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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chocolate Ice Cream with Caramel and Spiced Peanuts

By now all of the voters must be anxious to see the recipe and hear all about my adventures with making it. And by adventures, I do mean it was a crazy ride. Four batches of caramel, three batches of nuts, and two different chocolate bases later I finally achieved a fantastic result.

This is the best chocolate base I have ever made. It is so chocolaty and creamy you won't believe you could make something this decadent at home. I used Callebaut bittersweet as the chocolate. I wanted a strong flavor to offset the nuts. Here is the worksheet:

Caramel... well... is caramel. As I mentioned I have had a bit of a problem with it. The final version I made was a too dark, but the flavor was good so I decided to use it. You may not be able to see it in the ice cream very well, but it is there and it is a great addition. Although, I did not do it this time, I like to swirl in some butter as the caramel is half-way cooled to room temperature. It really adds a great dimension to the flavor. If you want to use this option, make the caramel as I prescribe below, then add four tablespoons of butter one at a time once the caramel has cooled about half-way to room-temperature. Make sure that each tablespoon is fully incorporated before adding the next. This works best when the butter has warmed to room temperature. Do not add melted butter or add the butter when the caramel is too hot. You want to emulsify the butter as opposed to melting it into the caramel.

The nuts were the worst part for me. Whatever I might have told you in the past about skinning peanuts being easy, well I take it back. It isn't hard, but it is time consuming and I actually had to blanch the peanuts a second time because not all the skins were coming off easily. Please, I implore you to find raw, skinned nuts. You will thank me for it later.
If you have never had Chinese five spice powder before, you are in for a treat. This ubiquitous Chinese seasoning consists of star anise, anise seed, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon. Five spice powder is usually a savory ingredient, but it does show up occasionally in dessert.

Tips for success:

1. Make the caramel and the nuts first. They must be no warmer than room temperature before adding them to the final product. Obviously you do not want to melt your freshly made ice cream.
2. Careful with the caramel. It can be tricky. Remember to pull it off when you get to a medium amber color. Keep a close eye on the pan because if it gets too dark, you'll have to start over. Also, the cream tends to sputter and can flare up when it is added. Do yourself a favor and wear protective clothing. Long sleeves or good mid-arm length oven mitts will work well.
3. I suggest you line the baking sheet with foil when making the nuts. Because the pan contents are added with the water some of the spice mixture will inevitably stick to the pan. Using foil makes cleanup a breeze.

For the Caramel:

The method for this is from Alton Brown. You can always trust that he has done a great job researching how to make things successfully. Unfortunately, only you can judge the color. Be careful to pull it off the heat and swiftly add the cream. You want to cool the sugar quickly or else it will keep cooking.

2 cups sugar
½ cup water
1 ½ cups cream, warmed to at least room temperature, but never boiled.

1. Put the sugar and the water in a sauce pan. Combine over medium heat until the sugar has incorporated into the water. You may stir a little during this phase to make sure the sugar and water are evenly combined. But don't go overboard with the stirring.
2. Turn the heat to high. Bring to a boil.
3. Cover for 2 minutes.
4. Remove the cover and watch closely for the next three minutes. When the sugar becomes medium amber in color remove from the heat.
5. Add the cream carefully so as not to burn yourself. See the tips for success above for recommendations.

For the Nuts:

When you taste the finished nuts before they go into the ice cream, you may think I am crazy. You won't necessarily like them. Younger Sister-in-law Fellow said "at first they taste bad, but then the flavor becomes delicious." This is hardly a good quality. I think food should taste good from the start. In fact, I was so disappointed with them, that I considered scrapping the recipe and apologizing to you for a failure. Only once they are in the final product with the chocolate and the caramel do they really shine. This recipe makes too many nuts. In fact, I have so many left over and so much caramel, I am contemplating making some homemade candy bars. The finished nuts have only the slightest hint of heat. If you like them spicier, increase the amount of cayenne pepper.

1 pound raw peanuts, blanched and skinned.
2 teaspoons 5 spice powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup water
1/8 teaspoon of salt (I actually used three turns of my salt grinder)

1. Preheat the oven to 275 F. Line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Place the water in a saucepan big enough to hold all the ingredients. Add the salt and spices; bring to a boil for 15 - 20 seconds.
3. Turn off the heat, add the peanuts, and mix well.
4. Dump in the pan contents (water included) onto the baking sheet. Spread the nuts into a single layer.
5. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour. Periodically check on the peanuts. Move them around so they brown evenly. Depending on your oven, you may want to rotate the baking sheet too.
6. Remove the nuts from the oven when they are roasted to your satisfaction. Remember they will not necessarily be hard when you remove them, but they will be when they are cooled. The golden rule for nuts is that when you can smell them, they are done. Be careful here because you will smell the spices before the peanuts are finished.

For the Chocolate Ice Cream:

1 cup cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz bittersweet chocolate cut into chunks (for the base)

1. Combine the cream, milk, and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a saucepan and heat to a bare simmer stirring occasionally.
2. Combine the egg yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Beat until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated and the mixture turns pale yellow.
3. Coarsely chop the chocolate.
4. Once the cream mixture is at ready, remove it from the heat.
5. Temper the eggs by mixing in a small amount of the cream, stir thoroughly, and repeat three times. You should use about 1/3 of a cup of hot cream mixture in total. Then pour the complete egg mixture into the cream pot.
6. Return the pot to the heat and stir constantly until the custard reaches 175 degrees Fahrenheit.
7. Remove the pot from the heat. And add the chocolate. Stir until the contents are completely melted. If you are having problems getting the chocolate to melt, you may return the pot to the heat very briefly.
8. Stir in the vanilla extract
9. Pour the custard through a sieve into a bowl and let cool to room temperature.
10. Cover the bowl and chill overnight.
11. The next day, freeze the custard in your ice cream machine. During the last minute of the freezing process add the peanuts.
12. Put about one third of the ice cream in a container. Spread a layer of caramel on top of it. Put down another third of the ice cream, then another layer of caramel. Finally finish with the ice cream. When you scoop the finished product you will see the swirls or caramel.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Where Caramel Goes to Die

Sadly, I have ruined two more batches of caramel. This experience has taught me something very valuable that was not given in any of the 10 caramel recipes I consulted. The cream must be room temperature before you incorporate it into the boiling sugar. Otherwise, the cream will cool the liquid too quickly and you'll get a lumpy and still wet mess.

The other thing I learned was that there is an easy way to clean the pan when this happens. Fill it with water and bring it to a boil. Then pour the contents out and all the sugar stuck to the pan will be gone.

I blame this all on Baby Fellow. She may be very cute, but she is also very dangerous. She gave Mrs. Fellow and I a nasty case of the Ebola. It has me off my "A-game". Please forgive the lack of recipe this week. I'll have something for you soon after I recover. In the meantime, if you crave ice cream recipes, check out the Food Network. It is brain freeze week or something like that. It is also a good time to check out a couple of my friends like Ice Cream Ireland and Dessert First.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I burned my caramel. Usually this is not a big deal because but I used up all of my sugar. I feel awful for making such a rookie mistake. Caramel should be easy, but I second guessed myself and let it stay on the heat for a couple of seconds too long. The color went from the medium-amber it should have been to dark amber. It tasted bitter and was too close in color to the chocolate ice cream.

Hang tight the recipe is coming soon.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Poll Runoff

The poll was a tie between Cherry Coke Ice Cream and Chocolate Caramal with Spiced Peanuts. So I changed the poll to remove the less popular choices. You have until sunday to break the tie. I have great ideas for both.