Calamansi Ice Cream with Tamarind Caramel Swirl

Behold: the Beyonce of ice creams and my greatest accomplishment!

This desert makes my law degree look crass. What was I doing studying for three years when I could have been churning out scoops of real human triumph!? Please, send this recipe to anyone considering law school and tell them how their time could be better spent!

If you have never had calamansi, this is a great introduction. Calamansi is a tiny little Filipino citrus fruit that looks like a key lime on the outside, but has a sweeter flavor. They are best fresh, but if you cannot find fresh calamansi, any Filipino market will sell calamansi concentrate or calamansi juice. You can also find calamansi juice or concentrate at Asian markets and online. Key limes are an acceptable, but inferior, substitute. Truly, lemons or limes or any combination of citrus will work, but calamansi is king.

The flavor of tamarind is hard to describe, so you should just try it. It comes in a brown pod with delicate shells. The flesh inside surrounds large seeds, and contains fibrous veins, but the chewy, tart, sweetness makes up for the hassle of eating around these obstacles. I like it on its own, but the flavor and texture lend itself well to drinks, sauces, marinades, and spicy caramel candies common in Thailand (the inspiration for my caramel).

For this recipe, you will need tamarind concentrate. This can be made at home by boiling unshelled tamarind in water until the flesh falls away from the seed, boiling the mixture down until it’s the consistency of BBQ sauce, and then straining the mixture. I saved myself the time and used commercial tamarind concentrate, which is available in Asian and South American markets, as well as online.

The caramel recipe yields enough to put in and on the ice cream, with more to spare. Use it the same way you would use any caramel: in milkshakes, as a dip for apple slices, mixed into hot apple cider, or over French toast. My favorite way to eat caramel is with a spoon.

Tamarind Caramel

2 cups sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 tbs tamarind concentrate

1/4 cup water

1 cup heavy cream

In a medium sauce pan, combine sugar, 1/4cup tamarind concentrate, and water. Stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.

Increase heat to medium high, bringing mixture to a boil. DO NOT STIR!! If you stir at this point, your caramel with crystallize. Boil mixture until it reaches 235 degrees or reaches the soft ball phase. To test, fill a clear glass with very cold water. Dip a spoon into your caramel and drip a small amount into the water. When the caramel forms a soft ball that flattens on its own after a minute when pulled out of the water and placed in your hand (as opposed to a soft disk, which means you need more time, or a firm ball, which means you overlooked your caramel), remove caramel from heat and stir in cream and 2 Tbs of tamarind concentrate. Pour into a heat proof bowl and cool, uncovered, at room temperature. Once caramel reaches room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge.

Calamansi Ice Cream

Zest of 4 calamansi (substitute limes if using calamansi concentrate)

2/3 cup sugar

3 cups half and half

1/8 tsp salt

6 egg yolks

4-10 Tbs calamansi juice or concentrate, to taste plus one tablespoon

In a food processor, pulse zest with sugar until sugar turns the consistency of moist sand that one might use to build a sand castle.

Put separated egg yolks into a small mixing bowl.

In a medium sauce pan, heat zest and sugar, half and half, and salt on medium-low heat to 90 degrees or until the mixture is warm to the touch. Remove from heat.

While whisking eggs, slowly pour 1/2 cup of warm milk mixture into egg yolks until well combined. Return milk and eggs to sauce and cook on medium-low to 170 degrees or until the mixture thickens to the point where it will coat the back of a spoon and, if you run your finger across the spoon, a discernible line will form.

Remove from heat and continue to stir continuously for ten minutes. Let sit for 20 more minutes.

Stir in calamansi, one Tbs at a time to taste. Once you think it’s perfect, add one more Tbs. Trust me.

Pour through a wire mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, placing the wrap directly on the surface of the ice cream mixture so a skin will not form. Chill in refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

When ice cream is chilled, pour into ice cream maker and churn until it reaches the consistency of soft serve. Scoop a layer of ice cream into an air-tight container, then layer with spoonfuls of caramel. Add another layer of ice cream and caramel until container is full. Insert a butter knife vertically into the ice cream and drag it it across the ice cream in vertical and horizontal lines, gently swirling the caramel and ice cream. Freeze overnight.

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