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Friday, May 14, 2010

Crème Brûlée Ice Cream

Crème brûlée ice cream is two great desserts in one. Crème brûlée is a fantastic dessert just by itself. It is a rich, creamy custard that is usually vanilla-flavored. Right before it is served, a thin layer of sugar is spread over the custard and a mini torch is used to melt and caramelize the sugar. This ice cream flavor has been on my "to make" list for awhile. Last Friday, my wife and I celebrated our 5-year wedding anniversary; and one of her requests was for me to make a Crème Brûlée Ice Cream. I was more than happy to grant her wish.

When you eat crème brûlée you have to break through the caramelized sugar layer to scoop into the creamy vanilla custard. In each bite, your mouth will have the soft silky custard texture and the crispy crunchy caramelized sugar -- it a great contrast to each other. The key to the ice cream is to replicate that crunchy caramel sugar topping to give you that distinct crème brûlée flavor.

To create my rendition of crème brûlée, I start off with a very custardy ice cream base.


7 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean split and scraped
1 pinch of salt
2 tbsp pure vanilla extract

Begin the base by warming the milk, 1/2 cup of heavy cream, sugar, salt and vanilla bean in a sauce pan over medium high heat. I basically doubled the amount of eggs I would normally use to create vanilla ice cream to give it a more custardy flavor. Once the milk and cream mixture comes to a low boil, temper the eggs yolks with the milk and cream. Pour the ice cream base back into the sauce pan and over medium heat bring the mixture up to 165 degrees, using an instant read thermometer. Make sure to stir the ice cream base constantly so that the custard doesn’t clump up and start sticking to the bottom of the sauce pan, which will ruin your ice cream base. Once the ice cream base reaches 165 degrees, pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a heat-safe bowl. Add in the remaining cream and vanilla extract and the place the ice cream base on an ice bath for 1 hour. This will help stop the cooking process on the ice cream base and keep it nice and smooth. Refrigerate the ice cream base for at least 4 hours. Then follow your ice cream maker instructions.

To replicate the crunchy caramel sugar topping, caramelize 1/2 cup of sugar in a small sauce pan. When caramelizing sugar, remember to give it your full attention, because it can quickly burn and then your caramel is ruined. Let the sugar melt over medium high heat and constantly stir the sugar. When the sugar starts melting, it will slowly start to caramelize and turn brown. Once it reaches a nice amber color, pour the caramel over a piece of aluminum foil. You want to make the caramel as thin as possible so it will be easier to crumble into the ice cream later. Let the caramel cool for a couple of hours. You can make this ahead of time so that when your ice cream is done churning, you can mix the caramel pieces.

Once have your ice cream churning in the machine, now is a good time break up the caramel into tiny pieces. To do this I peeled the caramel away from the foil and then put the pieces in between wax paper. I then used a meat tenderizer to shatter the caramel into tiny pieces. Place the shattered caramel pieces into a bowl. Once the ice cream has reached a soft serve consistency, scoop the ice cream into a bowl and then combine with the caramel pieces. For 1 pint of ice cream, I used 3 teaspoons of caramel pieces. I feel that this is a good ratio; but if you like more or less caramel pieces, it is totally up to you how much to include. You can reserve large pieces of caramel for garnishing your ice cream.

I really enjoyed this ice cream. The extra rich and creamy vanilla custard with bits of crunchy and toasty caramel capture the essence of a great crème brûlée.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you for all of your comments and feedback. It is truly great to hear from you; and if you do try to make this dessert, please let me know how it turns out.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Che Chuoi (Banana and Coconut) Ice Cream

What is che? Che is a Vietnamese sweet dessert soup. Maybe soup isn't the proper description because when we think of soup, it is something savory and very seldom is it sweet.  Che in the Vietnamese culture can be a combination of sweet rice, red beans, mung beans and gelatins, usually swimming in a sugary syrup or in a bath of sweetened coconut milk. Che can be served either warm or cold -- I usually prefer mine on the chilled side. I grew up eating a lot of che. My mom and aunts were experts at making it; and that is part of the reason why I have such a big sweet tooth.

The event Delicious Vietnam is being hosted by A food lover’s journey and Ravenous Couple.   The challenge is to cook a Vietnamese dish or put a spin on a traditional Vietnamese dish. My challenge is to create an ice cream inspired by a Vietnamese dish.

One of my favorite types of che is Che Chuoi, which is traditionally made with bananas, tapioca pearls and coconut milk. The bananas that are used are not your typical store-bought bananas. These are Kepok bananas, which are fatter and not as round or long. They also have a starchier taste, usually not as sweet and are much firmer. You can cook these bananas and they won't get as soft as your regular bananas. You can find Kepok bananas in your local Asian market or even your Mexican grocery store.

Che Chuoi gets its wonderful flavor by simmering the bananas in the sweet and creamy coconut milk and tapioca pearls. The coconut milk gains some of the banana flavor and the banana is softened by cooking in the coconut milk.  This dessert has so much texture going on...the tapioca pearls dancing in your mouth, the soft texture of the bananas and the sweet coconut milk coating your entire mouth. The flavor just lingers on your tongue after each spoonful.

Che Chuoi Ice Cream:
2 Kepok bananas (you can substitute regular bananas)
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
toasted sesame seeds or crushed peanuts for garnish

My Che Chuoi inspired ice cream starts off by simmering coconut milk with the Kepok bananas for 30 minutes on medium heat. Remove the bananas and save for later. Stir in sugar, salt and 1 cup of heavy cream. Bring the mixture to a low boil and then transfer to a heat-proof bowl. Add the remaining cup of heavy cream to ice cream base. Place the ice cream base into an ice bath for 1 hour and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours. 

Follow your ice cream makers instructions. At this time, slice up the bananas into small bite size pieces. When the ice cream reaches a soft -serve consistency transfer the ice cream into freezer safe bowls. Alternate scooping the ice cream and sprinkling the banana pieces. Do this until the bowls are full of the coconut banana goodness. Let the ice cream harden in your freezer for a couple hours before serving.  When serving the dessert you can top it off with some salted, crushed peanuts or toasted sesame seeds, just the like how Che Chuoi would normally be topped off before serving.

Cam on (Thank you),
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