For some reason, people are always incredibly impressed when you present them with home made ice cream. I’ve found the same with bread, and think perhaps it’s the fact that both are such readily available convenience foods that inspires such enthusiasm and awe in guests when you bother to produce them yourself.
Anyone who owns an ice cream maker will know that this is not a complicated process. We’re no longer required to fetch snow down from the mountains or patiently shave away at blocks of ice as our ancestors once did. The ability to make a basic custard is useful, but not an absolute necessity – as shown by the simple ‘Philadelphia-style’ recipe below – and then it’s just a question of mixing and matching flavours to your taste. Nonetheless, there is still something very magical about ice cream, the way it undergoes a texture transformation as it freezes, turning a nondescript liquid into a cool, creamy, velvety delight which melts in your mouth.
This summer I’ve been eating a lot of ice cream. I got a machine for my birthday back in July, and since then have been experimenting with different flavours, pouring over recipe books and trawling the internet, discovering new techniques, ingredients and flavour combinations to experiment with. So when Kavita of the wonderful Kavey Eats blog asked if I’d like to get involved in her Ice Cream Wednesday series, I jumped at the chance. With recipes from Signe Johansen, Jean-Christophe Novelli and a whole host of ice cream obsessed bloggers, Ice Cream Wednesday has been an inspiring, indulgent and unmissable celebration of all things frozen and delicious.
The recipe I came up with is something I’d been thinking about for a while. Making butterscotch pecan tartufi introduced me to the joys of ice cream cloaked in chocolate, and I started wondering if some sort of ice cream bar might be possible. As an even littler loaf, Feasts were one of my favourite ice creams, so I embarked on my first attempt to recreate this chocolatey childhood treat using a set of plastic ice lolly moulds. The result was a complete disaster, with half melted ice cream pouring all over my kitchen work surfaces, but it spurred me on to develop a simpler method, involving less margin for error and stronger, punchier flavours.
The result is my pimped up salty Snickers ice cream bars. Silky smooth peanut butter ice cream is topped with a layer of chewy caramel, scattered with slightly salted peanuts then cloaked in a rich robe of glossy dark chocolate. The salty sweet flavours and quality ingredients elevate this ice cream from a childhood snack to something altogether more sophisticated, and the look on people’s faces when you produce them from the freezer makes the small amount of effort that goes in to making them absolutely worth it.
I’d still like to make an elegant, lolly shaped ice cream at some point – these bars are utterly delicious but a little rough and ready round the edges. If anyone can tell me how to do this, or where I can buy some suitable moulds, I’d love to hear from you. Otherwise do let me know what your favourite childhood ice cream or treat was. Who knows, it might be fun to have a go at recreating that too . . .
For the ice cream (taken from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop)
180g good quality smooth peanut butter
180g golden caster sugar
660ml single cream
Pinch of salt
¼ tsp vanilla extract
Line a 23 cm square loose bottomed tin with baking parchment.
Purée the peanut butter, sugar, cream, salt and vanilla extract in a blender until smooth. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the fridge, then churn in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Once almost set, spoon into the prepared tin, smooth the top flat and freeze until hard.
For the caramel:
115g unsalted butter
1 x 397g tin condensed milk
4tbsp golden syrup
Fleur de sel to taste
2 large handfuls roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped (plus a few extra for decoration)
Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat for two to three minutes, then add the condensed milk and golden syrup.
Beat the mixture well until the butter is thoroughly incorporated. Bring it to a slow simmer then, keeping the temperature even, cook for 10 minutes, stirring continuously, until thickened and light golden-brown in colour (this mixture can burn very easily, so keep stirring and don’t leave the pan unattended). Once you have a thick caramel, remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, then remove the ice cream from the freezer and pour a layer of caramel over. Sprinkle with the fleur de sel and chopped peanuts, then return to the freezer to set hard.
For the bars:
350g good quality dark chocolate
170g unsalted butter
3 tbsp corn or glucose syrup
Line a large flat board with baking parchment and pop in the freezer to cool.
Melt the chocolate, butter and syrup together in a large bowl set over a pan of simmering water until smooth, then remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Remove the frozen ice cream and caramel from the freezer. Pop the bottom from the loose bottomed tin – you should have a big square of frozen ice cream topped with a layer of hardened caramel. Slice this block into bars – I made 14 large bars, but you can adjust to your taste (and appetite!). Remove your prepared, lined board from the freezer at this stage.
Now you need to work quickly. Taking two spoons, drop one of the bars into the chocolate mixture. Turn quickly to coat evenly in a thin layer of chocolate, then transfer onto the prepared board and sprinkle with chopped nuts (optional). Repeat for the remaining bars, returning to the freezer in batches if necessary (i.e. if they start to melt). Allow to firm up fully in the freezer, removing around 10 minutes before you want to eat them so the ice cream softens and the caramel becomes gooey. Keep any remaining ice creams in an air tight container in the freezer – the perfect indulgent dessert to have on call whenever you need a sugary fix.