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Adding a swirl to homemade ice cream

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I am a new and enthusiastic churner, and my latest attempt was caramel corn ice cream - a sweet corn ice cream base with a caramel swirl. But. As I should have anticipated, the homemade caramel sauce froze as soon as I added it to the newly-churned ice cream and then fell to the bottom of the ice cream container. (Duh.)

What's a better technique for adding a swirl of caramel to my ice cream? Would the same thing happen if I added a loose chocolate ganache swirl - would it harden immediately?

PS: This sweet corn ice cream is amaaaazing: http://oneperfectbite.blogspot.com/20...

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  1. Churn your ice cream until about 3/4 of the way. Then add the caramel and finish churning and freeze.

    1. What an interesting concept! Thanks for the recipe!

      I think there are two concerns. First of all, your ice cream wasn't churned to a frozen enough consistency. Were you using a frozen bowl type machine? Sometimes they aren't sufficiently frozen or thaw before the job is done. If it wan't frozen enough you can be sure next time that the machine's bowl has at least 24 hours of freezer time before you begin. If it was an ice brine type machine (my personal favorite for a number of reasons) in the future you can siphon off some of the brine and add more ice and salt. The indication that the cream is fully churned is the machine working so hard it nearly stalls the motor out. It's also always a good measure to be sure the cream mixture you start with is well chilled before you even think about churning.

      Secondly the consistency of your caramel had a ratio of liquid to sugar + fat that was too high. You want more of the fat and sugar if you don't want it to freeze. That means that if you used milk you can substitute cream. If you were using cream, a bit of alcohol also raises the freezing temperature so a splash of vanilla extract (extract in an alcohol base not beans or vanilla paste) or Navan liqueur would add some flavor and insurance at the same time.

      Then, what I do for a swirled effect is layer a bit of my fully-churned ice cream into a freezer storage container drizzling the caramel or fudge syrup as I do it. If there are two sets of hands this can go very smoothly. Otherwise do one layer at a time. If the ice cream has formed its ice crystals they will be sturdy enough to support the weight of syrups, fruit or nuts. Seal your container and let it have 4-6 hours in the freezer to set up.

      Again, thanks for the recipe. I look forward to trying it. Getting to try these unique and unconventional thins is the best thing about having an ice cream freezer.

      9 Replies
      1. re: rainey

        Thanks to both of you! I did indeed use cream in my sauce - should I increase the amount of cream I put in as well as adding vanilla extract?

        I did have a bit of a problem with it not being churned hard enough... you're right. Ah, the mistake of a novice, I guess.

        1. re: laurendlewis

          You'll have to experiment a little. Cream has a higher fat content but also has a good bit of water. Boosting the other ingredients -- alcohol, fat & sugar -- that won't freeze is where I'd start.

          What was the recipe that you used? Perhaps it would be better to begin with that than just speculating because it's hard to envision caramel sauce actually freezing.

          1. re: rainey

            Here's the recipe:
            http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

            I'm also not an experienced caramel maker, so "medium-dark amber" is so subjective...!

            1. re: laurendlewis

              I'm not really any kind of expert either. I've just been making ice cream for several years.

              That said, the water could be part of the problem. It's there to dissolve the sugar so you could reduce the amount of it and compensate by using warm water and stirring well to dissolve the sugar before you begin. Then make sure you let it all evaporate in the cooking.

              You shouldn't have to add additional cream or liquid to compensate since the water is supposed to evaporate before the prep is finished anyway. But what you could add is a splash of vanilla extract or liqueur and a generous tablespoon of butter. The additional fat and alcohol should raise the freezing point of the syrup. Add them and stir them in after the cream has bubbled up and then settled down.

              Finally, if you use a squeeze bottle or a sealed baggie with just the tip cut off to drizzle in thin ribbons of the cooled syrup it shouldn't be such a thick layer that it wouldn't soften up in the ice cream.

              Sugar syrups are tough sometimes. It's always helpful if they have something finite like a temperature to guide you. Color is a bit arbitrary and sugar can burn on you in a flash even while you're watching it. I would judge "deep amber" to be about the color of iced tea. When you see it go past golden toward brown that would be the time to take it off the heat. I would not let it go to fully brown. And you've probably already seen that you want to do it in a pan that's much deeper than you'd intuitively guess. The warning about it bubbling up is to be taken seriously.

              Good luck with it. It really is an inspired combination with, I'm sure, wit as well as wonderful flavor.

              1. re: rainey

                Thank you so much for your advice! I didn't get any corn in my CSA box this week, so I will probably wait until next week to try again. (That will also give me time to use up [eat] the extra leftover caramel sauce.)

                Got lots of flavor ideas - Guinness milk chocolate, pina colada, saffron pistachio, tiramisu.... the list goes on!

