In all of the Curve/Lingerie Collective/LingerieFW madness, my domestic goddess skills totally fell by the wayside. My desk and coffee table are buried under catalogues and line sheets, there’s a stack of business cards I deeply hope the cat doesn’t discover and knock over, and the laundry pile is growing ominous. One night I stopped by Whole Foods to find something, anything, even slightly healthy to eat for dinner, as there was nothing but rice and baking chocolate in my apartment. The horrifyingly long check-out line snaked past the cheese & chocolate cases, and who am I not to inspect a chocolate case? Please. We don’t have to pretend here. And lo, there was a jar of Lavender-Floral Caramel sauce, and I stopped in my tracks to stare at it. I couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t thought of making infused caramel before, and as the jar was $13, which is foolishness, I decided there was no time like the present to get started!
Now, sure, I could have made a basic batch of vanilla ice cream that would have been delicious and decadent. I COULD have. But having just seen dozens of lingerie collections that played with unexpected and unusual combinations, I decided to go for an ice cream that was infused with an unexpected flavor that would complement the delicate lavender without overwhelming it and that wouldn’t be buried under smoky caramel goodness. I’ve had green tea ice cream in the past, but I’ve been on an Earl Grey kick lately, and that’s where I went. Yep, it’s pretty awesome: perfect for a little late-night cozying with a good book.
For the ice cream:
2 tbsp. loose Earl Grey tea leaves
1 c. whole milk
2 c. heavy cream, divided
3/4 c. granulated sugar
pinch of salt
6 egg yolks
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
Stir 1 c. of the cream, the whole milk, the sugar, the tea leaves, and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan over low heat. Bring to a simmer, remove from heat, cover, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
Combine the remaining cup of cream and the vanilla extract in a large measuring cup and place a mesh strainer over it.
Whisk the egg yolks together in a medium bowl.
Return the saucepan with the tea mixture to the stove and bring to a bare simmer. Slowly pour the hot tea mixture into the egg yolks in a very thin stream (lest you scramble the eggs), whisking until combined. Pour the custard back into the saucepan and return to the stove over medium-low heat, stirring with a heat-proof spatula until a candy thermometer registers 165-168 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the cooked custard through the strainer into the measuring cup containing the remaining 1 c. of cream and vanilla and stir to combine. Refrigerate until quite cold, and then freeze in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
For the caramel:
So this is a slightly different caramel technique than the one I described in the Chocolate Caramel Tart recipe, but only slightly. It’s called dry-burn,
and you caramelize the sugar without adding any water to it. It will cook up slightly faster, which means you just need to be extra mindful of it, because once it hits the dark amber stage you are super-close to burning it.
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. dried culinary lavender blossoms (yep. still have enough)
1/2 tsp. honey
1 sprinkle cinnamon
1 c. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cold
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
Bring the cream, lavender blossoms, honey, and cinnamon to a simmer over medium-low heat in a small saucepan. Cover, remove from heat, and allow to steep at room temperature for 15 minutes. Strain the mixture into a small bowl or measuring cup and discard the lavender blossoms (too much lavender or too long an infusion can turn your dessert bitter, as I’ve learned the hard way in the past). Stir in the vanilla extract and set aside.
Spread the granulated sugar evenly in a smooth layer across the bottom of a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven with deep sides. Sprinkle the salt over over the layer of sugar. Cook the sugar and salt over medium-low heat without stirring. You’ll eventually get to a point where you can tell that the sugar at the bottom of the pan is melted and starting to color, but there’s still a fine layer of uncooked white sugar crystals on top. Using a heat-proof spatula, gently and slowly pull the melted, darkening edges of the caramel towards the center of the pan (note: these are the classic instructions. I used my Dutch oven (thanks mom!), and the sugar began to cook from the center out instead of the edges in, so I just reversed the direction). Continue this gentle pulling/stirring maneuver slowly until all of the sugar is melted. If you stir too much it’ll get clumpy, so go gently.
Things will move quickly once most of the solid bits have melted and dissolved. Once the mixture is a deep, dark brown and it’s just barely starting to smoke (about 20 minutes start-to-finish depending on your pan and your oven temperature) immediately remove the pan from the heat. Add the cold butter and begin to whisk vigorously. The mixture will bubble and steam a lot, so take care to avoid splatters. Once the butter and melted sugar are mostly combined, whisk in the lavender cream. If any lumps of undissolved caramel remain, return the pan to low heat and whisk until completely dissolved (if there are any stubborn bits you can strain them out). Serve right away or allow to cool to room temperature before transferring to a storage container and chilling. The sauce will thicken as it cools, and if it gets too thick for your liking you can add a little milk or cream to thin it out.
Serve warm over Earl Grey ice cream, get lost in a good book.
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Speaking of getting lost in a good book, don’t you want some appropriate attire? I’ve been devouring the early-to-mid twentieth century classic British mystery writers lately (currently tearing through Ngaio Marsh’s Inspector Alleyn series), and so many of their gentleman and lady-detectives have these really spectacular writing/reading-the-paper/answering-correspondence/drinking-tea dressing gowns and smoking jackets. Now, considering I sometimes contort myself into fantastical sprawling positions when I’m reading, perhaps such elegance is currently beyond me, but in case you are of a more refined bent, allow me to suggest this beauty from Marika Vera, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the Lingerie Collective (and who is a complete and utter delight).
It’s relaxed, breezy, sexy, delicate, and teasing, with a price tag Lord Peter Wimsey would approve of. Can’t you just picture how the open panels of the skirt will flutter and swirl as you rush to answer the midnight call from Scotland Yard? I’m sure you can. Marabou slippers are also appropriate here.