On one of the first really warm days of the year—too warm, even, for spring—we were trying to decide on our next post. We’d been talking for a while. Maybe a dessert, but what kind? Something easy…something to celebrate the weather warming up…something that didn’t require the oven turning on.
Then, like it’s no big thing to come up with a killer recipe suggestion that even makes two even people in just about the most indecisive of moods jump out of their seats and race to the kitchen, Ray comes in and makes an off-hand suggestion (this is the way Ray makes all of his most awesome suggestions): milkshakes with bourbon….and we’re done. There are very few things that sound as good on a hot, late afternoon. And we’re here to tell you, very few things that taste as good, too.
There aren’t many ways to shake it out (whatever this week’s “it” is) that are better than a really good milkshake.
We started playing around with flavor combinations, but we knew we had a winner from the beginning. Our sea salt caramel sauce + really good vanilla ice cream + bourbon = no explanation needed. This is such stuff as dreams are made on—creamy, caramely, slightly salty, bourbon-y dreams. It seems silly to spend any more words telling you why you should make this when: 1. We’re pretty positive the title and photos speak for themselves and 2. In the time it would take us to gush over how unbelievable these milkshakes are (seriously, we couldn’t even think of what to say after a sip—something that happens nearly never…or maybe it was that we refused to stop drinking long enough to talk, again: rare, and may have set an unprecedented new chugging record—the milkshake authorities got involved, it was touch and go for a minute) you could be drinking one of your own. (Clearly, you should take a deep breath before you sip.)
Did we say we weren’t going to gush? Sorry. We couldn’t stop it. This milkshake has powers.
The recipe is a snap to make, especially once you have the caramel sauce made. Bonus surprise in this Cracker Jack box: You might already have everything you need to make it right in your kitchen.
We’d say, “What are you waiting for?” but we’re pretty sure that’s you we see through the window, sprinting down the street towards the store (you knew you should’ve bought that ice cream yesterday), eyes wild, heart and face afire, yelling overexcited jibberish at a pitch only Mariah Carey and babies can mimic. (Maybe it’s not jibberish, but don’t blame us for not understanding—you should really work on your yelling-while-sprinting enunciation. Everybody’s been talking and we all agree…Look, it was a long winter! We ran out of stellar conversation topics sometime around Deep Freeze #9.)
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Sea Salt Caramel Sauce
Makes: Plenty + all the spoonfuls that Lee ate while Lou wasn’t looking
Notes: This recipe makes enough that you can make a whole lot of milkshakes or have a good sized jarful of sauce leftover, which will be used on any and all things: ice cream, waffles, fingers, pancakes, fruit, cake, pies/tarts/crumbles, cookies, other drinks…the list goes on. And as you can see from above, eating it by the spoonful is definitely acceptable, suitable, and probable.
We like our caramel sauce a little on the darker side for that more intense, slightly (“slightly” is key) burnt-sugar flavor and beautiful color. You should absolutely adjust the darkness for your own taste. As the sugar goes from clear to various ambers, it becomes more and more caramely in flavor, but once you hit brown, it’s just going to taste burned.
Be aware that if you don’t let the sugar get enough color, it won’t taste like anything much other than, well, sugar, and that even after you take the sugar off your burner, it will continue to darken. That means the trick is to take it off the heat when you still think it’s a little bit too pale for you. By the time you pour in your cream, it will have darkened a shade or two. If you’re tempted to taste it, a word of (hard-earned) warning: let it cool first or drop a little in cold water. It takes a while to cool enough in the pan for tasting.
A heavy-bottomed saucepan
– 1 cup of granulated sugar
– 1/4 cup water
– 3/4 cup heavy cream
– 3 3/4 tbs unsalted butter cut into pieces
– 1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
– 1 tsp sea salt (We love Amagansett Sea Salt for it’s mellow, briny flavor and delicate texture)
* Put sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat and stir until sugar dissolves.
* As soon as the sugar dissolves, stop stirring—if you keep going, you’ll create sugar crystals and the caramel will be granular instead of smooth.
* Bring the heat up to medium and allow sugar to come to a low, steady boil. Don’t stir. If sugar crystallizes along the sides of the pan, wet a pastry brush with some water and wash the sugar down.
* Let the sugar boil gently (don’t let it go crazy) for 6-9 minutes, or until it turns a beautiful medium-amber color. (If you want a lighter caramel, take it off the heat as soon as it hits light amber. Remember, it will continue to darken some until you add your cream.) Even though this step takes a few minutes, don’t walk away. Once the sugar starts darkening, it will change color incredibly quickly and if you’re not paying attention, you may wind up with burnt sugar faster than you would think.
* As soon as the sugar reaches medium-amber, turn off the heat and remove the pan to a cool burner or a heat-proof surface.
* Have a whisk or a wooden spoon ready and immediately but slowly pour in the heavy cream, stirring as you do. Be careful! The second the cream hits the sugar, it will boil up.
* Stir cream and sugar together until combined, then add the salt and butter. Lastly, add the vanilla. Stir until smooth and set aside to cool.
* Once cooled, store any extra in an airtight container in your fridge.
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Sea Salt Caramel Milkshakes with Bourbon
Makes: Two milkshakes
Notes: You can certainly use low-fat milk and low-fat ice cream in this recipe, but after one sip of the shake with the real deals, it’s pretty impossible to ever make it any other way.
Because there are so few ingredients in this, you really want each to be the tastiest version you can get. We decided to use gelato instead of ice cream because it’s got a creamier, thicker consistency, which is always great but is especially so here because it helps the milkshake stay thick even though you’re adding liquids (milk and bourbon). Good, rich ice cream will work really well, too.
A blender or milkshake maker
– 1 pint really delicious vanilla ice cream (try to get one with all those good vanilla bean flecks)
– 1/4 cup milk (we used whole milk)
– 1/4 cup cooled sea salt caramel sauce + extra for drizzling
– 2 oz bourbon
– Pinch of sea salt for topping off
* Add all ingredients to your blender or milkshake maker and blend just until smooth and mixed.
* Pour into glasses and top off with extra caramel sauce. (Some whipped cream definitely wouldn’t hurt, either…) Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt flakes for a little bite and sparkle. Take a sip and realize you’ve gone way too long without this drink in your life.
©2014 Lee and Lou Cook. All rights reserved.