Two of Dad's favourite things are ice cream and everything caramel. That meant deciding on what to make was pretty straightforward; Homemade Dulce de Leche Ice Cream. For most people having cake and ice cream at a birthday, the ratio is about 2 cake to 1 ice cream. For Dad it's more like 3 ice cream to 1 cake, and even then, he'll ask why you're being so stingy with the ice cream. For his birthday one year, I even made him a home-made ice cream cake, something I imagine I'll do again soon, as his birthday is fast approaching.
Making ice cream from scratch is not all that difficult, but it is a lengthy process when you do it properly. So be warned, when a sudden insatiable craving for ice cream hits, you'd better run to the store because this is not something that can just be whipped up in 20 minutes like a batch of cookies. Nope - there's a lot of waiting and chilling time involved here. Even more so because we're making French style ice cream. Let me explain...
There are two basic types of ice cream (I'm not even going to get into gelatos, sorbets or semi-freddos today - that's another post entirely); Philadelphia style and French custard style ice cream. Philadelphia ice cream is usually pretty simple and light, as it contains just cream, sugar and flavourings. There's no cooking required in this kind of ice cream, but you're still going to have to wait for it to freeze up. French custard style ice cream, on the other hand, needs to be cooked first. because it contains egg yolks, which give this kind of ice cream a rich taste and mouth feel, and it's also why some vanilla ice creams are a creamy yellow colour instead of a pure, snowy white colour (that would be Philly style). For French custard-style ice cream, you cook your custard first, then it needs time to cool down and chill in the fridge for a while. Once it's chilled, then you can put it into your ice cream maker and let those wonderful ice crystals work their magic and incorporate air into the cream - which is what gives ice cream it's trademark texture. When it comes out of the machine, it will be the consistency of soft-serve ice cream, so it still needs to be transferred into a container and put into the freezer for a few hours before it will become really firm. I know - it sounds like an awful lot of work for something you can pick up at the corner store, but homemade ice cream tastes sooo much better, and you should be able to pronounce every ingredient it was made with. Not the case with 90% of the stuff in the grocery store freezer. Hopefully I haven't scared you out of trying this recipe, because it really is worth the effort, and more importantly, so is Dad.
To go from just regular, plain ol' vanilla ice cream (which I personally happen to love) to dulce de leche ice cream, all you need is a jar of dulce de leche. OK, so it's not all that common for most people to keep a jar on hand, but in my fridge, there is almost always a jar of home-made caramel sauce on the shelf, right beside the jar of dark chocolate ganache (because home-made or not, all ice cream is better with a little bit of warmed sauce on top). These days, you can also buy jars of dulce de leche at just about any grocery store, which comes in pretty handy for recipes like these ones. To get a really caramelly ice cream, I took inspiration from David Lebovitz's recipe for Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream, and used dulce de leche in place of most of the sugar in the custard base. Once that was done and the custard was cooked, chilled and finally had a run in the ice cream maker, all that was left do was to add a nice, thick swirl of pure dulce de leche through the finished product before it headed into it's rest in the freezer. A few hours later, Dad was enjoying his Father's Day present and aside from several "mmmmmmm's", was not talking much. It's a pretty good feeling to see someone who has done so much for you in your life, enjoying the little treat you made especially for them. It's the least we can do for our dads, don't you think?
Dulce de Leche Ice Cream
Makes approximately 1 litre of ice cream
370ml whole milk 1 1/2 Cups
370ml whipping or heavy cream 1/12 Cups
15ml vanilla 1 Tbsp
3g salt 1/2 tsp
250ml dulce de leche 2 1/4 Cups
4 egg yolks
30 g granulated sugar 2 Tbsp
Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl about 2/3 full with ice and cold water; set aside. Get a smaller bowl and place a fine sieve over it and set aside. This is what the finished custard will be poured into.
In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, cream, vanilla, salt & 150ml (1 1/4 cups) of the dulce de leche. Place over medium-low heat and gently stir the mixture periodically to help the caramel fully melt. Do not allow the mixture to boil - you want it to be just barely simmering at it's hottest.
In a separate bowl, placed on a damp towl or non-skid mat, add the 4 egg yolks and the sugar. Whisk vigorously until the mixture is pale yellow. Continue whisking (quickly but not as vigourously) and carefully pour the 1/3 of the hot cream in a slow and steady stream into the egg mixture - this is called "tempering" (The trick to avoiding scrambled eggs here is to to never stop whisking, and to not add the hot cream too quickly). Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining cream and gently stir over medium-low heat until the custard just begins to thicken. Again, you don't want the custard to boil, you only want it to thicken.
Remove from heat and carefully pour the custard through the sieve and into the empty bowl.
Immediately place the bowl into the ice bath, ensuring that no water gets into the custard.
Cover the custard with plastic wrap and allow it to cool to room temperature before removing from the ice bath and placing in the fridge to chill for 2-4 hours until cold.
Follow the manufacturer's directions for churning the custard in the ice cream maker. Once it has finished churning, the mixture should have more than doubled in volume and be soft-serve ice-cream consistency. Working quickly, scrape the ice cream into a freezer-safe container. Pour the remaining dulce de leche over the ice cream and swirl it throughout. Transfer the ice cream to the freezer and allow to chill for several hours. When the ice cream has fully frozen, all you need are spoons and a couple of bowls...
Happy Father's Day to all the dad's out there. I hope you were able to enjoy your favourite treat to celebrate.