I do a lot of experimenting here. Like the time I tried making sweet potato ice cream out of Japanese purple sweet potatoes. The texture was gritty, and the ice cream was gray. So I’m going to leave that endeavor to the Japanese. (I had sweet potato ice cream in Japan and it was a lovely lavender color and of perfect soft-serve consistency).
Recently, I busied my mind with the problem of how to include caramel in ice cream without having it turn hard and dentally dangerous. (Is “dentally” a word?) I didn’t want to just pour caramel sauce on top. I wanted to mix it in to the ice cream and freeze it. But I didn’t want to use commercial “squeeze-on” caramel sauce. We don’t do those kinds of things here. But with home made caramel, it is necessary to heat the caramel so it will pour. You can clearly see the problem with hot caramel being mixed directly into ice cream that you plan to freeze. Half of the ice cream will have melted before you ever get it into the freezer.
So I wondered how I could alter a caramel recipe so that it would not freeze, and so that it could be cold when I mixed it into the ice cream. Then I remembered my experiment with making ice cream using xylitol. “Eureka!” I thought. Not really. I don’t use the word “eureka.” It’s a weird word. But I did have high hopes that xylitol might be the answer to my problem.
I set about making caramel with xylitol. I put it in the fridge overnight and then saw how it reacted in a chilled state:
As you can see, the caramel doesn’t look like caramel at all. It has a very pale color and looks more like sweetened condensed milk. It also did not taste like caramel at all. The consistency was great, but this was an unacceptable incarnation of caramel.
Next, I made classic caramel to see how it would respond when it was cold. This is what resulted:
Perfect color. Perfect taste. Big un-pourable blob.
Last, I mixed equal parts of the classic caramel with the xylitol caramel and chilled it overnight:
Lovely color. Lovely consistency. We have a winner! And it tasted like caramel, too!
You would think my experimenting would be done. Not so. Since discovering that a mixture of half xylitol/half sugar would make the perfect pourable caramel, I decided to try making caramel from scratch with this combo. Much to my chagrin, it did not work! Heating the sugar alone, it was able to turn brown and caramelize. Mixing in xylitol inhibited that process, and the caramel turned out like the straight xylitol caramel in color and consistency. Unfortunately, this led me to the conclusion that making the perfect caramel for ice cream is a two-step process. In other words, you have to make two separate batches of caramel (one with straight xylitol and one with straight sugar) and then mix them together. Luckily, making the caramel is super easy and quick, so it should not be overly time consuming.
This recipe will give you enough caramel to mix in to at least two batches of ice cream, possibly more.
- 3/4 c. granulated sugar
- 1/4 c. salted butter not margarine, at room temperature
- 6 Tbsp. heavy cream at room temperature
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- When making the second batch of this use 3/4 c. xylitol instead of sugar
- Pour sugar (or xylitol) in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon. The sugar (or xylitol) will turn clumpy before melting. This is normal.
- When sugar (or xylitol) has turned to a liquid, add butter and keep stirring until butter is all melted and bubbly. The sugar should have turned into a brown liquid. The xylitol will have turned into a clear liquid.
- Slowly pour in the heavy cream (this causes quite a bit of steam, so be careful!) until it comes to a boil. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add salt.
- Let cool slightly. Mix with second batch (if applicable). Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator. No need to reheat!