Rich and decadent, this is a dream dessert for entertaining. The added savory crunch from the sea salt is out of this world. Sea salt caramels originated in Brittany, France, where bakers used the local salted butter to make the caramel, and then sprinkled locally harvested fleur de sel on top.
To dress it up, serve this ice cream between thin ginger or chocolate cookies for a sophisticated version of an ice cream sandwich. Place a scoop of slightly softened ice cream on a cookie, then top with another cookie and gently press them together to flatten the ice cream evenly. Place the sandwiches in the freezer in individual resealable bags or a freezer-safe container for at least 1 hour or up to 1 week before serving.
Fleur de Sel Caramel Ice Cream
4 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
12 egg yolks
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 tsp. fleur de sel
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine milk and cream and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside. In a heavy, deep saucepan over medium-high heat, cook sugar until it begins to melt around the edges, about 5 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar has melted and turned a dark amber, 3 to 5 minutes more. Carefully add butter, then pour reserved milk-and-cream mixture down side of pan in a slow, steady stream, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, carefully stirring, until caramel is completely melted and mixture has returned to a bare simmer. Remove caramel mixture from heat and set aside.
Fill a bowl three-fourths full with ice water and set aside. In a bowl, vigorously whisk together egg yolks and vanilla until mixture turns pale and volume has doubled, about 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, slowly add caramel mixture to egg mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour mixture back into saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard is thick enough to coat back of spoon or until it registers 175 degrees F on a candy thermometer, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not let it boil. Remove from heat and immediately pour hot custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a heatproof bowl.
Immediately set bowl in ice-water bath and stir custard occasionally until cool. Remove custard from ice bath, cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
Pour custard into an ice-cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer ice cream to a freezer-safe container and stir in fleur de sel. Press a piece of parchment paper onto surface of ice cream and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours or up to 1 week, before serving. Makes about 2 quarts.