A few weeks ago, I was strolling around Mercado San Juan when I spied some white, donut-shaped peaches at a back stall.
“Can I have a taste of these?” I asked the woman.
She grabbed one and cut off a thick slice. One bite — one juicy, sweet, summery bite — and I was sold. I bought a kilo.
I had a vague idea to make ice cream, but when I got home and started googling, I realized I’d just barely hit the tip of the iceberg. I could make roasted peach ice cream. With caramel sauce. But not just any caramel sauce. Chili-infused caramel sauce.
[Pause for “Ooooooooh” moment.]
The spicy caramel sauce idea wasn’t mine. Food, She Thought, an LA-based food blogger, had gushed recently about a habanero-caramel sauce sundae she’d tried at a fair, and then successfully made at home. Roasted peaches would go perfectly with that. Right?
And so. A few weeks ago, I cut up my peaches and doused them in agave honey. Then I arranged them like fat little snails on a baking sheet….
And then I roasted ’em….
And I snuck in a few bites of peaches, and they were so fabulous, I almost wanted to cry. But no. Must not eat more. Must put them in the ice cream.
Into the cream they went. By then I’d done so much work, I was ready to eat the damn thing already. Forgot to mention, my recipe called for peach preserves, but my local Mexican supermarket doesn’t carry them. So I whipped up a quick batch by hand. Yes, I’m insane.
After pouring my ice cream into an old yogurt container, which I keep for just these types of purposes, I got up the next morning and tasted it.
And it was… okay. Not spectacular. But good for a weeknight. (If I was the type of girl who ate ice cream on a weeknight — usually I prefer dark chocolate.)
The deal was, the ice cream needed more depth. I didn’t use any eggs — I was “experimenting” — and it was just too milky and creamy. Plus, despite me roasting the peaches, it lacked in-your-face peach flavor. Maybe I should have used more. Or maybe I should have added more homemade peach preserves. In any case, next time I’m going to use Dorie Greenspan’s recipe, which calls for pureeing peaches and adding it directly to the custard. And I’m going to try out peach liqueur. Wish they sold fifths of that… I can’t see myself drinking peach liqueur, ever.
Feeling kind of lukewarm about the peaches, I made the caramel sauce a few days later. And for my very first caramel sauce, it was great. Luscious and pretty and creamy. (The secret: Don’t stir it. EVER.) Per Food She Thought’s instructions, I sliced up some manzano chilies (couldn’t find habanero) and added them to boiling water. Then I added that water to the sugar, which eventually became caramel.
The sauce was spicy, but in a strange way. Like, three minutes after you started eating, a slow burn developed, somewhere in the back of your throat. I wanted more fire up front — something to contrast immediately with the sweetness of the peaches.
I’m still researching this — maybe I should try adding chili oil at the end, instead of spicy water at the beginning? Because my next stop is chili-infused cajeta. Morita-chili infused cajeta.
Meanwhile, my jar of spicy caramel is still sitting in the fridge. I’m thinking about drizzling it on apples. The ice cream just isn’t good enough.
Recipes below, if you’re interested.
Roasted Peach Ice Cream
via Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy
Adapted from Alton Brown
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup peach preserves (here’s how I made my own)
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
Pinch kosher salt
6 donut-shaped white peaches, or medium peaches of your choice
Combine all ingredients, except the peaches, in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Attach a candy thermometer to inside of pan. Stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, bring the mixture to 170 degrees F. (If you don’t have a candy thermometer, the mixture is ready when you run your finger along the back of the spoon, and the stripe remains clear, and the edges don’t blur.)
Remove from heat and strain into a lidded container. Cool, then refrigerate it overnight.
Freeze mixture in an ice cream machine according to unit’s instructions. Once the volume has increased by 1/2 and reached a soft serve consistency, add the peaches and continue turning to incorporate. Spoon the mixture back into a lidded container and harden in the freezer at least 1 hour before serving. Makes 1 quart.
Manzano-chile infused caramel sauce
Adapted from Food, She Thought and Joy of Cooking
6 manzano chilies
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup chile-infused water
8 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces (this is about 1 American stick, which equals 113 grams)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch of salt
Slice your chilies into strips — please be careful, they’re insanely hot — and place them in a saucepan full of boiling water. Cover tightly, and also turn on the fan above the stove. (Otherwise you’ll be coughing for the next 30 minutes.) Boil for 10 minutes, or until water has reduced enough to your preferred spiciness level. I tasted mine, coughed, and figured that was good enough. Drain water into a container and set aside.
Put your pan back on the stove, and add the sugar with 1/4 cup of your spicy water. Turn heat to medium-high. Swirl the saucepan gently by the handle until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup is clear. Avoid letting the syrup boil until the sugar is completely dissolved. Increase the heat to high, cover the saucepan tightly, and boil the syrup for two minutes. Uncover the saucepan and continue to boil until the syrup begins to darken around the edges. Gently swirl the pan by the handle until the syrup turns a deep amber color (kind of like the color of an old penny) and begins to smoke.
Remove from heat and add your butter. Beat gently until incorporated. Then stir in the cream. (If the sauce is too lumpy, return the pan to a low heat and stir until smooth.) Making sure the pan is NOT on the heat, stir in your vanilla and salt. Serve warm or at room temp. Sauce can be covered and refrigerated up to one month. Reheat in a heavy saucepan over very low heat, adding a bit of water if it’s too thick.