Al Dente Frozen: Salted caramel ice cream ala Bi-Rite Creamery **FAIL**

IMG_1968I regret not doing three things during this summer’s trip to San Francisco this summer:

  1. Bringing better shoes.
  2. Bringing home a few pounds of Blue Bottle Coffee
  3. Stopping at Bi-Rite Creamery.

There’s really no excuse for any of them. Worst of all was number three. We actually walked past it on our way to Tartine when we were in The Mission.

Bi-Rite is a homemade ice cream shop located on 18th Street. It’s all small-batch produced with locally-sourced ingredients. The flavors range from the usual — vanilla, cookies and cream, mint chip — to the less usual (for the lack of better words. Orange cardamom. Earl Grey. Honey Lavender. And, today’s Al Dente flavor, salted caramel.

IMG_1967Salted caramel has caught fire recently as people try to bring sweet and savory together. Starbucks has gone as far as creating seasonal salted caramel drinks.

The recipe comes from Bi-Rite’s 2012 cookbook, Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones. I don’t own the book, but instead grabbed the directions from Serious Eats editor Max Falkowitz, who posted it on their website.

You’ll see from the directions that it is not a low-fat mixture. As Falkowitz writes:

All of Bi-Rite’s ice creams are, first and foremost, incredibly creamy. Look at the recipe for their standard base and it’s easy to see why: they use a higher ratio of cream to other ingredients than most other recipes out there, 1 3/4 cups cream to 3/4 cups of milk for not-quite-a-quart. It’s best not to think about the caloric impact of it, and focus on the flavor instead, which rings clear and true in a superbly creamy, almost fluffy ice cream.

He’s absolutely right. The ice cream was so thick that it refused to freeze in the ice cream maker. Like the beer ice cream I had made previously, I had to let it freeze uncovered to solidify. The finished product was so creamy and so thick that I considered weighing the spoonful to see how heavy it was. It was, in a word, decadent.

IMG_1988And, in a word, it was inedible. The best way to describe the flavor of this batch is “absolute shit.” It was really salty, to be point where it was uncomfortable to eat.

Where did I go wrong? I looked through the directions and skimmed the photos (I take pictures of everything along the way and choose the better shots to post) and found the culprit. I messed up.

You see, when the recipe calls for one teaspoon of kosher salt and you add one TABLESPOON of it, you are going to change the flavor profile of the ice cream.

The project was a complete loss. I tossed it out this morning. Lesson learned.

IMG_1989Bi-Rite Creamery salted caramel ice cream
From Bi-Rite Creamery via Serious Eats

  • 1 3/4 cups heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup 1% or 2% milk
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 5 large egg yolks

For the Caramel: Set the measured cream by the stove so it’s at hand when you need it. Measure out 1/2 cup of the sugar and keep near the stove; you’ll use this for the caramel (the rest will go in with the yolks). Put 2 tablespoons of the sugar for the caramel in a heavy stainless steel pan over medium-high heat. When the sugar is melted around the edges and starts to turn amber in places (about 2 minutes), stir the mixture gently and add another 2 tablespoons sugar to the pan.


Continue to add the rest of the 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, stirring frequently and allowing most of the sugar to melt before you add more. Watch carefully as the sugar darkens, stirring gently to help it melt evenly. When the caramel becomes a dark mahogany color, remove the pan from the heat and immediately pour the cream slowly into the pan. (It will steam and bubble up, so wear oven mitts and be very careful to avoid splatters and steam burns.) When the bubbling subsides, gently stir to blend the cream completely into the caramel. If you have lumps of hardened caramel in your pan, simply put the pan over low heat and stir until the caramel is melted.

IMG_1971 IMG_1974

For the Base: Once the caramel is completely smooth, stir in the milk along with the salt and put the pan over medium-high heat. When the mixture approaches a bare simmer, reduce the heat to medium. In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks just to break them up, then whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Set aside. Carefully scoop out about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture and, whisking the eggs constantly, add the cream to the bowl with the egg yolks. Repeat, adding another 1/2 cup of the hot cream to the bowl with the yolks. Returning to the pan of cream on the stove, use a heatproof spatula to stir the cream as you slowly pour the egg and cream mixture from the bowl back into the pan.

Continue to cook the mixture carefully over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thickened, coats the back of a spatula, and leaves a clear mark when you run your finger across it, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Strain the base through a fine-mesh strainer and into a clean container. Set the container into an ice bath, wash your spatula, and use it to stir the base occasionally until it is cool. Then cover base with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Freeze the Ice Cream: When the base is completely chilled, freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. While the ice cream is churning, put the container you’ll use to store the ice cream into the freezer. Enjoy right away, or for a firmer ice cream, freeze for at least 4 hours.



2 thoughts on “Al Dente Frozen: Salted caramel ice cream ala Bi-Rite Creamery **FAIL**”

  1. Most likely, the cause of it not freezing in the ice cream maker was also the salt, not the amount of heavy cream in the recipe. The salt would lower the freezing point. I’ve done the same thing (table spoons of salt vs teaspoons) with mashed potatoes and most recently I did it with a recipe for pizza dough… I can totally sympathize.

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