Looking through this book, it's obvious that vinegar is a big part of our ice creams — and our personality. It's a favorite ingredient because it adds an unexpected savory twist, while helping offset the sweet richness that's usually found in ice creams. Jake is neither sweet nor rich, at least not yet.
Prior to opening Humphry Slocombe, we knew we had to do some kind of caramel flavor, but we also knew that we didn't want to do salted caramel, because everyone had already done that. Enter balsamic vinegar, which possesses natural caramel undertones anyway.
It's become, you could say, one of our more divisive flavors. When our guests ask for a sample of it by calling it simply "Caramel," their taste is often followed by a look of confusion. We quickly figured out that guests weren't even registering the word "balsamic," instead thinking it was just a caramel ice cream. Of course, upon tasting, they were taken back by the jarring explosion of vinegar.
Here's a typical interaction at the shop.
Guest: "I'll have the caramel."
Sean: "You want the vinegar?"
Guest: "No, I'll have the caramel."
Sean: "OK, one vinegar?"
Guest: "Actually, just the caramel would be great."
Sean: "The caramel is vinegar."
Guest: "Ohhh, OK, I guess I'll try that."
[Guest tastes caramel vinegar, realizes it is, in fact, caramel and vinegar.]
Guest: "Love the vinegar."
We now write it on our flavor board as BALSAMIC caramel and everyone lived happily ever after.
Makes 1 quart
1 tbsp butter
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2 tsp salt
3 egg yolks
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
In a large, heavy-bottomed, nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter with 1 1/2 cups of the sugar. Watch carefully; as the mixture begins to melt and darken around the edges, stir the sugar with a heatproof spatula to incorporate it. It will look a little sandy, but that's OK. Continue cooking until the caramel takes on a deep amber color and is a smooth liquid, about 15 minutes.
Immediately add the water to stop the cooking. Caramel can go from being a perfect, smooth brown color — dare we say mahogany? — to being burnt and smoking in a matter of seconds. Be very careful when adding the water, because the caramel will splatter when the water hits it, and blisters on your hands just aren't cute.
After the water is in, heat gently, still over medium, stirring until incorporated and the caramel is a smooth liquid again. Now you work just as you would with your usual custard base: Add the cream, milk, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is hot but not boiling.
Fill a large bowl or pan with ice and water. Place a large, clean bowl in the ice bath and fit the bowl with a fine-mesh strainer.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining 1 cup sugar until well blended.
Remove the cream mixture from the heat. Slowly pour about half of the hot cream mixture into the egg-yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Transfer the yolk mixture back to the saucepan with the remaining cream mixture and return it to medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula and being sure to scrape the bottom of the saucepan so it doesn't scorch, until the liquid begins to steam and you can feel the spatula scrape against the bottom of the pot, about 2–3 minutes.
Remove the custard from the heat and immediately pour it through the strainer into the clean bowl you set up in the ice bath. Let cool, stirring occasionally.
When the custard has totally cooled, cover the bowl tightly and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or preferably overnight. Right before you are ready to freeze the custard, add the vinegar (it will curdle the mix if allowed to sit). Transfer the custard to an ice cream maker and spin according to the manufacturer's instructions. (Don't pull your hair out if it's not solidifying all the way in the machine; this is one of the softer ice creams in the book, and the freezer can finish the job.)Transfer to an airtight container, cover, and freeze until it reaches the desired consistency. It will keep for up to 1 week.
From Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book by Jake Godby and Sean Vahey. Copyright 2012 by Jake Godby and Sean Vahey. Excerpted by permission of Chronicle Books.