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Salted caramel ice cream is ice cream mixed with either pieces of, or the flavorings of, salted caramel candies. Some salted caramel ice cream is simply vanilla ice cream with salted caramel candies mixed into it. Other varieties infuse the ice cream itself with salted caramel flavor. This basic version of salted caramel ice cream can be made even more decadent with the addition of other flavors and toppings. Many versions are available both commercially and as homemade ice cream recipes.
Grocery stores and ice cream shops often stock salted caramel ice cream as one of their flavors. It sometimes contains chocolate chips, salted peanuts, chocolate covered almonds, or even fruit. Cherries generally make a delicious topping for salted caramel ice cream. The salty flavor in the intensely sweet caramel underscores the other flavors in the ice cream. Salt also helps cleanse the palate so the sweetness doesn’t become overwhelming.
The salted caramel in this ice cream is exactly what its name implies: caramel with salt mixed into it. This may sometimes mean ordinary table salt, but it usually indicates the presence of sea salt. Sea salt is usually unprocessed and comes in many different varieties. Most manufacturers and cooks choose to use white sea salt because it is less expensive than other brands. Cooks looking for an extremely decadent dessert may want to splurge on pink salt for a touch of color and an exotic flavor.
Making salted caramel ice cream at home may start with store-bought caramels, or it may start with homemade candy. Homemade salted caramel is basically a mixture of sugar, vanilla extract, milk, and salt. Oil is sometimes added to make the candy creamier, but this doesn’t usually change the cooking process. The cook simply simmers the sugar until it turns brown, then adds the vanilla, milk, and oil. The mixture must be stirred until its smooth, then turned out onto a cookie sheet and sprinkled with the salt of the cook’s choice.
Those making homemade ice cream infused with salted caramel flavor may want to thin the above recipe until it is very runny, then add it to a vanilla ice cream recipe. This typically ensures that the caramel flavor is spread all through the ice cream. Others may prefer to make homemade vanilla ice cream and simply drop cubes of caramel into the ice cream maker. Either method is correct and usually creates delicious salted caramel ice cream.