Yes. There are only 4 ingredients in this ice cream recipe, and this is a lesson in the magic of chemistry and not judging by appearance. A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune of scoring a free meal by helping out at a Condolleeza Rice dinner locally. My job was apparently to usher folks to their tables, but as I quickly realized, conservatives in general and the West Michigan Dutch in particular, like to care for themselves and feel quite uncomfortable with formality and assistance. Instead of ushering, I found myself chatting with folks.
One of my first chats of the evening was with Mr. Heilman, a retired nut-shop owner and chairman of his local GOP. Yes. Two resume items that will individually give hives to my children and then to me. I’m not too interested in the nitty gritty of politics. Unfortunately, in medicine, politics has taken an interest in me…so I’ve had to start paying attention and it’s been a very fascinating education in reality. The thing that makes this political education so interesting, is that I genuinely like people. In medicine, we don’t care about folks’ political beliefs. We just care about people. And Mr. Heilman was a delightful man. We talked about nut roasting, peanut blanching, carmel making, and creating a business from nothing. We talked about staying up late perfecting recipes and the amazing American system where necessity puts a fire under our butts, and liberty allows us to stretch and learn new skills we never knew we had. He proudly talked about his caramel ice cream with 22% butterfat and I confided utter failure at chocolate tempering and a wish for a real tempering machine.
A few weeks later, Mr. Heilman stopped by and dropped off one of his industrial chocolate tempering machines to borrow over the holidays as well as his famous waffle cookies. Talk about a kid in a candy store! I had an absolute ball over Christmas, making fleur de sel caramels and chocolate covered cherries, dipping pretzels and saving all the chocolate scraps for mint chip ice cream. But most of all, I was smitten with the idea of a Caramel Ice Cream. So I gave it a shot, and it’s wonderful. Just like Mr. Heilman, it’s more than it appears on the surface, wonderful and complex, sweet and a little salty. Enjoy.
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 Tablespoons water
- 1/4 cup water for “stopping” the caramel
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- 3 cups soy creamer
- In a medium saucepan, mix the water and sugar together and start heating over medium-high heat. The sugar will melt and start boiling. Swirl the pan around every so often as the sugar mixture starts boiling. Keep boiling until the sugar syrup starts caramelizing and turning a golden brown. This is tricky. I have stainless pans, and it’s hard to judge caramel color. Sometimes, I take a little spoonful out and drop it on a white plate to see how golden my caramel is. If you overcook the caramel, it’s burnt, and not too good.
- Once the caramel is the right color, remove from the heat and set the pan WAY back on your stove. Things are going to get exciting. Quickly pour the 1/4 cup of water into the hot caramel mixture and jump back. The carmel is going to freak out, spurt and sputter.
- Once the carmel calms down, bring the pan forward onto low heat and stir until all the hard caramel chunks dissolve into a nice caramel syrup. Add the salt and let the caramel syrup cool down a bit.
- Off the heat, add the soy creamer to the carmel syrup slowly. The caramel may freak out again and form hard caramel chunks, don’t worry. Keep stirring and they will eventually dissolve. Don’t heat the mixture once the soy creamer has been added. Soy tastes really weird when it’s cooked, so just be patient and stir until the chunks dissolve.
- Freeze in an ice cream maker and enjoy! I have a Cuisinart and it’s wonderful.