                1. re: laurendlewis

                  Guinness Ice Cream (from Ice Cream Ireland blog)
                  Ingredients
                  1 Cup Sugar
                  5 Egg Yolks
                  1 1/8 Cups Cream
                  1 1/8 Cups Milk
                  2 cups + 3 tablespoons Guinness
                  A handful of dark chocolate chips.

                  Directions
                  1. Measure out ½ cup of Guinness and set aside.
                  2. Boil the remaining Guinness until it reduces to ½ cup in volume. Cool.
                  3. Beat the sugar and egg yolks together until thick and pale yellow.
                  4. Bring the milk to a simmer.
                  5. Beat the milk into the eggs and sugar in a slow stream.
                  6. Pour the mixture back into pan and place over low heat. Stir until the custard thickens slightly.
                  7. Allow the custard to cool.
                  8. Stir in both the reduced and non-reduced Guinness.
                  9. Whip the cream.
                  10. Gently fold in the custard.
                  11. Freeze using a domestic ice cream machine, or cover and place in the freezer.

                  Yield: 6 Servings
                  Notes:
                  You don’t have to use the chocolate chips of course, but I do think Guinness and chocolate go well together. You could also use this as a companion to a chocolate cake.

                  Guinness Ice Cream II (don't remember where this one came from)
                  ½ vanilla bean
                  1 c whole milk
                  1 c heavy cream
                  2/3 c guinness stout
                  2 T + 2 t molasses
                  3 extra large egg yolks
                  1/3 c granulated sugar
                  ½ t vanilla extract

                  Split the bean in half lengthwise. Scrape seeds and pulp into a medium saucepan. Add the vanilla pod, milk and cream and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn off heat, cover and infuse for 30 min.

                  Whisk the beer and molasses together in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and turn off heat.

                  Whisk yolks, sugar, and vanilla extract together in a bowl. Whisk a few T of warm cream mixture into the yolks to temper them. Slowly add another ¼ c or so of the warm cream, whisking continually. Add rest of the cream mixture whisking continuously. Pour mixture back in pot and return to stove.

                  Stir beer mixture into the cream and cook custard over medium heat, 6-8 minutes, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula and scraping the sides and bottom of the pan. Strain mixture and chill at least 2 hours. When custard is very cold process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

                  In either case you can melt the chocolate of your choice into the base.

              2. re: laurendlewis

                I'm wonderng if your caramel sauce recipe is just too thin. I have another recipe with less water and cream, and almost the same amount of sugar and corn syrup, volume wise. The recipe is for use in ice cream and is quite thick. I layer the sauce into the ice cream when I'm packing it into a freezer container, 1/3 ice cream, drizzle caramel, more ice cream, caramel, you get the picture. To create the texture of caramel sauce, you need a 1:1 ratio of fat and liquid; this recipe has slightly less water, and it will be a bit thicker. This recipe makes enough sauce for almost two quarts of ice cream:

                1/2 cup sugar
                1/3 cup light corn syrup
                1/4 cup water
                7 tablespoons heavy cream
                1/2 teaspoon vanilla
                pinch salt

                Boil the sugar, corn syrup, pinch of salt and water, stirring until mixture is dissolved, stop stirring and boil until dark golden caramel, or caramelized to your taste swirling the pan frequently. Carefully add cream and vanilla by pouring down the side of the pan; the caramel will harden. Continue to cook until caramel dissolves again. Cool. Keep refrigrated until needed. Use at room temperature. If the caramel is too stiff, reheat slightly and stir before using.

                If you use a thermometer, 330°-340° is a good temp range for caramel, depending on now dark you like it. You may not have a candy thermometer that quite reaches the bottom of a pot with just a little syrup in it. Here's a photo of a nice golden caramel; a good comparison, as rainey wrote, is the color of iced tea.:

                http://0.tqn.com/d/candy/1/5/K/-/-/-/...

                1. re: bushwickgirl

                  I suspect also it is the fat, but remember the amount of water added at the beginning doesn't make a difference as it boils off before the sugar caramelizes. I'm a dry caramel girl myself and find that more foolproof.

                  The Perfect scoop recipe calls for 3/4 cup sugar, 1 cup cream, and 6 TB butter, 1/2 t vanilla, and 1 1/4 t salt.

                  1. re: jsaimd

                    I have GOT to get myself a copy of Perfect Scoop! A friend gave me a CIA Frozen Desserts book which is great but a little too comprehensive. I hear Perfect Scoop is a great go-to.

        2. I'm a huge fan of sweet corn ice cream. I usually serve mine with a quick blueberry or blackberry sauce, but for whatever reason it never even occurred to me to try it caramel-corn style. Great idea!

          (Now you've got me wondering if I could somehow make a cheddar sauce for it that wouldn't be totally gross...)