(An ode to the country I am currently in: Argentina.)
Apples. Red. Green. Fuji. Braeburn. Granny Smith. McIntosh. Apple pie. Apple sauce. Apple cider. That annoying remainder of the apple: the core that you bite round and round, the uncomfortable eyesore on the table withering into an unsightly brown. Yet. Sweet. Tart. Classic americana. I love pink lady apples the most—for the rosy happiness inspiring color, right balance of tartness and sweetness equivalent a healthy version of ice cream (of course!). The sweet crunch. The magic of an apple corer and the friendly lady at a hotel restaurant when I was 10 who cut our apple for us when my parents asked for a knife. These are my memories of apples.
A few years ago, I had credit from Williams Sonoma. With frugality tugging at my heart, indecision overcame me as I walked between the wares of gleaming polished metal and pastel-colored ceramics. Too expensive. Too classy. And most importantly…do I really need this? (Note: need not want.)
Eventually, my weaknesses in the kitchen came to mind. When I was 23, I had a minor skiing accident, which led to surgery on my right hand, my dominant hand. It has never felt quite the same (not that my dexterity or strength in my hands are ever that strong initially). As a result, I admit to fellow aspiring chefs that chopping and dicing isn’t my forte. And especially any sort of mashing.
So this is how I came upon the potato ricer. I love mashed potatoes (or pretty much any kind of potato). When I discovered that it can do applesauce, I was all in. That winter, I made applesauce from all apples that came in—with varying spices from cinnamon, allspice, star anise, and nutmeg. This is what apples are to me.
With that in mind and my upcoming trip to Argentina (where dulce de leche is the quintessential spread in the morning, the de facto ice cream flavor, the core of alfajores Argentine cookies…), I wanted to make something that represented the fall. Not a fan of pumpkin, this is a take on the caramel apple with a nod to my favorite applesauce. I wish that I could say that I had the classic American childhood of bobbing for apples, picking apples, and eating teeth-aching apples. The moments where my sister and I would toss orange, golden leaves in the air. But I grew up in California and my first caramel apple was in my mid-twenties (a gift from friend acknowledging my love of sweets).
If nobody can get me a caramel apple, I’ll take this ice cream any day.
For the apples
3-4 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
Pinch of lemon zest
Pinch of salt
In a saucepan, combine all the above ingredients. Mix well and cook over medium heat, stirring often until tender and little liquid remains.
If the apples are still somewhat solid, mash (with a potato ricer!) or puree in a blender/food processor. Set aside to chill in refrigerator.
For the dulce de leche
1 can (14 oz) of sweetened condensed milk (Longevity Asian brand is the best, as shown in the above photo)
Hot water (I used hot water from my kettle.)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Pour the entire can into a glass pie plate or similar baking dish. Stir in a small pinch of sea salt. Set the plate within a larger baking dish (I used a roasting pan). Add hot water to the larger baking dish until it reaches approximately halfway up the side of the pie plate.
Cover the pie plate with aluminum foil. Bake for 60 to 90 minutes. During baking, add more hot water to keep the water level at halfway up the side of the pie plate. Remove the dulce de leche when caramelized and browned. Once cool, whisk until smooth.
Refrigerate if not used immediately. If using directly from the refrigerator, warm up gently in the microwave or in a warm water bath.
For the base
2 cups half and half
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 tbsp. cream cheese, softened (I used the goat cheese from my last recipe)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1/8 cup water
In a small bowl, mix about 2 tablespoons of half and half with the cornstarch to make a smooth slurry.
In a separate bowl, mix cream cheese and salt until smooth.
In a saucepan, combine the remaining half and half, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the slurry. Return the saucepan to medium heat. Stir. Remove from heat when the mixture is thickens, about 1 minute.
Pour the spiced apple mixture into the base. Mix to incorporate ingredients together.
Chill thoroughly at least 3 hours or overnight to enhance the flavors. Once chilled, churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Scoop the spiced apple ice cream into an empty container. After every scoop, swirl in a generous spoonful of dulce de leche. Serve as is or with slices of fresh apples!
Written in December 2012