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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Vanilla Spiced Butternut Squash Ice Cream with Salted Ginger Caramel Sauce

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I know. That title is quite a mouthful. I promise the result isn't quite as difficult to swallow ;) How did this crazy ice cream come about, you ask? It went a little something like this...

Joanne, from Eats Well with Others (one of my favorite food blogs!) decided to host a little recipe contest sponsored by Marx Foods. I was one of the ten bloggers she picked to receive a shipment of ingredient samples from Marx. We were instructed to use at least two of the ingredients in an original recipe that featured winter squash.

I eagerly anticipated my box of goodies and tore into it the afternoon it arrived. Much to my surprise, the box was full of ingredients I'd never heard of and certainly never cooked with! Fennel pollen? Aji Panca Chilies? I started to wonder just what I'd gotten myself into...

For a few days, I brainstormed, mixing and matching different ingredient combinations in my head. I knew I wanted to use butternut squash and I was headed down the path of a Mexican dish that featured the chilies and the squash when ice cream popped into my head.

You might recall that I'm no stranger to crazy ice cream combinations. Remember all those flavors Ryan and I tried in Boston and Maine? After some of those, butternut squash ice cream didn't sound so odd! I did some research and discovered that butternut squash ice cream had been made before, but never with the inclusion of vanilla beans, one of my Marx ingredients! There needed to be another Marx ingredient in the mix, so I decided to top my ice cream with a salted ginger caramel sauce, using the ginger salt I received in my package.

The ice cream was relatively easy to make. I did worry it wouldn't thicken enough, but after thirty minutes or so in my ice cream maker, it thickened perfectly. The caramel, on the other hand, was a bit more of a challenge. It took two tries (the first attempt was burnt to a crisp!), but I removed it from the heat at six minutes exactly the second time and it was just right.

So now you're wondering how this odd-sounding ice cream tasted, right? If you love butternut squash, you will love this ice cream. It tastes exactly like the squash, with a hint of vanilla that adds some sweetness. This actually paired really well with the salted ginger caramel, which was good enough to eat plain! The ginger didn't come through as strong in the sauce as I hoped, but it still worked for me.

Four of us sampled the ice cream and sauce. Everyone but my sister loved the ice cream, but she couldn't get enough of the caramel! Want to serve something really unique alongside your traditional pies this Thanksgiving? Give this a try!

Vanilla Spiced Butternut Squash Ice Cream with Salted Ginger Caramel Sauce

for the ice cream-
-1 cup butternut squash, roasted
-1 vanilla bean
-1 pint whole milk
-3/4 cup sugar
-6 egg yolks

for the sauce-
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/8 cup water
-1 tbsp corn syrup
-3/8 cup heavy cream
-2 tbsp unsalted butter
-3/4 tsp ginger salt

For the Ice Cream-
1. Cut a small butternut squash in half lengthwise. Spray with cooking spray and place on a baking sheet, cut side up. Roast at 400F for 30-40 minutes, until squash is tender and scrapes easily out of the peel with a fork. Measure 1 cup of squash and set aside until cool (save the rest for another recipe!).
2. In a small saucepan, add milk and sugar. Scrape the seeds from one vanilla bean into the pan. Heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until mixture is simmering.
3. Beat egg yolks until well blended and light yellow. Once milk mixture is simmering, add a little bit (I did one large spoonful at a time) to the egg mixture to temper. Continue adding a little at a time and mixing after each addition. Once approximately half of the mixture has been added, add the rest of the milk mixture and whisk to combine.
4. Place butternut squash in a blender (could also use a food processor or stick blender) and blend until pureed. (note: you may need to add a little bit of milk to help it puree). Beat squash in with milk & egg mixture.
5. Pour liquid mixture through a sieve into a bowl to remove lumps. Cover liquid and refrigerate at least four hours, or overnight. When thoroughly chilled, remove mixture from the fridge and freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions.

For the sauce-
1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil. Allow to boil over high heat for 6 minutes.
2. After 6 minutes, remove pot from heat. Immediately whisk in butter, heavy cream, and ginger salt until mixture is smooth. Allow to cool to room temperature (it will harden as it cools).

To serve, scoop ice cream into bowls and top with caramel sauce! (note: leftover caramel sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for two weeks and reheated to soften)