Cold Comfort Ice Cream: Creative Ice Cream Recipes from Snowy New England

Burnt Sugar Ice Cream

Posted on: October 9, 2009

One of my all time favorites!

One of my all time favorites!


This ice cream recipe is absolutely addictive, trust me. The word “burnt” in the title of any ice cream recipe might sound odd and unappetizing, but I can assure you it is nothing of the sort. I first sampled this flavor at Christina’s Ice Cream, a popular ice cream shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Usually any food that’s burned tastes charred and bitter, but the burnt sugar in this recipe is more akin to the crackly, caramelized topping of a creme brulee. It’s absolutely spectacular!


Watch the sugar closely!

Watch the sugar closely!


You start with boiling a simple syrup, just sugar and water. I’ve got to be honest here, this part is sort of intense. Making caramel, or in this case burnt sugar, is not for the faint of heart! But never fear, if you watch your caramel closely and don’t turn your back you’ll be fine. Eventually your simple syrup will start to turn golden, and then caramel colored. This is where the tricky part comes in. You want to add the cream and milk when the color of caramel turns to a deep, mahogany brown. I’ll even wait until I can see little black specks starting to form in the bottom of the pan. The darker the better, but don’t wait too long though. There’s a fine line between a sophisticated taste and a caramel that is truly black, smoky and burnt. If this happens to you, start over or else your ice cream will taste bitter.


Doesn't it look like Jello Butterscotch Pudding?

Doesn't it look like Jello Butterscotch Pudding?


Once your caramel turns dark brown, take it quickly off the heat and then slowly add the milk and cream. Watch out, because most of the time the addition of the milk will make the mixture bubble up. For this reason it’s probably best to use a high sided pan for this recipe. Don’t worry if the burnt sugar roils up and hardens at first, keep stirring and it will incorporate itself to create a beautiful butterscotch colored ice cream base.  From here on in, the thrill ride is over as all you have to do is whisk the warmed milk into some egg yolks. Piece of cake.  And ice cream


Golden Delicious!

Golden Delicious!


You can also add a delicious (and very French) twist to this recipe by adding some kosher salt to the base to create a salted caramel flavor. Salted caramels are very trendy right now, but I have to say that as trends go, this one is a keeper. Personally, I think this ice cream is perfection with a little bit of flaky sea salt sprinkled on the top. The salt really picks up and explodes the flavors without tasting “salty”.  


So. Good.

So. Good.


Burnt Sugar Ice Cream has become quite popular at local ice cream shops in the Boston area. Actually, the flavor has outright groupies who never order any other flavor!  So I hope you make this recipe at home and see for yourself what all the fuss is about. This is homemade ice cream at its best!

Burnt Sugar Ice Cream


1 ¾ cups heavy cream

1 ½ cups whole milk

1 cup white sugar

5  large egg yolks

pinch of salt


 1.)    Combine sugar with 3 tablespoons water in a medium saucepan. Boil over medium heat, and watch very closely until mixture turns into a dark brown caramel. Watch carefully, if the caramel color is too pale, you will lose the unique and sophisticated flavor of burnt caramel. Don’t wait too long however, or your caramel will burn outright, making for a bitter and inedible ice cream base. If the sugar turns black and starts to smoke, discard and start over.

 2.)    When caramel is ready, quickly take it off the heat and then slowly add the cream and milk. Whisk until the mixture incorporates completely. Don’t worry if sugar roils and hardens, it will soon completely combine with the milk.

 3.)    Meanwhile whisk the egg yolks together in a large bowl.

 4.)    All the while whisking the egg yolk mixture, slowly and gradually add milk mixture and when fully emulsified, pour the mixture back into the medium saucepan. Over low heat constantly mix the base with a spatula or wooden spoon until it thickens slightly and can coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 6-7 minutes.

 5.)    Immediately remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Add the pinch of salt and refrigerate 4 hours to overnight. Freeze according to your ice cream machine’s instructions. Enjoy!

 Make it a sundae!

 Chocolate sauce or hot fudge would be divine with this ice cream, although to be honest this complex flavor needs little more accompaniment that a sprinkling or flaky sea salt. On occasion though, I have been known to eat this ice cream with a generous dollop of freshly and softly whipped cream and I can’t say it hurt.

 The lighter side– Feel to substitute whole milk or half and half for heavy cream in this recipe. If anything it will only make the flavors more intense, which is the reason gelati is often made this way in Italy.


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