Salted Caramel Pretzel Ice Cream Cake

This spring has been a big spring for my family- both my brother and Molly graduated from high school and college respectively! I've kinda just been along for the ride... But also baking a ton of celebratory cakes! (Like that Moose Tracks Cake I made for Molly, and Molly made Butterfinger cookie cake for Ethan)

While we were in Minnesota for Molly's graduation though, I couldn't bake a cake. But it's okay. Our family would never have a celebration without a corresponding baked (or, frozen) good, and Molly's friend got an ice cream cake from dairy queen.

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I can't even remember the last time I had ice cream cake before that. It was super good. Buuuut it was also Dairy queen. And when you bake as much as me and Molly do you A) get a picky dessert palate (in terms of quality) and B) every time you try a baked good, you tend to think of hundreds of flavor combos and fun ways to do it yourself. #bakerprobs (or #bakerperks?)

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Thus, this cake was born! Molly suggested ice cream cake, and I agreed wholeheartedly and started brainstorming. We agreed it had to be Jeni's ice cream. And there had to be a fudge ganache layer. Aaand Momofuku crumb. And brownie. And at least two types of ice cream.

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Let me just break it down for you. first layer: brownie. Then salted caramel ice cream from Jeni's ice creams. Then chocolate ganache from Joy. Then chocolate crumb from Momofuku. Then more ganache. Then pretzel ice cream from Momofuku. And then more crumb.
I've (somehow) held off raving about this cake until now. But seriously THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST CAKES I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY 15 YEARS OF LIVING ON THIS EARTH.

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So. Good. The perfect combination of salty and sweet. The pretzel ice cream is salty, the crumb is salty, the brownie and ganache and salted caramel are sweet. They combine in perfect harmony and sing a little song to your tastebuds. Remember last time I started talking about singing and dancing tastebuds? It was with the cornflake crunch brownies. And those things were the bomb dot com too. I only personify tastebuds when the food is amazing.

I really think the only downside to this cake is that it is SO good that it goes away so quickly and it's not a quick thing to prepare. *sigh*

-Audrey and Molly

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Salted Caramel Pretzel Ice Cream Cake

Brownie Layer

Ingredients:

1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 tablespoon dark unsweetened cocoa powder

3 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

2 eggs, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9x13-inch glass or light-colored baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together.

3. Put the chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

6. Pour into spring-form pan and smooth out. Bake for 20-30 minutes, but check it regularly, as it might get done sooner because it is so thin.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Ingredients

2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

**This is the dry-burn technique. I don't add water to the sugar before putting it on the heat, as some chefs do. Caramelizing sugar dry means it goes faster, but you have to watch it more closely and be ready with your cream. Here is an overview of what you are going to do:

Stand over the pan of sugar with a heatproof spatula ready, but do not touch the sugar until there is a full layer of melted and browning liquid sugar on the bottom with a smaller layer of unmelted white sugar on the top. When the edges of the melted sugar begin to darken, use the spatula to bring them into the center to help melt the unmelted sugar. Continue stirring and pushing the sugar around until it is all melted and evenly amber in color-like an old penny. When little bubbles begin to explode with dark smoke, give the sugar another moment and then remove from the heat. Immediately but slowly pour about 14 cup of the cream and corn syrup mixture into the burning-hot sugar. Be careful! It will pop and spit! Stir until it is incorporated, then add a bit more cream and stir, then continue until it is all in.** 
Prep: Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.
Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.
Mix the cream with the corn syrup in a measuring cup with a spout.
Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
Cook: Heat the sugar in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat until it is melted and golden amber in color (see note above). Remove from the heat and, stirring constantly, slowly add a bit of the cream and corn syrup mixture to the caramel: It will fizzle, pop, and spurt. Stir until well combined, then add a little more and stir. Keep adding the cream a little at a time until all of it is incorporated.
Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the milk. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.
Bring back to a boil over medium-high and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. If any caramel flecks remain, pour the mixture through a sieve.
Chill: Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.
Freeze: Pour into frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy.
Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid.

Chocolate Ganache

3/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips (I used chocolate chunks)

1/4 cup heavy cream

Put chocolate chips in a small bowl.  Bring cream to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan.  Pour cream evenly over chocolate.  Let stand for one minute to soften, then stir until smooth.  If frosting is too loose to spread, let it sit at room temperature for 10 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, frosting will continue to thicken as it stands.

Chocolate Crumb

2/3 cup flour
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder (preferably Valrhona)
1 tsp. kosher salt
6 Tbs. butter, melted

Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees.
Combine the flour, cornstarch, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. Add the butter and mix on low until small clusters begin to form.
Spread the clusters on a parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet pan. Bake for 20 minutes, breaking up the pieces as needed. The crumbs should still be slightly moist to the touch, they will harden as they cool.
Allow the crumbs to cool completely before using. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week at room temperature, or up to 1 month in the fridge.

Pretzel Ice Cream

ingredients
6 cups mini pretzels
2 cups milk 
1 1/2 gelatin sheets*
1/2 cup glucose*
2 tightly packed tablespoons light brown sugar
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons)  cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda                 
 

1. Heat the oven to 300°F.

2. Spread the pretzels on a sheet pan and toast for 15 minutes, until the pretzels have slightly darkened in color and your kitchen smells pretzely. Cool completely.

3. Put the pretzels in a large bowl, pour the milk over them, and stir while steeping for 2 minutes.

4. Strain the milk mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the soggy pieces of pretzel.

5. Bloom the gelatin (see note below).

6. Warm a little bit of the pretzel milk and whisk in the gelatin to dissolve. Add the remaining pretzel milk, glucose, brown sugar, cream cheese, salt, and baking soda and whisk until all of the ingredients are fully dissolved and incorporated.

7. Pour the mixture into your ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. The ice cream is best spun just before serving or using, but it will keep in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

* Instead of a whisk, use a hand blender to mix the ice cream base.

*Powdered gelatin can be substituted for the sheet gelatin: use 3/4 teaspoon. In a pinch, substitute 75 g (1/4 cup) corn syrup for the glucose. 

ASSEMBLY

Bake brownies into bottom of springform pan. Make ice creams and freeze. Spread salted caramel ice cream on top of brownie layer and smooth until even. Cover pan in foil and freeze. When solid, spread on ganache, sprinkle half to 3/4 of the crumb, then spread on more ganache. Freeze again until firm. Then spread pretzel ice cream on top in the same way and sprinkle on the remaining crumb. Freeze again fro at least 3 hours until the whole cake is set and frozen. When ready to serve, make sure to cut along the edges of the springform pan and then release it smoothly.

Brownie from: The Brown-Eyed Baker; Salted Caramel Ice Cream from: Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home; Ganache from: Joy the Baker; Crumb and Pretzel Ice Cream From: Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook