Time stands still as the best blend of flavors melt in your mouth.
Two summers ago, I had a dream: Salted. Caramel. Ice Cream. Just hearing those words together, I could taste the cascade of sweetness, saltiness, coolness and warmth, all at once, melting in my mouth. And so, the quest began to experience what I imagined would be the sweetest delight on earth.
And then, it happened. Salted Caramel Ice Cream hit the charts. Nearly every micro-creamery was whipping up the flavor. To make it all worse for a tantalized vegan, some began to add crispy bacon to the affair. And yet, my search for a vegan version remained futile. With that, I vowed to concoct my own variety (and acquire an ice cream maker to get the consistency just right).
So, here we are, nearly 730 days later. I’ve whipped up batch after batch and tasted spoonful after spoonful to create the richest, smoothest, creamiest and yes, even healthiest, recipe for all to enjoy. The base of this melting concoction is handmade cashew nut milk. While rich in fats, an ice cream staple, cholesterol-free cashews are full of monounsaturated fats, the “good kind” of fats. They are also full of copper, magnesium, zinc and even Vitamin E—critical to stabilizing a healthy blood pressure and preventing against heart conditions, all while supporting a balanced nervous system and with it, a good mood. It’s no wonder you’ll feel so joyful with every little spoonful.
• 2 cups whole milk
• 1 ½ cups granulated sugar (divided)
• 4 tablespoons salted butter
• ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 5 egg yolks
• ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
The Vegan Version – Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Makes approximately 2 pints
• 2 1/2 cups cashew nut milk (divided):
• 1 cup raw cashews, soaked
• 3 cups water
• 1/4 cup agave nectar
• 1 tablespoon coconut oil
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
• 1 cup coconut milk (optional—can substitute with an additional cup of cashew milk)
• ½ teaspoon gaur gum
• 1 cup granulated sugar (divided)
• 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon salted vegan butter (I used Earth Balance soy-free butter)
• ½ teaspoon (or more—to taste) fine sea salt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• pecans or other nuts (optional topping)
1. To make the cashew nut milk, first soak the 1 cup of cashews in tepid water for at least 3 hours or overnight. Then, in a large blender, mix the following for at least three minutes, until thoroughly blended: cashews, water, agave nectar, coconut oil and vanilla extract. Once the cashews are thoroughly blended, use a nut milk bag or very fine cheesecloth over a large bowl or Mason jar to strain the milk. You should be left with a creamy mixture (just like milk) in your bowl or jar.
2. Pour 2 cups of the nut milk back into the blender and add the coconut milk, if using, along with the guar gum and vanilla. Blend together and let stand.
3. In a quart size pot, melt the sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly until liquefied. Once the sugar begins to turn to a copper-red color, add in one tablespoon of butter and stir until melted. Then, slowly add in the ½ cup cashew nut milk and stir together until fully mixed and boiling. Remove the mixture from the heat. Let cool slightly, and pour ½ cup of your caramel mixture into the cashew nut mix in the blender. Blend together until fully combined.
4. Pour the custard mixture into your ice cream maker and use according to the manufacturer’s directions.
5. Meanwhile, add at least ½ teaspoon of fine sea salt to your remaining ½ cup caramel mixture. Once the ice cream custard has been mixed together in the ice cream maker for at least 15 minutes, add in the remaining caramel by simply pouring it into the custard base.
6. Freeze your ice cream until it’s reached the desired consistency, and enjoy!
* Note, top this sweet summer delight with your choice of nuts, caramel, chocolate sauce, cherries or any other vegan toppings you can dream of. I made a candied pecan topping by chopping a few tablespoons of pecans and toasting them on the stove top (in a shallow cast iron pan), with 1 teaspoon melted vegan butter, 1 teaspoon of light brown sugar and a dash of cinnamon and sea salt, until lightly brown and crunchy.
Images: Jennifer Barckley