Not only is fall one of my favorite seasons, Halloween is also a favorite holiday. Growing up October 31 was always a big deal in my family’s house. When I was in elementary school my parents began the tradition of throwing Halloween parties for my sister and me as well as our friends. The highlight was always the spook house my father created in the garage. A maze of cardboard and cobwebs, he managed to take discarded items and marry them with Halloween decorations for something truly frightening. Occasionally he would even recruit a neighbor or family member to don a mask and leap out from the darkness at us unsuspecting kids. I know he loved doing it and even now I smile to think of the memories. The food aspect of the party is a little more foggy. I vaguely remember chowing down on snack mix and sipping a saccharine dark purple punch garnished with a hand ice cube made from freezing water in a latex glove.
While food was not the crowning point of my family’s parties it often took on a greater role at school functions. Allergies weren’t quite the worry they are today so it wasn’t unusual for kids to bring in homemade treats to share with the class. Popcorn balls were a familiar favorite as were the classic caramel apples, perched on their thin wooden dowels. I was never particularly fond of the popcorn balls, but the caramel apples were another story. I loved the interplay of tart and sweet, crisp and chewy. Sadly my eyes were always bigger than my stomach and I usually reached a sugar high before I had a chance to finish the whole apple.
Those Halloween caramel apples were the inspiration for this ice cream recipe. Ice cream may not seem seasonally appropriate, but I actually find the ice cream attachment for my KitchenAid mixer runs most reliably when temperatures dip. Colder indoor temperatures means the bowl stays colder longer leading to a nice, slow churn. Because of this I love pulling it out in the fall and winter. I’m thinking that Sugar Cookie Dough Ice Cream will have to be next followed by Egg Nog Ice Cream. In this recipe a caramel ice cream base marries with baked apples for something rich and complex. The texture is understandably different from the real deal, but the flavor is classic and true. It’s great on its own, but I imagine using it as a topper for a warm apple cider donut would take it over the edge. If you’re nervous about cooking sugar for the caramel flavor or looking to save time you could easily substitute caramel ice cream topping.
Caramel Apple Ice Cream Yields 10 servings
Ingredients: -1 cup sugar -1/4 cup water -1 1/2 cups low fat milk -1/2 cup half and half -1/4 cup egg yolks -1 teaspoon vanilla extract -1 pinch salt -1/4 teaspoon cinnamon -Cooking spray -3 small baking apples, peeled and cored -1 cinnamon stick -2 tablespoons brown sugar
Add sugar and 1/4 cup water to a medium saucepan and stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup turns an amber color, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 8 minutes. While sugar is cooking, combine milk and half and half in a separate saucepan and bring to a simmer. Once sugar has turned amber remove from heat and add to the milk mixture (mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir over low heat until any caramel bits dissolve, about 4 minutes. Whisk yolks in a bowl to blend. Gradually whisk caramel mixture into yolks. Add vanilla, salt, and cinnamon and return custard to saucepan and stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens and leaves path on spoon when finger is drawn across, about 5-10 minutes (do not boil). Strain custard through a fine sieve into a large bowl; refrigerate until cold.
Next, prepare the baked apples. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Cut each apple into eight lengthwise wedges and then cut each wedge in half crosswise. Add the apples to the baking dish. Add the cinnamon stick, sprinkle over the brown sugar and spray with cooking spray. Bake until the apples are golden brown and soft, about 50 minutes. From time to time, spoon the cooking juices over the apples and give them a gentle stir. When the apples are done, set them aside to cool.
When ice cream custard is thoroughly chilled, pour into ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions. When the ice cream has firmed and is almost done, add the apples to the ice cream freezer, discarding the cinnamon stick but spooning in all of the cooking juices. Continue churning until apples are well distributed. Spoon into an airtight container and freeze until firm. Bring to room temperature for 5 minutes to soften before serving.
In other happy news I found out I get to attend the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival in San Francisco as a guest of Bertolli! Apparently my name was one of two picked in a random drawing. I’m thrilled for the opportunity since it would not be financially possible otherwise and look forward to bringing you coverage of the event. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Bertolli & Foodbuzz for making this possible.