I rarely make vanilla ice cream – I’m too tempted by other flavors to settle with vanilla. But I had caramel on my mind, and vanilla ice cream is the perfect vehicle for caramel.
I used a pretty simple vanilla gelato recipe, although I think gelato actually isn’t supposed to contain cream. This is a decent recipe for an ice cream base, though – mainly because it always works, and it’s one I have memorized.
The caramel was something new. The recipe is from Rancho Gordo, where I picked up the two primary ingredients: grated piloncillo and banana vinegar.
The Rancho Gordo piloncillo is special. Not only does it taste great, it eliminates the sometimes arduous task of grating the sugar (it’s normally sold as a cone). The flavor is similar to that of brown sugar but if you ask me it tastes more like molasses and is more complex.
The banana vinegar is terrific, too. It’s made from banana peppers and isn’t overly acidic. That’s pretty much it for the caramel, just a bit of vanilla and salt. No cream (although I’m thinking some cream wouldn’t be a bad thing).
The result is a very intense, dark caramel. The flavor is like no other, with a slight bite from the vinegar. Because there’s no fat in the mix, it becomes very hard when cooled.
Recipe adapted by Rancho Gordo from Paul Lemieux, Auberge du Solei!, Rutlierford, CA
Yield: 2 cups
2 cups Rancho Gordo Piloncillo
1 cup Stivalet Banana Vinegar
1 teaspoon Rancho Gordo pure Vanilla Extract
A pinch salt
1. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, cook the piloncillo until it melts and begins to lightly caramelize, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Gradually stir in the banana vinegar (stand back, as it will splatter). The sugar will seize at first; continue cooking, stirring, until the sugar melts again. Add the salt and vanilla extract, increase the heat so the mixture is boiling, and boil until the gastrique thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly, then serve spooned over vanilla ice cream.