Brown Sugar Ice Cream is a delicious and creamy treat with an extra special flavor. The molasses in the brown sugar not only adds wonderful, deep flavor, it also makes the ice cream soft and luscious. This ice cream is nice and scoopable, straight from the freezer.
Brown sugar is such a great baking ingredient. First of all, any dish with the words “Brown Sugar” in the title automatically sounds delicious, doesn’t it?
So, what’s the difference between brown sugar and white granulated sugar? Brown sugar has molasses and white sugar does not. Dark brown sugar has more molasses than light brown sugar. More about the brown sugar later, first let’s talk about ice cream.
Ice Cream 101:
This might sound like a dumb question, but what is ice cream anyway? What’s the difference between “ice cream”, “frozen custard” and “gelato”? Not to mention, sorbet and sherbet (more on those in future posts).
At it’s most basic, I guess ice cream would just be frozen cream. Of course, plain frozen cream would not only taste very bland, it would be a solid block. In order to create ice cream with the creamy texture we all know and love we use a clever appliance (an ice cream maker) and a few key ingredients.
Why we use an Ice Cream Maker:
Whether you use an old fashioned crank-driven ice cream maker that is manually packed with ice and salt, or an electric model with a insert that pops into the freezer, the mechanics are the same. The ice cream mixture is set into a container that is surrounded by salty ice water that is super-cold, colder than the freezing point of water.
A scraper is set into the canister containing the ice cream mix and the canister is turned, either by hand or with a motor. Inside the canister, the cream that comes into contact with the sides of the canister will start to freeze very quickly. The scraper constantly scrapes the frozen cream off the sides of the canister and churns it back into the mix, preventing large ice crystals from forming. Eventually, you have thousands (millions? billions?) of tiny ice crystals suspended in the mixture. In the process, there is also some air introduced into the cream, which will lighten and aerate the mixture.
All those tiny ice crystals, unfrozen water that is suspended in the mix, and the air that was incorporated during churning, are what makes ice cream softer than a frozen block of cream. Ice cream is more semi-solid than solid.
Some key ice cream ingredients:
There are a few ingredients we add to the mix for a smoother and creamier ice cream.
First of all, there is our friend sugar. As we learned in the Baking School post all about the science of sugar, sugar is much more than a simple sweetener. We know it does all sorts of wonderful things for the texture of baked goods.
Well, sugar also does all sorts of wonderful things for the texture of ice cream. As the sugar melts into the cream, dissolved sugar molecules interfere with the crystallization of water molecules. This reduces the freezing point of the mix so it won’t freeze rock-solid.
Now that we have cream and sugar that is churned in an ice cream maker we have a basic “ice cream” recipe. For a balanced proportion of fat and water, most recipes use a mixture of heavy cream and milk. I like to use 1/2 heavy cream and 1/2 milk. You can use store-bought 1/2 and 1/2 and achieve the same balance.
Ice Cream vs. Frozen Custard or Gelato:
I always use egg yolks in my homemade ice cream. That means we’re moving from a simple “ice cream” recipe to a “frozen custard” or “gelato” recipe.
As we learned in our Baking Science class all about the incredible egg, when an egg is heated, protein chains in the egg break their bonds, open up, and form new bonds which can trap water. Cooking eggs in a liquid will thicken that liquid into a custard.
When we cook egg yolks with the cream and milk for this recipe we are making a basic custard sauce called Creme Anglaise.
When we run the creme anglaise in the ice cream maker, the water that is bound up with the egg proteins will not freeze. The unfrozen water will help keep the ice cream semi-solid rather than rock-solid, even after it is stored in the freezer.
Make the base, then create your flavors:
Now that we have a basic ice cream base, the flavor variations are endless. To start, you can simply stir in a little vanilla extract for a classic flavor.
To create really interesting flavors I like to swap in different dairy products. You can use cream cheese to make Cheesecake Ice Cream, Buttermilk Ice Cream has a wonderful tangy flavor and Creme Fraiche Ice Cream is a sophisticated flavor fit for the fanciest dinner party.
When I created my Lavender Honey Ice Cream recipe, I was pleasantly surprised that the honey in the ice cream not only added a great flavor, but the texture of the ice cream was wonderful.
Corn syrup, honey and molasses all have some naturally occurring “invert sugar”. Invert sugars lower the freezing point of water further than basic granulated sugar does. Which means invert sugar will interfere with the formation of ice crystals even more than basic sugar. Fewer ice crystals means a softer ice cream. I discovered this kind of by accident when I made ice cream with honey, and again when I used brown sugar in this recipe.
This Brown Sugar Ice Cream has that same soft and luscious texture as my Lavender Honey Ice Cream, thanks to a little bit of molasses in the brown sugar.
So not only does brown sugar give the ice cream great flavor, it also gives it great texture. And “Brown Sugar Ice Cream” just sounds so tempting, doesn’t it?
- 1 1/2 cups (12 oz, 360 ml) whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups (12 oz, 360 ml) heavy cream
- 1 cup (8oz, 224g) brown sugar
- 5 egg yolks
- pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- Combine the milk, cream, brown sugar in a small saucepan. Heat the milk mixture over medium high heat until scalding hot.
- While the milk heats up, whisk together the yolks, salt and vanilla in a small bowl.
- Once the milk mixture is scalding hot, pour it into the bowl with the yolks and whisk to combine
- Return the entire mixture to the saucepan and heat over medium low heat, stirring constantly. Cook the custard until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spatula or wooden spoon. Do not allow it to come to a boil. Remove from the heat and strain into a bowl. Cover the bowl and chill until very cold. At least 4-5 hours or over night.
- Freeze according to the directions for your ice cream machine.
- When the ice cream is ready, scoop it into a container and smooth to an even layer. Lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the ice cream, cover tightly and freeze until firm.
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