This is Matt. He is my husband, best friend, confidante, lover, life partner, cheering section, shoulder to cry on, traveling companion, sounding board, love of my life. Last weekend was his birthday. I’m not sure exactly when this got started, but our birthday tradition is that we get one home-cooked meal, whatever we want, and we go out to eat for one special meal. Matt varies what he wants for dinner every year, but for the past three years he has not wavered on dessert. He always wants this ice cream, so I make it for him every year.
I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit laborious, and every year, I say I’ll not make it again. But then I taste the finished product, and that all goes out the window. It tastes so amazing that of course I’ll make it again and again. Besides, I’m only kidding myself if I really think I could ever deny my amazing other half his special-request ice cream, the one that has become known in our house as “Matt’s Birthday Ice Cream”.
This dish actually combines two recipes: one for a basic vanilla bean ice cream, and one for caramel-chocolate-peanut brittle.
You chunk up the brittle and it becomes the add-in while the ice cream is churning. It was inspired by Ben & Jerry’s peanut brittle flavor, and we both agree this one is even better. The ice cream is super creamy, contrasted with the satisfying crunch of the brittle, which is that irresistible combination of chocolate and peanut butter, along with some caramel and sea salt thrown in for good measure. I really don’t have words to convey how heavenly it is, so you’ll just have to make it and see for yourself.
The brittle is actually very quick to make, about twenty minutes hands on time (not including time for cooling and chilling of course). Sure, your hair is on fire those twenty minutes, but it’s all worth it. You’ll also have a ton of leftover brittle to snack on, which you deserve after all that work to make it.
CARAMEL-CHOCOLATE-PEANUT BUTTER BRITTLE:
4 unsalted matzo crackers
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
One 12-oz bag milk chocolate chips
1 cup creamy peanut butter
Coarse sea salt
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Very important, and I pity the fool who skips this step. Place a layer of matzo crackers on the surface, breaking as needed to fit.
In a heavy medium stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the sugar and 2 tbs water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook undisturbed until it is light golden and a thermometer inserted reads 255 F. This takes 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool 1 minute. Stir in the vanilla and quickly pour all over the matzo layer. Use a metal knife or spatula to spread it around evenly. Bake for 8 minutes.
Remove the brittle from the oven and sprinkle evenly with the chocolate chips. Bake 2 minutes, until the chocolate starts to melt. Then spread the chocolate out evenly. Let cool for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the peanut butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Drizzle it over the chocolate and, using the handle of a spoon, swirl the chocolate and peanut butter. Sprinkle with salt.
Let the brittle cool for 1 hour, then refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours. Break into pieces to serve the brittle alone.
VANILLA BEAN ICE CREAM:
4 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, sugar and salt; pour into a medium to large saucepan. With the side of a paring knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the saucepan, and toss the vanilla bean in as well. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. This takes a good 20 minutes. Don’t cheat or your ice cream will lack creaminess.
Strain the custard into a medium bowl and place the bowl in an ice bat. Continue stirring every few minutes until it’s tepid. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
When you’re ready to churn, add the cream to the base and stir well. Follow your ice cream maker’s instructions for churning. While it’s churning, remove the brittle from the refrigerator and immediate break off a large piece. Chop it into bite-size chunks, but be careful not to go too small. In the last five minutes of churning, add the chunks to the ice cream maker. When it’s done, freeze until you’re ready to serve.