Lynne of Cafe LynnyLu chose this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, vanilla ice cream. When the recipes were announced, I thought the bookends of the month, the first and last recipes, were a natural together. I planned to make the Tribute to Katharine Hepburn Brownies and serve them with scoops of vanilla ice cream.
Then peer pressure took over.
I started thinking, what will my fellow TWD-ers do with this recipe? It's practically a blank canvas, and Dorie's playing around suggestions encourage us to take off in many directions, including mix ins and swirl ins. I could have done one of those, but I had to do something different so that maybe you would stop here and go "Wow! Look what Leslie did with this! I never thought of making it with sriracha."
OK, maybe not that different. So I decided to make my caramel sauce (recipe to come), which is ridiculously easy, and swirl it in after the ice cream chilled some.
I made this ice cream on the same day I made the brownies. The high that day was 102, we don't have air conditioning, and I appreciated this one didn't require turning the oven on.
Until I decided toasted macadamias and toasted coconut would be perfect compliments to the rich vanilla base. The oven went back on.
The custard base was super simple. The star players were heavy cream and whole milk with a vanilla bean (its vanilla caviar, as Gail Gand would say, stripped out and added to the mixture). Egg yolks added richness and stabilized the mixture; the custard was cooked until it thickened slightly. Once cooled, the custard is churned in an ice cream maker.
As I poured the churned mixture, still soft and bursting with flecks of vanilla, into two separate containers, I put aside the dasher to taste once the ice cream was safely in the freezer.
Oh. My. I wanted to climb in the freezer and be with it, it was that good. Better, yes indeed, than the Bouchon vanilla ice cream I made a few years ago. So good, I didn't want to serve it with the brownies. Or add anything that would take away from its pure vanilla flavor. But I did.
The caramel was swirled in after the ice cream froze for a half hour. I may have been a little heavy handed with the caramel, but I knew the vanilla base could stand up to the aggressive bite of the bitter caramel sauce.
Then I chopped the toasted macadamias and added them and the toasted coconut to the other half of the base. Mix lightly and back in the freezer for both flavors.
Then wait. Waiting is hard.
Sneak a bite...
After tasting the caramel swirl, I knew the coconut macadamia could never live up to it. The caramel was rich and almost bitter from being taken practically to the edge of burning before the cream was added. No namby pamby sweet caramel for me. It lends a complexity that the vanilla plays up without competing with it. This ice cream is some of the best I have ever eaten.
Sneak a bite of the other flavor...
Impossible. The saltiness of the macadamias (which I accidentally left in the oven a bit too long, until they were brown) and the sweet toasted coconut with the rich vanilla backdrop made a flavor as subtle and complex as the caramel was in-your-face.
Not to overstate it, but this recipe blew me away. As written, it's the very best vanilla ice cream you could ever hope to eat or make. But when you let your imagination carry you away, it's transformed from the star to a supporting role. Your flavors can shine because the foundation is solid.
I never thought I could make great ice cream, but Dorie has taught me I can make a lot of great things. All it takes is the right teacher, and letting your mind wander until you find the flavors that speak to you.