This past Christmas, “Santa” brought my 3-1/2-year-old twins a battery-operated blender (apparently fashioned by his elves at Amazon.com). Bright yellow with a plastic “blade,” it whirred along excitedly when I added some dried beans to the container – whap! whap! whap! And for a few days this entertained my kids with occasional bursts of loud fun (and beans ending up in the strangest places.) About a week ago, I decided it was time to take the dried-bean training wheels off the blender and put it to work in the kitchen: it was time for milkshakes! We set the blender on the floor. I pulled out some salted caramel ice cream I had in the freezer, some milk and some breakable Illy espresso cups I’d had for years thinking they’d be perfect for when we had children (until I actually had children, saw how often their cups plunged to the floor, and decided to let the cups sit in the cabinet for a few more years).
Together Walker, Addie and I scooped the ice cream, poured the milk, put on the lid, and then turned on the little plastic blender-that-could. It chugged and struggled and whirred and in a few moments the lumps of ice cream began to slowly unmoor from the sides of the container. Without a blade, the “blade” swished the ice cream until it broke down and the blender filled up with slushy foam. It never occurred to me that you could make a milkshake without intensely blending the ingredients. But it turns out that all you really need to do is emulsify the milk and ice cream until they achieve a texture that’s not quite milky and not quite solid but “ploppy” as I explained to my kids.
The milkshakes have since become a nightly ritual (which means, for me, a 7 pm milkshake aperitif has replaced the Lillet or scotch -- but things could be worse). The Salted Caramel Ice Cream portion of the recipe is adapted from Nicole Kaplan at Eleven Madison Park in New York City; it originally appeared in the New York Times on October 8, 2006 in an article by Christine Muhlke. —Amanda Hesser
about 1 quart of ice cream and, in turn, many child-sized milkshakes
plus 1/2 cup sugar
light corn syrup
whole cream, preferably organic
whole milk, plus more to blend the milkshakes
Place 3/4 cup sugar and the corn syrup in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Do not stir. Cook over medium-high heat to a dark caramel, swirling as it begins to brown to distribute the sugar. Deglaze with the cream; then slowly add the milk. The caramel will harden. Bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring, just until the caramel has dissolved.
In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar, yolks and fleur de sel. Whisk a little caramel cream into the egg mixture to temper, pour the egg mixture into the remaining caramel cream and mix. Strain the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve. Cool completely, preferably overnight, then freeze in an ice-cream maker. If not using for milkshakes, sprinkle with fleur de sel before serving.
There is no need for a recipe for milkshakes. All you do is add 1 large scoop of ice cream per person. Drop the scoops into the blender and add enough milk to almost cover the scoops. Turn on the blender -– bbrrrrrrrrr! Done!
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.