Salted Caramel Butter Ice Cream, with Espresso.

I would say that ice cream is relatively easy to make. It requires only a little stirring, some whisking, and low amounts of heat. What really anchors most ice cream recipes is the time spent in that helpful little kitchen tool, the ice cream maker. And what’s that all about? The ice cream maker is really one of the few tools that has only one function, to make ice cream, sorbets, and slurpees. To churn whilst freezing. Okay, maybe technically two functions.

But unlike most other tools, the blender, the food processor, my dearly beloved stand-up mixer Paulo (who lives far away in California), the ice cream can’t turn out a variety of foodstuffs. Only ice cream. And yet, it really is quite necessary for ice creamery.

Once you get your hands on an ice cream maker however, the possibilities for ice cream creation are endless. Since the base for ice cream is relatively easy to master, once you get going on the ice cream train, it’s hard to stop. On average, one carton of eggs can contribute to three different batches of homemade ice cream. A half gallon of milk makes about four batches of ice cream, as does a quart of cream.

You see, once you get going, it’s just really impractical to stop. Chances are, you have everything for ice cream in the kitchen already.

Today however, we’re going to focus less on the ease of making ice cream and rather on the ease of making a caramel. Caramel, one of the many beautiful things sugar transforms into. Nutty, golden, with wonderful toasted undertones, homemade caramel is a skill all should master, if only to have homemade caramel sauce consistently in the pantry. For David Lebovitz’s Salted Caramel Butter Ice Cream with Espresso, homemade caramel is everywhere. In the praline add in as well as in the base. In fact, the majority of the ice cream consists of homemade caramel.

Caramel, while perhaps daunting in theory, is really just melted sugar. And the trick to melting sugar is patience and attention. Sugar takes quite a while to get melted, but once it’s there it goes very quickly from lightly golden to deep amber. The trick, as it turns out, is to remove it from the heat as quickly as possible, and to stir in your cooler elements to halt the cooking.

For the caramel praline, all you have to do is remove the caramel from heat as soon as it turns a deep amber, sprinkle it with salt, and dump it onto a prepared pan. For the ice cream base, after you remove the caramel from heat you immediately whisk in butter, cream, salt, vanilla, milk, etc. The mixture will steam violently, so make sure to watch your hands. But here’s the thing. If you can master this ice cream, then you have the basics of caramel in your repertoire. Obviously, you should make this ice cream not only because it is delicious, but because it is clearly educational as well.

Duh.

Recipe on the following page.

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Samoa Ice Cream.

When you consider my last month of posts, it’s clear I’ve got a problem. A soup and ice cream problem. But it’s not my fault, it’s this gosh darn winter’s fault. One day it’s snowing, the next it’s 50 degrees. One day I want soup, the next only ice cream and beer.

I sweat it’s a balanced diet.

To further complicate things, it’s the start of yet another season. You know, that one where there are tables set up all over town, outside grocery stores and bakeries and coffee shops—my frequent haunts, obviously. The one that brings lots of colorful, little boxes for the price of $4 each. Girl Scout Cookie season. After summer, it may be the best season ever.

Even if it wasn’t pretending to be spring here in Evanston—just before finals week of course—there would be ice cream in my freezer. Girl Scout Cookies demand to be transformed into ice cream. Sitting up in my cabinet, all cute and delicious, they practically beg to be elevated into the most delicious frozen dessert of all. Ice cream, you torment me and claim all my cookies and toffee chunks.

But it’s worth it.

Since Samoa’s are practically a perfect cookie, they need little else in a batch of ice cream. No fudge swirl or chocolate flakes here. Just a simple, homemade caramel base for chunks of cookie to happily float in. The caramel plays off and complements the sweet caramel of the cookies, and large chunks are the perfect size for ice cream bliss. Yup, these current seasons are all right. Samoa Ice Cream and spring weather in February? Best winter quarter, ever.

Recipe on the following page.

Coffee Toffee Ice Cream.

“Coffee and toffee is my favorite ice cream combination.” That’s all a birthday girl needs to say and POOF. Coffee Toffee Ice Cream.

Yes, another’s birthday is really just an excuse to make ice cream. You caught me.

But look, can you blame me?

It’s a tale/flavor combination as old as time—coffee and toffee. Coffee has a complex flavor profile, and history. What complements a multi-faceted flavor assault of a magnitude to the order of coffee, that extreme nectar, better than the lightening power of cream? What better to highlight the caramel tones of a coffee liquor than a piece of brickly caramel itself, toffee? Coffee itself is such a rich and deep experience (go ahead and commit, it is a profound experience), that it begs to be immortalized in…ice cream.

