Monday, February 18, 2013

Chocolate and Brown Butter Toffee Ice Cream Sandwiches

Chocolate Brown Butter Toffee Ice Cream

My newly tested recipe for Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies called for something special, something like… an ice cream sandwich.  And even more special, a dark chocolate ice cream, lightly spiked with bourbon, then swirled with a homemade brown butter toffee sauce and crunchy toffee bits.

Other than a week-long below-freezing cold snap and a few snowy days here and there, we’ve had a fairly mild winter in Denver with cold nights and spring-like, sunny days, so homemade ice cream is still a welcome treat that’s not just for summer.

A recent overnight snow storm covered all the trees in sparkling ice and snow the next morning – so beautiful on the drive in to work – and then it all melted by noon from the warmth of the sun.  How gorgeous is that blue sky the morning after a snow storm?  It's days like this that I wish I had my camera on me instead of just my iPhone.

Making ice cream feels like a summery thing to do, since it always reminds me of those hand-cranked buckets, rock salt, and impatient kids standing around with bowls and spoons, begging for a taste.  But with the convenience of my Kitchen Aid ice cream maker attachment, which lives in my freezer for ice cream making emergencies, it’s an any-time-of-year occasion.  And since homemade ice cream is anything but instant gratification, what with cooking the custard, cooling it down, churning the ice cream, waiting for that to freeze…, it’s a good lesson in learning to wait for a result that’s well worth the wait.

Chocolate Brown Butter Toffee Ice Cream
Chocolate Brown Butter Toffee Ice Cream
Chocolate Brown Butter Toffee Ice Cream

I’ve only made chocolate ice cream once before, for the base of my S’mores ice cream recipe from last fall, and that was more of a light, milk chocolate flavor.  For a more intense, dark chocolate flavor this time, I started by making a chocolate custard, beginning with the usual suspects of egg yolks, cream and milk, both brown and white sugar, chopped bittersweet chocolate and Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa.  I love this stuff and can’t wait to make a dark chocolate buttercream with it.  A dash of Bourbon and vanilla deepened the flavors into something deliciously complex.

After chilling the custard and churning it into ice cream, I layered it with chocolate toffee bits and drizzles of homemade toffee sauce (much easier to make, by the way, than homemade caramel sauce so don’t be afraid to give it a try before you grab a jar of the store bought stuff) then let it freeze until firm.

Once it was sufficiently firm, I used a simple little trick to fill the cookies with a perfectly even, round disk of ice cream – a biscuit cutter.  Just choose one that’s the same size as your cookies.  If the pan you froze the ice cream in is fairly deep, like mine was, then the disk of ice cream you cut is going to be pretty thick.  For that, I just sliced the disk in half with a sharp knife to make two thinner disks.  Just work quickly through all this, of course, so you don’t melt the ice cream.

Chocolate Brown Butter Toffee Ice Cream
Chocolate Brown Butter Toffee Ice Cream

Since these cookies were fairly thick, they made a great big ice cream sandwich, and next time, I might use my thinner, flatter chocolate chip cookie recipe for making ice cream cookie sandwiches so it’s not such a big bite.  Either way, though, it was yummy.

After assembling all the sandwiches, just freeze them again until firm if they melted at all, until you’re ready to eat them.  Wrapped up in a little package of parchment paper and striped twine, they look pretty cute, don’t they?

Chocolate Brown Butter Toffee Ice Cream

Chocolate and Brown Butter Toffee Ice Cream
printable recipe

ice cream:
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons Special Dark cocoa powder
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (80-85% cacao)
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
toffee sauce: 
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Heath bits
Note: As with any homemade ice cream, this recipe requires a little planning ahead.  The base needs to be made the night before so it has plenty of time to chill.

Make the Ice Cream Base:
Combine the cream, milk, salt, cocoa powder and chopped chocolate in a saucepan.  Over medium heat, bring to a gentle simmer, stirring to blend in the cocoa powder and chocolate.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, granulated sugar and brown sugar until smooth.  When the cream mixture just starts to bubble around the edges, slowly stream about a cup of the hot cream into the egg yolk mixture, whisking to temper the eggs.  Scrape the egg mixture back into the saucepan.  Whisking constantly, cook the custard for about 5 minutes, until thick enough to coat a spoon.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and bourbon. 

Pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl to strain out any bits of cooked egg.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, placing the plastic right against the surface of the custard.  Chill in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or overnight.  The custard needs to be very cold before churning.  To chill it more quickly, place the bowl of custard inside a larger bowl of ice water and stir the custard to cool it down.

Make the Toffee Sauce:
Place the butter in a saucepan.  Over medium heat, melt the butter, then continue cooking the butter for about 4-5 minutes, swirling it around every so often, until the butter is very fragrant and you see nutty brown solids at the bottom of the pan.  Add the brown sugar and cream.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly, until thick and syrupy.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.

Pour into a glass jar and refrigerate until chilled.

Freeze the Ice Cream:
Place a glass dish in the freezer to get cold.  Take the chilled custard and churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Spoon a third of the ice cream into the cold dish.  Drizzle with a few tablespoons of the toffee sauce (just use as little or as much as you like and keep the leftovers for, well, anything you want), then sprinkle with a third of the Heath bits.  Repeat with two more layers of ice cream, toffee sauce and heath bits.

Cover with plastic and freeze until firm, about 4-6 hours.

Making Ice Cream Sandwiches:
If making ice cream sandwiches, bake and cool your favorite cookies, making them a little larger than usual.

When the ice cream is firm, take a biscuit cutter or round cutter the same size as the cookies and cut down through the ice cream to remove a disk of ice cream.  If it's too thick, use a sharp knife to slice it into 2 disks.  Sandwich between the cookies.

Yields about 1 1/2 quarts ice cream.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen