Why waste your breath chasing originality when you could instead obsess over one thing contingent only upon your getting sick of it, which does not seem likely anytime soon? I’m talking of course about salted caramel (but also I could be talking about, say, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, a book that I loved as a kid and would re-read and re-read and every time I tried to get into literally any other book by CS Lewis it felt joyless and like hard work which, in the fullness of time, perhaps it really was, but anyway!)
Despite being, as a concept, utterly normal and unsurprising, salted caramel still manages to make eyes light up and taste buds limber up and for that – and its sheer deliciousness of course – I respect it. It’s truly the Saturday of foods, it’s switching the channel to find The Castle is on TV for the hundredth time and stopping to watch it for the hundredth time, it’s the culinary equivalent of the Grease megamix or Come On Eileen at the wedding dance floor, the food about which no one will ever say “oh god, not this again,” and even if they do try to front like they’re above it, a mere taste of whatever salted caramel confection is on offer will suddenly and stickily erase all attempts at snootiness.
This salted caramel ice cream recipe is simple, has few ingredients, and does not require an ice cream machine – my personal vendetta against Big Ice Cream Machine guarantees you’ll never need one while I’m around – but, much like this blog post, there is a lengthy preamble to get through before you actually reach the gratifying part. By which I mean, you have to caramelise a can of condensed coconut milk by boiling it for several hours under a thick layer of water – while we fortunately live in a bountiful age where vegan condensed milk is a thing, we haven’t quite reached the convenience of ready-caramelised stuff yet (on the upside, it gives you something to complain about.) The process itself isn’t difficult or anything, but if you don’t have a crockpot you’ll need to situate yourself in or near the kitchen to make sure nothing burns or explodes, hence why I suggest making a double batch to give you maximum caramel output for your efforts.
Once that step is complete it’s just a little mixing and freezing and you’ve got the creamiest, lushest ice cream rippled with waves of golden, burnished caramel. It tastes amazing, and the texture is glorious – chilling the coconut cream first and whipping it gives an airy denseness that I’ve been missing from my homemade ice creams; possibly the modest slosh of rum that I added helped the texture too, but you can leave the alcohol out and replace it with vanilla extract.
So no, this isn’t the first salted caramel recipe (or even the first vegan salted caramel ice cream recipe), nor will it be the last – and as long as salted caramel continues to taste this incredible, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Vegan Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Vegan, four ingredients, no-churn – of course! I’ll never ask you to use an ice-cream maker – and I know I say this every time, but this really is my best ice cream recipe yet. It’s creamy and soft and rich and rippled with caramel – truly the stuff of dreams. The caramel step is 1000% worth the wait, and I swear the process is a lot simpler than my wordy method makes it appear. Recipe by myself.
- 1 x 320g tin sweetened condensed coconut milk
- 1 x 400ml tin full-fat coconut cream
- 1 tablespoon dark rum
- salt, to taste
1: First, caramelise your condensed milk. A crockpot is ideal (and frankly, in my opinion, the best use for them) since all you have to do is cover the tin (with the label removed) in boiling water, cook on high for about four hours, then allow to cool completely, still in the crockpot. Otherwise, you can use the stovetop, bearing in mind that you’ll need to pay a lot more attention to it – place the tin, label removed, into a saucepan, cover completely with water, and boil for three hours, watching constantly to make sure nothing bad happens and that the water level doesn’t drop – my understanding is that if it evaporates enough so that the tin is no longer submerged, you could have a messy and dangerous explosion on your hands, so please consider yourself warned. While the condensed coconut milk is cooking, take this opportunity to place the can of coconut cream into the fridge to chill and firm up. Everything beyond this step is easy, I promise.
2: Once the can of caramelised condensed milk has cooled completely in whichever vessel of water it’s been bathing in, remove the tin and spoon about 3/4 of the now richly dark caramel into a mixing bowl. Take the coconut cream from the fridge and spoon the thickened coconut cream from the top into the mixing bowl. Using electric beaters (or a whisk and some exertion) beat the caramel and coconut cream together until thick and mousse-like, then tip in any remaining coconut water from the can of chilled coconut cream along with the rum if you’re using it and beat again to combine. Finally, beat in a good pinch of salt – bearing in mind that it’s always easier to add rather than subtract – and taste judiciously till you’re satisfied with the levels of salinity. (Also, you could consider stirring some salt into the condensed coconut milk before adding it to the coconut cream – or sprinkling more salt over the ice cream before freezing – or both! Your tastebuds will know what they want.)
3: Spatula this incredibly delicious mixture into a freezer-proof container and drizzle over the remaining 1/4 can of caramelised condensed coconut milk, using a skewer or something similar to ripple it throughout the cream. Cover the container and refrigerate for two hours – which I swear improves both the flavour and texture – and then, finally, freeze for around six hours or until solid. No need to tamper with it in any way during this time, although it’ll be easier to scoop if it sits on the bench for five or so minutes before serving.
Makes around 750ml. Since this is a fairly small quantity – about four servings – and since the caramel takes significant time to do its thing – I highly recommend making double quantities.
- There’s only one brand of condensed coconut milk on the shelves in New Zealand as far as I know, so that’s the one you’ll be getting. If you’re not vegan I guess there’s nothing stopping you from buying ready caramelised condensed non-vegan milk, but you know that already!
- I said full-fat coconut cream and I meant it, if you choose low-fat or coconut milk then be it on your own head. I almost always get Pam’s, it’s inexpensive and does not appear to be watered down too much like some brands.
- Instead of rum you can use bourbon, or brandy, or leave it out and add a teaspoon of vanilla instead.
Can I Help Me? (キャン・アイ・ヘルプ・ミー) by Plastics. Their 1980 debut album Welcome Plastics album is so good – I love the Apache-esque guitar lick and insouciant vibe of song in particular.
Rockin’ Back Inside My Heart by Julee Cruise. I’m re-watching Twin Peaks with my brother (who’s watching it for the first time) and, well, there’s never a wrong time to be reminded of this song, which is simply one of the best songs in the world!
Lot’s Wife from the Broadway musical Caroline, or Change performed by the supremely talented Sharon D. Clarke at the 2019 Olivier Awards; there’s this part in the middle where she just holds this huge note for what feels like hours, an absolute standing ovation of a performance.
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