vanilla bean ice cream with chocolate covered waffle cone bits and caramel swirl

I'm big into ice cream these days, which is kind of strange for me since I'm not really a sweets person. Dessert? Meh. Give me an extra slice of pizza any day. Or a pretzel. Or pretty much anything but chocolate. But in any event, I've been cranking up the ice cream maker lately and no one's complaining. How to win friends and influence people…

Colbert and caramel! What could be bad?

Colbert and caramel! What could be bad?

I got to this one in a roundabout way. My bosses' son is/was about to propose to his girlfriend and he wanted to pop the question on a custom-made Ben & Jerry's container. (This is something you used to be able to have made through Ben & Jerry's but apparently they've discontinued it.) So said bosses asked me to recreate one and since I love a challenge, I said yes. (What? Like I'm gonna say no?) I was able to come up with a damned convincing facsimile of the B&J's label but the only issue was getting the curve of the container right. So Mrs. Boss had the brilliant idea of buying a container, having us all eat the ice cream and using the empty container as a template (and final piece). WIN! She asked us what flavor to buy and co-worker/friend Chris suggested his fave, Americone Dream. And I have to admit, it was pretty darned tasty. Vanilla! Waffle cone! Caramel! Oh, and chocolate. And best of all, STEPHEN COLBERT!  We polished off the contents in record time, I made the label template (quite the convoluted process and I'm sure there's some kind of mathematical formula that makes it easy-peasy but since I need a calculator to add single digit numbers…well, just no) and the resulting "Will You Marry Me?" container was a major hit. (I'd post a pic but was asked to hold off until after the big event. I mean, the couple in question is hardly likely to find my blog but you never know. It could be one of those stupid things that goes viral and so much for the element of surprise. Viral. Yeah, if only…)

Anyway, since the Americone Dream was such a hit, I thought I'd try to recreate that too. I'm a MAJOR fan of vanilla anything and I had a recipe for a very rich vanilla creme anglaise base that I'd been meaning to try. And caramel? Yes, please. Waffle cones? Always better than those spongy wafer thingies. Chocolate? Well, if we must. But I went with dark instead of milk chocolate. Because it's so healthy and everything.

Custard ice cream bases are not for the faint of heart because they'll clog an artery faster than you can snarf down a pint. It's all cream and eggs and all that other stuff that's tastes so bleeping good, as long as you don't think on it too much. But it's a worthwhile indulgence, even if only for special occasions. Like Tuesday. These bases can be a bit fiddly. You've got to temper the egg yolks so you don't end up with scrambled eggs and then keep a sharp eye on the mixture once you add the tempered yolks into the remaining base so the whole thing doesn't turn into a curdled mess. (Not that I would know anything about this. Nope, not at all…) But once you get the hang of it and learn to recognize when it's done–the mixture should coat a wooden spoon and not fill in after you drag your finger through it–it's not at all difficult. Run the mixture through a fine sieve, pop it into the fridge to chill and there you go. It's easy to customize this base with just about anything you can think of. Vanilla goes with everything. So on to the waffle cone bits.

Now normal people would probably just go out and you know…buy some waffle cones. But I am not a normal person. No, I had to make mine. And of course, that meant I needed a waffle cone maker because I'm an obsessive, acquisitive weirdo. Thankfully, I held off on the muy expensive model and bought a cheapo waffle bowl maker instead, 13 bucks. Probably the only time in my kitchen gadget experience that I've gone the cheap route–that's usually the road not taken. Unfortunately, $13 is overpriced for the thing I bought. It's…not great. Major hot spots so half of every bowl verged on burnt while the other half was barely cooked. I did manage to salvage enough to break up into nice, crispy bits though so it wasn't a major loss. Really, just buy the flipping cones. I promise I won't tell.

The caramel sauce is a basic recipe I've had in my recipe collection for years, so long that I can't remember were it came from. (But a quick perusal of the interwebz shows that it could have come from anywhere and nowhere. They're all pretty much the same.) It's very easy, although again, as with the custard base, you've got to keep an eye on things lest you end up with burnt caramel, which tastes just about as awful as you'd think it would (not like you'd even bother tasting it.)

I was actually up at 6 am, churning ice cream, in the hope it would be ready to photograph when things weren't quite so hot. Because ice cream is NOT fun to shoot in the summer and not at all cooperative. So my neighbors, who already think I'm a bit strange (but are still nice to me because I give them baked goods), were treated to me yelling "STOP MELTING! STOP MELTING!" like I'm the Wicked Witch or something. Sigh. Even with two ice cream body doubles standing by in the freezer, I only managed to get a few passable shots. We suffer for our art. And make extensive use of Lightroom. But anyway…

I have to say that I like this better than the original. It's richer, creamier and I made it myself which always tips things my way for the win, even if I screw up (A for effort and all that.) Now if only Colbert would show up on my doorstep things would be perfect.

Herewith, my Ode to an Americone Dream…

chocolate covered waffle cone bits

Ingredients

  • 3-4 waffle cones, broken into pieces
  • 8 oz. dark chocolate morsels (I used Ghirardelli dark melting wafers and threw in the entire bag, which was definitely overkill. I ended up making extra waffle cone bits to use it up.)

Directions

  1. In a double boiler over medium heat, melt the chocolate morsels, stirring constantly.
  2. Once melted, drop in the broken waffle cone pieces a handful at a time. Stir with a fork to coat.
  3. Remove the coated cone pieces and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment or a silicone mat, separating the pieces as best you can. Allow to cool.

salted caramel sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 T salted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • 1 tsp salt (I use sea salt flakes)

Directions

  1. Place sugar in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan and heat on medium, stirring constantly until the sugar melts completely to an amber color. (It will look like clumpy wet sand but it does melt. Just keep a careful watch on it though, as it can easily go from amber to burnt in the blink of an eye.)
  2. Once the sugar is completely melted and a deep amber color, add the butter pieces and whisk in until butter is melted and incorporated into the sugar.
  3. Slowly pour in the heavy cream, being careful as the mixture will bubble up. Stir to incorporate then bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the salt.
  5. Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then transfer to a storage container. This sauce can be stored in the fridge for about 2 weeks. Warm it up a bit before using.

vanilla ice cream base

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 large vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 10 egg yolks

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, milk, vanilla bean with scraped seeds and sugar. Heat on medium-low until the mixture just comes to a simmer, then cover and let it steep to infuse the vanilla. The longer it steeps the stronger the flavor.
  2. While the vanilla/cream mixture is steeping, place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and whisk together.
  3. Bring the vanilla/cream mixture to a simmer again, then remove it from the heat. Whisk the egg yolks continuously while slowly pouring in a small amount of the vanilla/cream. In all, stir in about a quarter of the cream mixture or enough to warm the eggs.
  4. Stir the tempered egg mixture into the remaining cream and stir constantly until it starts to thicken. You'll know it's done when it coats the back of a wooden spoon and it leaves a line when you can run your finger through it.
  5. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the thickened custard into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for several hours, preferably overnight. The custard should be very thick.
  6. Churn according to your ice cream maker's directions. (You may have to do this in two batches, as I did.)
  7. When mixture is almost done, drop in the waffle cone pieces and mix in thoroughly.
  8. Transfer about a quarter of the ice cream mixture to a freezer-safe container and drizzle caramel sauce on top. Repeat three times. Smooth the top and run a knife through the ice cream to swirl in the caramel.
  9. Freeze until it reaches the desired firmness (at least 4 hours).

Vanilla base adapted from zoebakes.com