i think i may have outdone myself, friends. we all know that i'm addicted to making sweet treats, but every once in a while i make something so rich and decadent it feels like i have taken things one step too far. and by too far, i mostly mean that this treat is not for the faint of heart. it isn't for the dieters or the people lacking a sweet tooth. it's for the die hard dessert lovers!
or, if you fall in those first camps, just cut your self a mini-slice and call it good : )
i've mentioned it before, but i'm in the midst of making treats for my amazing indiegogo supporters. i was open to requests, and some dear friends of mine took it upon themselves to request ice cream sandwiches. this immediately resulted in a giant downward (or really upward) spiral of ideas. while i've sandwiched plenty of ice cream between cookies right before they go into my mouth (see the homemade thin mint & vanilla bean sandwich below), i've never set out to make cookies and ice cream specifically for this purpose.
the options are basically endless when it comes to ice cream sandwiches, so i quickly reigned myself in to something classic yet totally tied together. that said, this is only the beginning. i have a feeling this is the start of a long line of ice cream sandwich posts. summer is coming!
here is where i settled:
the brownies are a simple fudgy brownie with a little bourbon to give them a rich caramel note. the ice cream is a vanilla custard made with brown sugar to give it that same rich note. plus, a little homemade salted caramel is thrown in for good measure (i can't turn down a perfect opportunity to make caramel - it's just too fun!).
so, dive right in! the recipe might seem a little overwhelming, but each step is pretty simple, with a lot of down time in between. if you're feeling less adventurous or don't have the equipment at home, you can always use store-bought ice cream! but really, why would you want to skimp on these? and you're definitely going to want to make this ice cream again and again and again.
the brown sugar vanilla ice cream
this is a simple custard ice cream, so if you've made this type of base before - you know the drill! while a custard base may seem intimidating, once you've done it once you'll find the process to be something you can come back to over and over again. and in my opinion, the results are incredibly superior to the alternatives! you got this - i know you do!
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup loosely packed brown sugar
3 egg yolks
1/2 tsp salt
combine your milk, cream, and sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and warm over medium heat, stirring occasionally. you want it to heat to just about a simmer and have all the sugar dissolve.
while the milk is heating, place your egg yolks in a medium bowl (i like to use a spouted 8 cup measuring bowl with a lid). once the milk is heated through, turn off the heat and pour about half a cup into the yolks, whisking to combine. then add about half of the remaining milk, whisking to combine once more. finally, pour the milk and yolk mixture back into the pot, whisking to combine it with the rest of the milk.
return the pot to medium-low heat, stirring the mixture constantly until it's ready. knowing when it's ready is probably the trickiest part of making custard, but you'll get the hang of it! the mixture will start to thicken and coat the back of a wooden spoon when it's ready. this generally takes 5-10 minutes on my stove. if your a thermometer type, you want to bring the custard to 170 degrees. the most important thing is to stir it constantly and not overcook it.
when the custard is ready, pour it back into the bowl and stir in the vanilla and salt. plenty of people will recommend you put that bowl directly into an ice bath... but i'll admit that i'm lazy in that department. i just stir it vigorously for a minute or two while it starts to cool, cover the bowl, and pop it in the fridge.
let the custard cool for about 4 hours, then churn according to your ice cream maker's directions. when it's fully churned, scoop into a container, cover, and place in the freezer for an hour or two.
the bourbon fudge brownies
5 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
8 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 1/4 cup cane sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp bourbon (i use TC Whiskey Company)
1/2 tsp salt (i used a vanilla cardamom baking salt)
1 cup white flour
1 handful cashews or other nuts (pecans would be great!)
first, prepare a 9x13 baking dish by spraying lightly with oil, and laying a sling of parchment paper to cover the bottom of the pan and the two long sides. lightly spray the parchment with oil and set aside.
next, melt both the chocolates and the butter using a double boiler. please don't try this directly in a saucepan - it isn't likely to end well. i just place a pyrex bowl over a pot with a few inches of water in the bottom of the pot. stir the mixture occasionally until it is completely smooth, then remove from heat, whisk in the cocoa powder, and set aside.
