My grandparents once told me a story about how Grandma (by far the greatest cook ever in the world) once made a casserole for dinner. Grandpa came home from work, saw what she was making, and said, “Oh, I guess you didn’t feel like really cooking today.” Ok, we can all say it together:
When I looked at Grandpa with the huffy, “ugh” that we all just felt, he sheepishly responded with a shrug and a, “I didn’t know!” You see casseroles, even though they are only presented in one pan, actually take a lot of work. I mean a lot. There are usually three or four separate components that you have to prep and then cook individually before you have to expertly blend them together in a casserole dish and bake it for a while. Then when it comes out to the table all anyone sees is one dish so the implication is that you didn’t do much. It’s the iceberg effect: lots of work went into the dish even though there's not much visual presentation.
That’s how I feel about today’s dessert. It’s a total iceberg - even though it took a few days to finish all of the components it still looks quick and snappy. However, the reality of this dessert is I made a caramel from scratch and watched it for hours to let it cool. Once that was ready I made an ice cream from scratch and mixed in the caramel and had to wait overnight for it to set. After that I made mini chocolate chip cookie cups from scratch, let them cool, and then put it all together. Honestly, all it looked like was a miniature ice cream serving.
But there was a lot of work that went into it, so let’s start with this caramel. This has been one of my favorite things to make and eat since pastry school. I remember presenting my salted caramels to one of the most accomplished chefs who taught my class during my candies course final, and watching her pop a piece in her mouth so she could assess my work and give me my grade (OMG dream job!). She nodded her head in delight and gave me an A (YAY!) but then later came by my work station after all the tests were done to tell me that I made the best caramel in the class!
That was just the sort of genuine compliment from someone who knows what they’re talking about to keep me interested in caramels.
Once I graduated, I worked at a French pastry shop where I had a lot of freedom as far as menu creation went, so I played to my strengths (and my palette). I created a thick, fudgy, gooey salted caramel brownie that people would buy by the tray. It was amazing to have such a response to my work, and rest assured that when I finally open my pastry shop, I will absolutely resurrect this confection and happily make caramel every day for the rest of my life just to make sure you can eat some.
That caramel from school and from the salted caramel brownie recipe is the exact same caramel that I made for my ice cream. Here are two tips for those of you who are interested in making caramel at home. The first is be very careful. I got my very first pastry school injury by making caramel. I was dipping a chouquette in molten sugar, and twisting it on the way up so as to wrap the “tail” of trailing caramel around the confection. I misjudged the amount that needed to drip off of the pastry before holding it upright and accidentally dripped burning sugar onto my fingers. Fortunately I was wearing gloves so I was able to rip it off my hand quickly but I still blistered pretty badly from the heat. So that’s my first tip for you - wear gloves and be very careful if you’re working with caramel.
Which leads me to my second tip about caramel - watch the temperature of the ingredients that you’re adding into the pot. Once your sugar cooks into a delicious golden brown color like this photo:
and you take it off the heat to add your butter, cream, and vanilla, make sure that the butter is room temperature and that the cream and vanilla have been HEATED. If you pour cold butter or cream into a pot of boiling sugar, you risk a bit of injury. The molten sugar will bubble up angrily and try to burn you from a distance, so keep everything under control by closing the gap on the temperature differences.
Once my caramel cooled to room temperature I started making my no churn ice cream. This is the same no churn ice cream that I shared the recipe for over the summer. The base is just two ingredients, but with my freshly made caramel, there were a grand total of three.
Here’s a quick video of how I made my no churn vanilla ice cream with caramel bites:
I let my ice cream set overnight in the freezer and on Thanksgiving Day, after I stuffed my face with all of the delicious savory food we cooked, I decided to bake a batch of my salted chocolate chip cookies. Instead of only making traditional cookies, I made some of the dough into mini-cookie cups to serve my ice cream in.
Honestly I thought this process would be something more interesting or involved, but really all you have to do is press a ball of dough into a buttered mini-cupcake pan and bake it. As soon as the cookie comes out of the oven, press the center down and let it cool (I used a test tube for my mini-cups, but you can use the handle of a wooden spoon or a small jar if you're making larger cups).
I felt like my cookie dough was just a tad too raw so I put them back in the oven for another few minutes after I pushed them down, which was a great decision since I needed the cups to hold the ice cream and not fall apart.
They turned out nicely and tasted great!
After the cups cooled I couldn't wait to fill them with as much of my no-churn ice cream as possible, and then I snacked away.
So there you have it. The days-long process I took to create this super delicious "iceberg" dessert for after my Thanksgiving meal. How was your Thanksgiving dessert? Did you make something from scratch? Tell me about it in the comments!
Happy eating, y’all!