Welcome to the Path to Ice Cream Heaven. But be warned – the destination and, let’s face it, all the quality control rest stops along the way, are not for the faint of heart, or the poor of glycaemic control, or the short of patience, or the easily distracted, or the dairy/nut/egg intolerant, or any other whinypants weaklings who can’t cope with the artery-clogging, teeth-loosening, sugar sweats of true indulgence.
The warm up
Very vanilla custard:
4 egg yolks
4 tablespoons of caster sugar
1 teaspoon of cornflour
350 mls of milk
1 vanilla pod
The night before (if you’re that organised. If not, it’s not the end of the world), split your vanilla pod, scrape all the seeds into the milk and throw in the pod for good measure. Cover and leave in the fridge to infuse overnight.
In a large bowl, whisk your egg yolks, sugar and cornflour until pale and creamy. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to just under boiling point.
Whisk the milk into the egg mixture. Transfer the custard mixture back to the saucepan.
Over a low-medium heat, stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon.
Take off the heat immediately and strain through a sieve back into the original bowl.
Gently cover the surface with clingfilm (to prevent a skin forming) and set aside to cool.
Hitting your stride
600 mls of cream
2/3 of a cup of caster sugar
Whip the cream into soft peaks and set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat cook the sugar, stirring continuously, until it is golden brown. Keep on the heat.
Pour in the cream, stirring continuously. This looks gorgeous – like a thick, creamy latte with caramel swirls. Sadly, it is far too hands-on to photograph.
Continue to heat the mixture, bringing to a gentle boil. Any hard toffee bits will dissolve into the cream.
Pour into a bowl and put in the fridge to cool.
The hard, slightly annoying bit where you just want to sit down and have a good cup of tea
Paula Deen’s English Toffee
I was introduced to Paula Deen by SF, the beloved’s sister, when we were in America. For those of you who have never encountered this bronzed Southern Queen of The Stick of Butter, you should seek her out. After all, who knows what your heart-attack threshold is until you really really test it?
180 grams of unsalted butter
1 cup of caster sugar
2 tablespoons of cold water
1/2 a cup of chopped pecans
A good pinch of salt
~150 grams of dark eating chocolate, shaved
(you could halve this amount and still have enough for the ice cream, but that wouldn’t leave you with late night snacks)
Chop your pecans and shave your chocolate. Set aside for later.
Generously butter a baking tray. Set aside.
Put the butter, sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Put a cold glass of water within reach of the stove.
Heat over medium-high heat, stirring continuously, until you’ve got a bubbling boil. Now stir occasionally and continue to boil for 5-7 minutes.
Test the toffee’s readiness by dropping small bits into the glass of water and fishing them out with a spoon. When it’s ready the bits will be slightly crunchy but not brittle.
Take off the heat and stir in the pecans, salt and vanilla extract.
Pour onto the prepared tray. Sprinkle with the shaved chocolate. Allow to cool and set. This won’t be brittle like some eating toffee, but will be slightly soft and perfect for adding to the ice cream. Obviously, if you want to alter the brittleness, just adjust your cooking time to suit.
When set, chop up about half of it into little chunks and splinters. Set aside.
The home stretch
Set up your trusty ice cream machine*.
Pour in the cooled custard and toffee cream.
Churn until thickened but not scoopably firm.
Add the splintered toffee and continue to churn until firm.
Transfer to a 1.5 litre freezer-proof container. Scoop into bowls.
Voila…The promised land of Ice Cream Heaven. It’s luscious. And moreish. And just really very good.
Eat. Then eat some more.
*If you don’t have an ice cream machine, pour the custard and cream into a 2-3 litre container and mix well. Freeze, removing occasionally to stir vigorously. When it’s thickened, stir in the toffee splinters.