For me, the ultimate luxury icecream is Haagen Daz's Pralines and Cream. But, like all good things, they seem to have discontinued the flavour in Canada... oooh, I could scream!! Not that, at almost $8 for 500ml, I could afford to eat it a lot either, but its the principle of the thing!!!
I loved its combination of rich creamy ice cream, with a deep vein of delicious salted caramel, and the delicate crunch of sugared pecan praline. So I decided I would take on the challenge and see if I could replicate the exact flavours at home. I had already sort of succeeded in remaking Heinz baked beans so I upped the ante with this one. The other half sadly shook his head, and decided I had gone nuts (he meant pecans, maybe), I mean, I was trying to replicate the flavours of Haagen Dazs, for heaven's sake!! What was wrong with me? The child is too young for Haagen Dazs [that's what I tell her anyway :-)], so couldn't care less. So this one was all about me and my need for praline and cream ice cream.
I adapted a few different recipes from various sources to make this ice cream. The actual ice cream recipe is adapted from an old edition of 'The Joy of Cooking' that my in-laws owned. The salted caramel is from David Lebovitz's 'The Perfect Scoop'. The pralined pecans are from a 'hit or miss' recipe for nut praline that I used to make when I was a very young kid.
I went into this with an open mind, prepared to eat the results even if they didn't taste like the original (like I was going to toss ice cream away!!) But, to my utter surprise, the finished ice cream actually did taste like the original. It didn't look completely identical, but that may be because I used dark brown sugar instead of light brown or white (like I should have, but didn't have enough of either), but oh my, did it ever taste good. I think I have now officially died and gone to ice cream heaven!
For the butter ice cream:
11/2 cups whole or 2% milk (375 ml)
2 cups whipping or heavy cream (500 ml)
Around 20g unsalted butter
3/4 cup dark brown soft sugar (you can use light or white, if you wish)
5 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
For the salted caramel sauce:
45g butter, salted
75g sugar (measured to around 90ml in a cup)
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 tsp coarse salt (add another half tsp to taste, if you wish)
For the pecan praline:
1 cup pecans
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup, plus a little more sugar
To make the ice cream, gently heat the butter in a deep saucepan until it melts, then continue to cook until it turns a light brown colour. Do not let it burn, or it will taste bitter.
Add the milk to the butter and whisk in well. Heat just until the milk starts steaming, do not allow to burn.
In a deep bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together. Gently whisk in the warm butter and milk mixture, little by little, until its all incorporated. It is important to do this step slowly, as you don't want to cook the egg yolks. Now return the mixture to the pan, and over a low heat, cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens into a smooth custard and coats the back of a spoon. Do not allow the mixture to boil as the custard will curdle and go grainy.
Once the custard is cooked, strain it into the 2 cups of cold whipping cream and add the vanilla and salt. Stir well and refrigerate until the ice cream mix is completely cold, overnight, if possible.
To make the salted caramel sauce, heat the butter in another deep pan until melted, whisk in the sugar and cook till the mixture is golden brown, not too dark. Take the pan off the heat, and whisk in 1/4 cup of the half and half. When adding the cream, the butter and sugar mixture will hiss and spit, and bubble up, so be careful. Whisk in the rest of the cream and return to a low heat until the sauce is silky smooth. Add the salt, and stir, taste and add more salt if you think you need it. Pour the caramel sauce a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. You will have to microwave on a low setting for 30 seconds to melt the sauce, and then cool it a little before layering.
To make the pecan praline, toast the pecans with the salt in a hot and heavy pan, for around 1 minute or so. In another pan, heat the water and sugar together, till the sugar melts. Add the pecans and cook, until the mixture turns sandy. Then, over a medium low heat wait until the sugar starts melting, and keep stirring until the pecans all are nicely coated with the sticky sugar mixture. Turn out onto some aluminium foil, and do resist popping a few into your mouth at this point [they can be burning hot, as I found out :-)] Let cool completely, then chop roughly using a big knife. They can be stored for upto a week in a airtight tin.
To assemble, churn the ice cream in an ice cream maker, until nice and creamy. In the last minute of churning, add most of the pecan praline, reserving some pieces for the garnish. Then, take out around a quarter of the icecream, and pop it into a freezer safe container. Pour some salted caramel sauce over the top. Add another layer of icecream, then more sauce. Finish with a layer of ice cream. Reserve a little sauce for serving over the icecream.
Freeze for at least 4 hours, till firm. This ice cream does tend to stay creamier than usual. Serve with warmed sauce and some of the reserved praline.
Do try not to get too addicted to the taste of this gorgeous ice cream :-)