengthwise) and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and the pod to the dairy mix and bring to an almost-boil.
- Mix the two types of sugar together. Set aside 150 gram (3/4 cup) to be caramelised.
- To caramelise part of the sugar, melt in a saucepan until golden, then pour onto tin foil or similar. Let the sugar form a rather thin disc and wait for it to cool. Then crush the sugar disc into smaller pieces of caramelised sugar with a rolling pin. Set aside for now - these pieces will be added towards the end of the churning. You should have at least 4 tablespoons of caramelised pieces of sugar; the rest (or part of it) can be used for decoration when it is time to serve the ice cream, or stored for later use.
- Blend the eggs, egg yolks and 150 gram (3/4 cup) of the (non-caramelised) sugar-mix well together.
- Take 200 ml (1 cup) of the heated milk/cream and, while whisking continuously, slowly add it - little by little - into the egg and sugar mix (the tempering phase).
- Add the tempered eggs to the cream mixture and blend thoroughly.
- Pour everything back into the sauce pan, and - while stirring constantly with a spatula - bring the mixture to about 82-84 degrees Celsius (179-183º F) on low-moderate heat.
- Quickly take off from the heat and cool as quickly as possible (in waterbath, ice bath or cold exteriors).
- When cooled down, chill the ice cream base in the fridge, preferably over night and at least for a few hours. (remove the vanilla pod)
- Churn the ice cream base in your ice cream machine according to instructions (or still-freeze without a machine, described elsewhere on this blog). Towards the very end of the churning, add 50 gram (1/4 cup; about 4 tablespoons) of the caramelised pieces of sugar.
- When churning is finished, put in freezer-proof container, cover with plastic film and seal with lid. Put in the freezer.
- If you make more pieces of caramelised sugar, they are perfect for sprinkling on top of the ice cream when serving! Or why not save some for your next batch of ice cream?