Homemade vanilla ice cream with delicious swirls of fudge and caramel that’s even better than that expensive kind at the store.
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Anyone else feel like store bought ice cream has gone way downhill in the past few years? It used to be that pretty much any brand you bought would be good, but now only the super-premium expensive ones are good. You know… the kind with all the cool mix ins and flavors that come in little pints?
My husband’s favorite flavor from that company is vanilla caramel fudge, so I decided to try to make it at home. It definitely saves money over the store bought version, and it is just as good, if not better. (Check out my favorite, peppermint candy cane ice cream, which uses a similar vanilla base.)
Now if you want to make homemade ice cream, you have to accept that you’ll need a custard base, with eggs, that is churned in an ice cream maker. I know there are a lot of easy, egg free, no-churn recipes out there, but it’s just not the same. This method might use a few more dishes than you would like, but it’s not hard. We can do this! If you’re going to go through the trouble of making a caramel fudge ice cream recipe, let’s do it the right way!
You can absolutely use homemade fudge sauce and caramel for this ice cream recipe, but it’s not necessary and that would be a LOT of dishes. So I use store bought jars here and it’s delicious.
For a stronger vanilla ice cream flavor, I like to use an actual vanilla bean. We have them on hand to make vanilla extract at home, but I would not go purchasing them specifically for this recipe. Vanilla extract will do just fine. Add the extract after removing the custard from the heat.
General ice cream making tips and tools:
Be aware that this is going to take awhile. Not a lot of time in the kitchen, but a lot of time waiting for things to cool down in the fridge, or firm up in the freezer. You can’t rush this, and if you are in a hurry to have ice cream, homemade is not the way to do it.
You will need an ice cream maker for this recipe. I have this one, which requires pre-freezing the canister at least 24 hours. There are also fancier models, like this, which will freeze everything for you.
You will also need something to strain the custard in. Make sure you have either cheesecloth, or, a very handy Greek yogurt stainer that can strain anything you would like. I use it for everything from keto Greek yogurt to dill pickle relish.
Step by step caramel fudge ice cream:
Get everything ready. Things move fast. Have your strainer set up and ready, have all the ingredients measured out.
First we are making the vanilla custard base. This is the weird, heating up eggs part. Don’t worry, it’s no big deal.
Begin by heating up the milk, heavy cream, the vanilla seeds and pod, and ½ cup of the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. We are just heating everything up to get it warm. The milk will start steaming and will be at about 175 degrees. This will take about five minutes.
While the milk is heating, whisk the 4 egg yolks with the remaining ¼ cup of sugar in a medium bowl. I use a hand mixer for this. Keep whisking until the color changes to pale yellow.
Okay. So now we have to combine these eggs with hot milk without cooking the eggs. To do that, we have to temper the eggs, which just means adding the hot milk a little bit at a time so it warms up gradually. We only need to add half of the warm milk in. Do this a half cup at a time, whisking after each addition.
Once half the milk has been whisked in, the eggs are tempered. Now we just pour the bowl back into the saucepan. So all the ingredients (except the salt and vanilla extract, if using, are in the saucepan.)
We have to now cook the custard, which we will do over the stovetop on medium heat. This stage will take a few minutes longer than warming up the milk. Heat it to 180-185 degrees, stirringly constantly. Don’t allow it to scorch or boil.
Remove from the heat, add the vanilla extract, if using, and a pinch of salt. Stir, and then we need to strain to make sure we have perfectly creamy ice cream.
You can layer cheesecloth over a bowl, or use a greek yogurt strainer, which is extremely handy.
If you have the stainer, you can place the whole thing in the fridge and let it cool while it strains. If you are using cheesecloth, let it strain in the sink and then cover the bowl of custard with plastic wrap to let it chill. Pop the vanilla bean back in!
And then it needs to sit in the fridge at least 4 hours, until it is very cold. I just let it chill overnight because we’ve already made a pretty big mess in the kitchen and lets save the rest for another time.
Go ahead and put your caramel sauce and hot fudge sauce in the fridge as well. Aren’t you glad you aren’t making them from scratch? Yikes.
In the morning, it’s time to churn.
Assemb your ice cream maker and pour in your cold custard. We are going to churn the vanilla ice cream all the way before we add any of the caramel or fudge. If you want swirls, we can’t mix it in with the machine, it will just become a light brown ice cream. Tasty, but not what we are going for.
After about 15 minutes of churning, the ice cream will look like soft serve ice cream. Pour it into a loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap, and let it firm up in the freezer for at least 3 hours.
I know, we’ve been doing this awhile.
At last, it’s time to add the caramel and fudge. Take the ice cream out of the freezer and pour ⅓ cup of each of the sauces right on top. Using a butter knife, gently stir everything together. It’s better to under stir, rather than over stir, so that the ribbons of fudge and caramel are still visible. Once everything is combined to your liking, cover it back up and pop back in the freezer for an hour or so.
And then… THEN… you can eat it!
Here’s the ice cream recipe!
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Vanilla Caramel Fudge Ice Cream Recipe
A creamy and rich homemade vanilla ice cream with thick ribbons of fudge and caramel. Better than store bought!
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour plus 1 day chilling
- Yield: 1 quart 1x
- Category: dessert
- Method: cooking
- Cuisine: American
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds remove (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
- 4 egg yolks
- pinch salt
- 1/3 cup prepared caramel sauce
- 1/3 cup prepared fudge sauce
1. Heat the milk, cream, 1/2 cup of sugar, and vanilla bean in a saucepan over medium heat, until warm and steaming, or about 170 degrees.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until light yellow in color and well combined. (A hand mixer on low will work well.)
3. Temper the eggs by adding half of the warm milk mixture, a half cup at a time. Then add the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk and cream.
4. Heat the saucepan, which now contains all of the milk, cream, sugar, and eggs, over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it reaches 185 degrees. Do not boil. Once off the heat, add a pinch of salt, and the vanilla extract, if using.
5. Strain the custard using cheesecloth or a stainer, then immediately place in the refrigerator to chill. Place the vanilla bean back in the custard. Chill for 4-24 hours, until very cold.
6. Freeze ice cream according to manufacturer’s instructions. When it has reached the consistency of soft serve ice cream, place into loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze until firm. Place jars of caramel and fudge in refrigerator to firm up as well.
7. Remove vanilla ice cream from freezer and pour caramel sauce and fudge sauce on top. Gently stir with butter knife until swirls are throughout. Place back in freezer to firm for at least 1 hour. Allow to soften ten minutes at room temperature before serving. Will keep well in freezer up to 1 week.
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