Thankfully, the heat spell we’ve been having for the past so-many weeks has finally broken. (At least I hope so.) Now the days have settled into the very pleasant mid-80s, with a bright blue sky overhead and a gentle breeze sailing in from the ocean.
Sounds delightful, doesn’t?
As delightful as a bowl of dulce de leche ice cream.
If you’re not familiar with dulce de leche, it’s a caramel-like substance that’s very rich and creamy, but a little mellower than ordinary caramel. You should be able to find a can of it in the “international” aisle of your grocery store. But if not, there are a few methods out there where you can turn a can of sweetened condensed milk into dulce de leche. One of them involves boiling a can for 3 to 4 hours. While homemade stuff is great, boiling something for 4 hours when you can buy the stuff already in a can seemed like a silly idea. Plus, I didn’t want to ruin one of these very pleasant summer days stuck inside watching a pot boil. I much prefer devouring a bowl of creamy ice cream instead.
Dulce de Leche Ice Cream
3 cups of half & half
1 13.4 oz can of dulce de leche, plus more for topping
2 vanilla beans, seeds removed
In a large saucepan, heat the half & half over medium heat until nearly boiling. Remove from the heat and whisk in the dulce de leche until dissolved, and then stir in the vanilla bean seeds. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold or overnight.
Place the mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the machine’s instructions. Most machines take 20 to 40 minutes to make ice cream. When the ice cream is thick and creamy, place into a freezer-safe container (with piece of parchment paper between the ice cream and the lid) and let it harden for a few hours. Let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes before scooping. Top with lightly melted dulce de leche and eat.
It continues to be hot. Like H-O-T hot. I feel like I’ve been melting, or on the verge of melting, for weeks. Which is good and bad when ice cream is involved. You want your ice cream cold and tasty, but not too cold that you can’t eat it without a dreaded brain freeze. And then you don’t want it too melty so it turns into a big drippy mess and gets all over your face and clothes, or whatever else happens to be around, like your iPhone, or your cat.
These are the things I was thinking about when I was making my latest batch of ice cream. This time I’ve gone the fruity route, using blackberries, those darker, richer cousins of raspberries and strawberries.
I really love the color of this ice cream, it’s such a happy purple. It just makes me smile. It’s like staring into a bowl of Grimace or something. Wait, is that weird? Forget I said that. The heat has gotten to me. It’s nothing like a bowl of Grimace. It’s sweet and creamy and berry good … and might just be one of the tastiest varieties I’ve made.
Blackberry Ice Cream
2 pints of blackberries
1 1/4 cups of sugar
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
3 cups of half & half
5 large egg yolks
In a medium saucepan, combine the blackberries, 1/4 cup of sugar and the lemon juice. Simmer over low heat until the blackberries have broken down and are syrupy, about 20 minutes. Next, pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl, using a spoon or spatula to get as much of the liquid through as possible. Discard the remaining pulp and seeds and let the liquid cool.
In another saucepan, heat 1 ½ cups of half & half and 1 cup of sugar over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a bowl until pale yellow and thick, about 3 minutes. Gradually add some of the warm half & half mixture into the egg yolks while whisking constantly. Then pour the egg-half & half mixture into the saucepan and continue cooking over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and can coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes.
Add the remaining 1 ½ cups of half & half to the blackberry mixture, and then add the egg-half & half mixture and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold or overnight.
Place the mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the machine’s instructions. Most machines take 20 to 40 minutes to make ice cream. When the ice cream is thick and creamy, place into a freezer-safe container (with piece of parchment paper between the ice cream and the lid) and let it harden for a few hours.
Let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes before scooping, and then eat.
Okay, if you’re keeping track, this is technically not ice cream as well, but it is frozen and delicious and a summertime favorite. And it gave me the chance to try out my new super-cool (har-har) Zoku popsicle maker. If you don’t know what that is, then you’re in for a real treat. It’s this magical little invention that freezes popsicles right on your counter in 9 minutes or less. I know! I could hardly believe it myself until I tried it myself, and literally 9 minutes later I was enjoying a strawberries and cream popsicle. Don’t skip the first step – letting the berries sit with the sugar and vanilla makes them soft and juicy. And the Greek yogurt adds some subtle tang, but if that’s not your thing you can use regular yogurt.
Strawberries & Cream Popsicles
1 lb of strawberries, hulled & diced
4 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1 cup of Greek vanilla yogurt
Place the strawberries in a bowl along with the sugar and vanilla, and let stand for about 15 minutes until juicy. Place into a blender, add the yogurt and mix until smooth. Pour into popsicle molds (or your properly frozen Zoku machine) and let freeze. Then enjoy.
While technically not ice cream, this pie IS frozen, and basically has the same ingredients as ice cream, so I’m qualifying this as a meltdown. And even for people who don’t like pie (this guy) this one is a real treat. I’ll let you in on a little secret too — I’m spilling a lot of them this week — I don’t use regular graham crackers for the crust. I use honey-flavored Teddy Grahams. So, I throw those poor innocent bears into a food processor and pulverize them into little crumbs. If that offends anyone, I’m sorry. But just like the brave limes in this pie, they really do sacrifice their lives for a good cause. As a result, this frozen pie has all the necessary flavors of the perfect summer dessert: zesty, creamy, sweet and, if you leave it out in the sun for too long, melty.
Frozen Key Lime Pie
For the crust:
2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
6 tablespoons of butter, melted
For the filling:
6 large egg yolks
1/4 cup of sugar
1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons of lime zest
3/4 cup of lime juice (about 4 to 5 limes)
For the topping:
½ pint of heavy cream
3 tablespoons of sugar
½ teaspoon of vanilla
Heat your oven to 350º.
For the crust, combine the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in a bowl. Press into a 10 inch pie dish, making sure the sides and bottom are even thickness. Bake for 10 minutes, and then allow to cool completely.
For the filling, beat the egg yolks and sugar on high until thick, about 5 minutes. On medium speed, add the sweetened condensed milk, lime zest and lime juice. Pour the mixture into the baked pie crust, cover with foil and let freeze overnight.
For the topping, beat the heavy cream on high until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat to combine. Spoon over the top of the pie and allow to freeze several hours. Cut into slices and then eat.