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Something we can work with

If Béa's dessert was a paragon of restraint, exquisitely delicate, this brash incarnation of much the same ingredients is its antithesis.

And, comically, the story of this cookie-studded, caramel-rippled ice cream began in stubborn frugality. 

On the same day that friends were introducing us to Sweetheart Sundaes, on this end we were making blondies (think brownies without the cocoa). Our bars were heavy with shards of semisweet chocolate, and a measured scattering of white; they baked up shatteringly glossy at their top and dense with chew at their centre. Following the theme of St. Valentine, my lads and I cut the slab into appropriate heart shapes, to wrap and give to fond friends.

Our affection was well represented. 

However, no matter how neatly, carefully, mindfully hearts are punched out of a rectangle, there will be scraps left over. In the manufacture of multiple trays of blondies, those scraps can pile up staggeringly quick. There's only so many that can be nibbled while you work, and as a result it became necessary to consider a suitable use for all those irregular bits.

bits and bobs

Thank goodness for ice cream.

With a faithful affection for frosty confections, I keep the pantry stocked with all that's needed to facilitate the most direct route to frozen happiness that I know — condensed milk ice cream.

It's pour-and-heat and you're ready to go, with only the wait to chill and freeze to contend with. We could have stopped there, stirring in those leftover chunks, arriving at a rocky-with-cookies n' cream conclusion. But, I decided the coming long weekend deserved fanfare of its own, and so espresso-kicked caramel would serve as epilogue to this tale.

Caramel, straight up, can be a tricky business. Even in this energetic application of excess, I thought that too much caramel would be rather too much. It's a modest amount we made, but what's more is there's a sharpness to that sweet, thanks to espresso. The toasty, roasted, tannic depth of coffee cleaves the thick richness of the caramel, taming the throaty burn that caramel can often bring; the combination ends up in between affogato and the nicest butterscotch candy and my-good-gravy-this-is-good  — that is to say, it's something we can work with.

The image above was taken with my phone. In the immediacy of a dead camera battery, hot caramel, melting cream and what we'll now call smug frugality, you work with what's nearby, what's on hand. 

Here's to that working out just fine.

Crumbled cookie ice cream with espresso caramel
The condensed milk ice cream is an old favourite of mine, and its cooked sweetness works as a subtle underscore to the caramel ripple. 

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 14-ounce can evaporated milk
1 fresh vanilla bean
Kosher salt
1 3/4 cups heavy cream, divided
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
1/4-1/2 teaspoon finely ground espresso beans or espresso powder, depending on taste
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup roughly crushed cookies, see note

In a medium saucepan, combine the condensed milk and evaporated milk. Spilt the vanilla bean down its length, scraping out the seeds. Add both the seeds and the bean to the saucepan, along with a good pinch of salt. Heat over medium-low heat until just under a simmer, stirring often.

Pour the mixture, along with the vanilla bean, into a clean bowl or pitcher. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of the heavy cream. Chill for a few hours or overnight.

Meanwhile, make the caramel. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat the brown sugar, honey, butter and a pinch of salt, stirring until the butter is melted. Pour in 1/4 cup of heavy cream, along with the ground espresso beans. Bring to a boil, whisking until smooth and the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat to low and continue to boil, undisturbed, for 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla. Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally.

Strain the milk mixture in an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's direction. Depending on the capacity of your machine, either add the crushed cookies a handful at a time to the machine during the last few minutes of churning (the mixture should be the consistency of soft serve), or once the freezing cycle is finished, remove the ice cream to a large, chilled bowl and fold in the cookies by hand.

Spoon 1/3 of the ice cream into a storage container. Smooth the top, and pour over a few tablespoons of caramel in long stripes. With the tip of a knife, lightly swirl the caramel into the ice cream. Layer in half of the remaining ice cream, and repeat the layers two more times, ending with a drizzle of caramel. There will be caramel left over. Set this aside.

Cover the ice cream and freeze for at least 3 hours. To serve, warm up the remaining caramel, along with any leftover cookies, or some chopped, toasted walnuts if you happen to have them around. Make sundaes, and try to keep from grinning.

Makes about 1 quart.


  • Blondies were the cookie of choice because we had them on hand. They had a balance of crunch and soft that gave a terrific texture; chocolate chip cookies, or oatmeal cookies are what I'd recommend for their similarity. If you're hard pressed though, there's little wrong with bashed up vanilla wafers.


Reader Comments (39)

Ice cream is a plyaground for those who love to cook ( not sure this means something in english ) but i love to prepare home amde ice creams !!Cheers de Paris pierre

February 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpierre

Dear lord your blog is gorgeous! Just found you via the kitchn nominees page. Subscribed immediately. Making espresso caramel sauce right after that.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSharon

Not much else to say here besides: awesome. I want this now! What an amazing recipe and even more delectable photos. Well done friend! xb

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbhavani

Oh, this looks to good to be true. I also picked up a copy of Bea's book. Beautiful and inspiring. I made the carrot lentil soup with a coconut milk. Looks like I need to explore this one -- maybe even just the caramel. Many thanks.

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMadame Fromage

Oh my gosh! So yummy, I could eat the whole tub. It must be time for me to whip up a batch of ice cream. I can't resist.

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth {Southern Elle}

Sweet! This is so tempting. How do you manage to create marvelous creations all the time?! We always have ice cream in the freezer and this will really make a wonderful addition to my weekly ice cream escapade. Thanks for sharing this.

this is just too much for me. i will have to make this very very VERY SOON!

March 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterally

This looks nothing short of amazing! And the photographs are literally making me want to drool. Next time I make ice cream I'm definitely turning to this.

Thanks for your constant inspiration!

Homemade ice cream is the best! We enjoy our sweets at my house but are getting wary of store-bought ice cream where you don't really know what you're getting. We've been toying with the idea of getting an ice cream you have any suggestions? Thanks for the delicious creamy caramely recipe!

You make me want to crack open my ice cream maker and get churning after seeing this. Looks absolutely luscious and satisfying! My family would drizzle sweetened condensed milk over all kinds of desserts so I'm especially keen on this.

Um, so ... wow. There is way too much deliciousness going on here. It might be a bad idea for me to have this in the house. Haha.

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKimber

I just made this ice cream and oh my, it is the best thing EVER. I love the condensed milk base (so easy) and the espresso caramel is divine.

My caramel split the first I made it even though I used heavy cream; so I made the caramel again, took the pan off the heat and then added the cream. I also added a small shot of espresso to the caramel instead of the powder.

March 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

WOW this seems too good to be real! I'm getting an icecream maker next week and I cannot wait to have a go at making this! These photos are perfect too

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJenny @ BAKE

Thanks for the fabulous recipes and inspiration from your beautiful photos. I made this ice cream, and it was delicious!

July 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

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