Yup, this is a food blog (surprise). Instead of painting a picture, or whipping out my carving tools and a casual chunk of marble, I churn some ice cream in moments of inspiration. Which tastes better, a sculpture, or Coffee Toffee Ice Cream?

(Rhetorical question. You know the answer. Now if only there were as many birthdays to celebrate with ice cream as there were moments when I want to make ice cream…)

Recipe on the following page.

Molasses Ice Cream with Oat Cookie Chunks.

Adhering to cliché, some rules are meant to be broken.  After 21 years, that list includes—but is not limited to—curfew, jaywalking, whiteafterlaborday, chocolate and beer for dinner…etc.  But lawmakers and enforcers take heart, some rules are written to last.  The one that comes to mind today, and seems particularly relevant every day of summer is this: Ice Cream, Good.  If delicious in real life, made even more delicious when frozen, churned and enveloped in luscious, velvety frozen ice cream.  Sometimes, being a law-abiding citizen is hard.  Really, quite trying.

Cookie dough, and particularly cinnamony oatmeal cookie dough, is a wonderful thing.  Raw, out of a tube, out of the bowl, pieced off from scooped cookie dough balls waiting patiently on a baking sheet to transform into warm, chewy oatmeal cookies—oatmeal cookie dough is delicious.  And while cookie dough ice cream is a no brainer, been around perhaps as long as sliced bread, oatmeal cookie chunks surrounded by tangy, spiced molasses-based ice cream is something a little off-kilter.  The richness of the molasses perfectly complements the homey qualities of the oatmeal cookie dough, together creating a bowl full of happy, happy ice cream.

Recipe on the following page.

New York, Fire Island.

So I’ve gone a lot of places.

But my favorite is still here.  And here. And here.

Here too.

At the Bay Shore Fire Island Ferry terminal, there is a snack shack.  Now this snack shack, in all it’s white washed, lopsided and permanently grease-perfumed air quaintness has a secret.  That secret comes in either a cup or a bowl, and that secret is loaded with huge chunks of lobster, crab, shrimp and the rest of the sea.  The red Seafood Bisque at the ferry terminal is  perfection in soup form.

Grab a cup, or a bowl or four, and go to the beach.

Oh yeah, Fire Island is also close to that little town, New York City, where donuts and soft serve abound.

Summer is great, don’t even pretend it’s not.  If you happen to be stuck inside, go outside in the sun.  Sunshine is not only fine, it’s fantastic.  Even better perhaps, when a cup of bisque, a donut and even a soft serve cone are procured.

Beer Cardamom Ice Cream.

I spent a long time waiting for it to be the ice cream moment.  And by long time, I mean I’ve been waiting since last summer for it to be ice cream weather again.  (Which is not to say that I haven’t been eating ice cream in the interim.  But while ice cream is always good, always as close to perfect as possible, ice cream at 20 degrees under overcast skies and an 80 percent of precipitation is just not the same as ice cream on a sunny day.)  So now, eight months later, it’s time.  Finally, after a long winter, what I’ve been waiting for. Also, an ice cream maker appeared.  Small details.

Taking a hint from an ice creamery in New Orleans, the southern capital of heat, bourbon, shiny things, long days and great ideas, beer cardamom ice cream seemed to be the perfect kick off to ice cream season.  You though ice cream week was excessive?  Just wait.

Say it’s not a good idea.

Go ahead and take a moment to think about it.  Try as hard as you like, scrape the insides of your brain, summon up all known food logic and then propose something which implies that, you know, maybe beer-flavored ice cream is wrong.  A bad idea.

Can’t come up with a reason?  That’s right.  Because there’s nothing to say beer and ice cream together isn’t anything but wonderful.

The rule of ice cream—and there is a rule, let’s be clear—is that ice cream is always delicious, no matter the ingredients.  Now take beer and a little cardamom.  Add a witbier or heffeweizen, inherently a little sweeter with light citrus and cardamom notes, lends itself perfectly to ice cream.  The richness of the cream and the addition of sugar enhances the flavors of the beer to create a light, extremely refreshing scoop of ice cream.  The cardamom runs through the ice cream as a flowery, slightly spicy foil to the deliciously rich yeastyness.

Now, if one were particularly daring, a deviation on a root beer float wouldn’t be out of the question.  Just imagine, beer ice cream beer float.  Say it twice.

Recipe on the following page.