in a medium mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, vanilla, bourbon, and salt until thoroughly combined. add a small amount of the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. add the remaining chocolate in two or three stages, whisking between each addition.
once all the chocolate is combined, add the flour and gently fold it into the batter using a rubber spatula. stir just until all the flour is incorporated.
pour batter into prepared baking dish and spread evenly. sprinkle the nuts over as close to half of the batter as possible. bake at 350 (with the rack in the middle/lower part of the oven) for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes in pan. use a butter knife to make sure the short edges aren't stuck to the pan by running it between the brownie and the pan walls. then gently use the parchment sling to lift the brownies from the pan, placing them on a cooling rack to cool completely.
when cool, cut as close to directly in half as you possibly can (with nuts on one half and none on the other), and place both halves in the freezer until you're ready to use them. the colder they are, the easier the assembly will go!
the salted caramel
you've come SO far already! congrats! now we're going to get crazy and caramelize some sugar. it's like magic nutty sweetness heaven (have you figured out that i'm in love with caramel yet?). plus, it takes 15 minutes or less from start to finish.
1/2 cup cane sugar
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp coarse sea salt
first, put your sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan. i love to use my calphalon chef's pan for this, the even heating is really helpful. you're going to heat the sugar over medium-low heat until it has fully melted, being careful not to burn it. the trickiest part here is not over or under stirring it. stirring too much causes the sugar to clump and makes it hard to melt it fully, stirring to little causes it to burn. i wait until the sugar closest to the pan has started to melt, then gently move it around so the sugar on top can get down to the heat. if you're nervous, you're better off over-stirring as you can strain out any clumps at the end of the process.
you're ready for the next step when the sugar is completely melted (or melted with a few clumps remaining from your stirring), and smells a little nutty, but not burnt. if it does burn slightly, it isn't a bit deal. burnt caramel is a popular flavor for a reason!
now, grab a whisk and toss in the butter, whisking vigorously until it starts to combine. keep the heat on while you do this. once it starts to combine with the sugar, pour in the cream and salt, and continue whisking until totally combined. the caramel will be bubbling and boiling up, but you got this. if it gets close to the side of the pan, just lift your pan off the heat and continue stirring.
once everything is combined, pour the caramel through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl and you're all done! you can refrigerate your caramel until you need it.
assembling your masterpiece
we're almost there! which means we get to actually eat these beauties soon!
here's the deal - absolutely most important in this process is making sure to wait until the giant sandwich you're about to build is super cold to cut it. rush and you'll have ice cream spewing out the sides. alright, now i've warned you. on to the instructions!
place the non-nutty half of your brownies on a cutting board or in the 9x13 dish you baked them in if you want to do as few dishes as possible like me (it just needs to be something you can fit in your freezer relatively flatly).
spread the caramel in an even layer on the bottom of the nutty brownie half. you can make it a thin layer and save some for later, or use it all for caramel heaven. i used about 2/3, for reference. set this aside.
your ice cream should be thicker than it was when taken out of the ice cream maker, but still spreadable. if you need to, let it sit out for a bit to soften. when you're ready, spread about a 1 inch layer of ice cream on that bottom brownie half. again, you can make this as thin or thick as you like. either way, you'll probably have some bonus left over ice cream (lucky you!). i used about 2/3 of my ice cream. you want the ice cream close to all the edges, but with a little space to spare.
now, carefully place the top half caramel-side down on top of the ice cream. give it a gentle even push to bring the pieces together and spread your ice cream to the edges. if needed, use a spoon to scoop away any excess ice cream seeping out the edges (snack-time for you!). now, place the whole thing in the freezer for at least 3 hours, or as long as you like, before cutting into slices.
when you're ready to serve these up or want to cut and package them for later, you'll need a super sharp serrated bread knife. i cut the big block into 1-2 inch wide strips, then cut each strip into smaller pieces from there. you can put any parts you're not working with in the freezer for safe keeping as the harder the ice cream is while you do this, the easier it will be. when cutting, i found it easiest to try and hold the top brownie in place while cutting through it in a gentle sawing motion. once you're through the top brownie, it's easy peasy!
if you're keeping them for later, wrap each piece in parchment paper to make it easy to grab just one and place them in a large, air-tight container.