Why, oh, why did I make half a batch this week? Every Tuesday we bake something delicious from Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook, and on the other weekday evenings I still make the usual suspects: chocolate chip cookies, pudding, cupcakes, or whatever else is on my mind. So I suppose it was some misguided sense of moderation that led me to halve the recipe.
While it’s true that I only made a 9×9 dish of the caramel crunch bars, I quickly realized just how good these thin little treats were going to be. So, I gave them the royal treatment: salted butter caramel ice cream and hot fudge sauce.
Hey, it was Dorie’s idea. She said they make perfect ice cream sandwiches. But it’s February, and they needed something warm. My grandmother would be proud, as many times as she said, ‘Oh, Amy, dear, you look cold. Let me bring you a nice sweater, a blanket, a pair of warm socks, maybe?’ The poor caramel crunch bars looked cold, for goodness sake.
These are delicious. I took the extra 15 minutes to whip up a batch of homemade toffee to sprinkle on top (though you can always use packaged toffee bits or crushed Heath bar shards).
For the caramel crunch bars recipe, visit Whitney’s site. And, if by chance, you decide these bars need a little salted butter caramel ice cream on the side, I’ve included that recipe below. [If the bars look chilly, by all means add hot fudge. You won't regret it.]
Salted butter caramel ice cream
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Makes 1 quart
Caramel praline (mix-in) ingredients:
½ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon sea salt, such as fleur de sel
Ice cream custard ingredients:
2 cups whole milk, divided
1½ cups sugar
4 tablespoons salted butter
scant ½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
For the praline:
1. To make the caramel praline, spread the ½ cup of sugar in an even layer in a medium-sized, unlined heavy duty saucepan. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or brush it sparingly with unflavored oil.
2. Heat the sugar over moderate heat until the edges begin to melt. Use a heatproof utensil to gently stir the liquefied sugar from the bottom and edges towards the center, stirring, until all the sugar is dissolved. (Or most of it—-there may be some lumps, which will melt later.) Continue to cook stirring infrequently until the caramel starts smoking and begins to smell like it’s just about to burn. This will take about 5 minutes.
3. Without hesitation, sprinkle in the ¾ teaspoon salt without stirring, then pour the caramel onto the prepared baking sheet and lift up the baking sheet immediately, tilting and swirling it almost vertically to encourage the caramel to form as thin a layer as possible. Set aside to harden and cool.
For the ice cream:
4. To make the ice cream, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl about a third full with ice cubes and adding a cup or so of water so they’re floating. Nest a smaller metal bowl (at least 2 quarts/liters) over the ice, pour 1 cup of the milk into the inner bowl, and rest a mesh strainer on top of it.
5. Spread 1½ cups sugar in the saucepan in an even layer. Cook over moderate heat, until caramelized, using the same method described in Step #2.
6. Once caramelized, remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt, until butter is melted, then gradually whisk in the cream, stirring as you go. The caramel may harden and seize, but return it to the heat and continue to stir over low heat until any hard caramel is melted. [During this step, you may despair that the ice cream will succeed. Hang in there. It looks bad now, but it'll taste great later.] Stir in 1 cup of the milk.
7. Whisk the yolks in a small bowl and gradually pour some of the warm caramel mixture over the yolks, stirring constantly. Scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and cook the custard using a heatproof utensil, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture thickens. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read 170 F.
8. Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk set over the ice bath, add the vanilla, then stir frequently until the mixture is cooled down. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or until thoroughly chilled.
9. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
10. While the ice cream is churning, crumble the hardened caramel praline into very little bits, about the size of very large confetti (about ½-inch). You can use a mortar and pestle, your hands, or a rolling pin.
11. Once your caramel ice cream is churned, quickly stir in the crushed caramel, then chill in the freezer until firm.