Monday, October 3, 2011

A Big Stick, Mama, That'll Blow Your Mind

We got this crazy wonderful machine: it turns dairy products into delicious treats. Oh, how I love you ice cream machine!

First recipe I picked up off a message board and I chose because it had two ingredients and was relatively healthy and I could whip it up with the kids without residual guilt (OMFGCHILDHOODOBESITY! DON'TLETTHEMEATSUGARANDOHMYLORDINHEAVENTHEFAT! THEFAAAAA-AAAAT!!!1!)

Orange Julius FroYo
1 quart of lowfat vanilla yogurt
1 regular sized container of orange juice concentrate, thawed
a glug or two of vanilla extract

  1. Dump the yogurt in a large bowl, add the OJ and vanilla, stir till combined.
  2. With the machine assembled and running, pour the mixture in.
  3. Check in 20 minutes or so to see if it is churned enough for you. Freeze for an hour or two if you like your FroYo harder.
This was a huge hit with the kids, though Luke found it overly tart. I think it would be better with about 1/2-3/4 of the OJ added, or with something like an OJ-Banana or Strawberry-Banana blend. Or that tropical juice with passionfruit, that would be way tasty for something so easy.

But, really, did I get an ice cream maker for healthy frozen treats? Absolutely not.

I'm a little afraid of the madness I will create if left to my own devices, some sort of chocolate peanut butter brownie toasted almond sweet cream concoction, so I asked Luke what sort of ice cream he'd like. His reply, "Caramel Swirl"

Caramel Swirl. We need a good vanilla base, not of the heavy, egg-y sort. And while a quick check of online recipes suggested just swirling in some jarred caramel topping, that sounds so dull, so canned, like the way all budget restaurants all taste like the same Sysco ingredients cooked in the same way. And caramel is so deliciously easy!

Caramel for Swirling or Topping:
3/4 cup white sugar (though I plan to try brown sugar next time)
1/4 cup water.
1/8 teaspoon sea salt - optional and adjustable- add less or a pinch of regular salt for a more traditional caramel, add more for a truly salty caramel, which is so yummy I dream of it.
1/2-1cup heavy cream
a couple glugs of vanilla extract

  1. Mix ingredients in a small heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Mixture will eventually begin to boil and bubble, allow it to cook at this rate, watching it closely for changes in color. You want a nice deep amber color- pale like butter will taste insipid, like plain simple syrup, too dark like coffee will taste burnt. Watch closely because it can go from butter- to coffee-colored 
  2. Remove from heat and gently, carefully, pour in your heavy cream. Be prepared, it let loose an explosion of steam and furious boiling and the caramel will go through a series of alchemical changes, solid, liquid, gaseous, it will seem as though you have conjured a djinni  in your saucepan, but things will settle down after some stirring. I suggest a long handled solid mixing spoon for this, and watch out for your fingers and the explosion of steam! 
  3. Add cream till you think you have a consistency that works for you- be aware that the caramel will get harder as it cools, if you find that it is too hard and chewy (or like a hard candy!), simply warm it over low heat with lots of stirring and add more cream- but remember to go slow, you can't make it less runny if you add too much! Let cool to room temperature before adding to ice cream if you are planning to swirl, use while still warm for a topping.

Next: Ice Cream. I used Alton Brown's Serious Vanilla as a base, though I made some changes and was very pleased with the results.

2 cups half and half
1 cup heavy cream
1/2-3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean 
  1. Combine first four ingredients in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, and scrape out the pulp with a spoon. Add pulp and beans to the saucepan.
  3. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer- not a full boil, just till you see the very first tiny bubbles start to surface. Remove from heat and chill. The flavors will meld nicely if you let it chill for a full 24 hours, but it will still be yummy even if you just let it cool the bare minimum of time. It does need to be very cold, or else the ice cream won't freeze properly in the machine.
  4. Turn on your machine and pour the liquid in while it is churning (otherwise it will freeze to the sides and the motor won't be able to churn properly). Check back in 20 minutes or so and it should be setting up nicely. you can keep churning for a while longer, or go on from here. the ice cream will be soft serve consistency at this stage.
  5. With the machine still churning, pour in the caramel in in a steady stream, but don't churn for too long. Working quickly, turn off the machine and transfer the ice cream to a sealable container- you don't want to so thoroughly mix the caramel in that it become caramel ice cream rather than caramel swirl; you also don't want the ice cream to linger in the frozen bowl form the machine, or it will freeze hard to the sides.
  6. Try some delicious ice cream right now, or leave it to harden up in the freezer if you prefer.

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