Tuesday, May 28, 2013

By Request: Sugar-free Salted Caramel Ice Cream

My first request!

My friend F. asked if I could figure out a lower carb, lower calorie (because that's how I roll) salted caramel ice cream.  Since I love taking on a challenge, I of course immediately set about researching how to create this for her.

Problem # 1: not all sugar substitutes will caramelize. I can now list all the ones that won't, and there are some sugar substitutes that I didn't want to use in this recipe: maltitol, because it is one of the worst offenders in terms of "gastric distress" that can be caused by sugar substitutes, and erythritol, because I find even a small amount makes ice cream crumbly.

I *did* find that you can caramelize xylitol, which is great, because I use it to help with the texture of my sugar-free ice creams anyway.  The trick, it seems, is to add a tiny bit of an interfering agent, via an invert sugar, like corn syrup (you could use honey, though this isn't truly an invert sugar, but does contain it. It might make it taste a bit like honey though).
This is to prevent the creation of crystals in the caramel (an issue with caramel based on sugar, and I didn't want to chance it with the xylitol experiment). One teaspoon of corn syrup (which is not quite the same as "high-fructose corn syrup," which is much more processed) in the entire recipe will be quite distributed and the nutritional and blood sugar effects should not be pronounced, but will ensure that the caramel comes out properly.

Xylitol caramelization test (with a bit of cream)

So I ran a test with a small amount of xylitol and a drop of syrup (and some cream), and came out with perfect caramel. JOY!
We can proceed

Problem #2: finding a good salted caramel ice cream base recipe. 
I scoured the internet, and found a highly rated recipe that would be a good base for my changes.
The reviewers suggested the recipe could benefit from a couple of tweaks: a bit more salt, and some found it very rich.
I'm incorporating changes into my version to address these comments: decreasing the cream a bit, increasing the sea salt amount, and using liquid sucralose (aka Splenda) to replace some of the extra sugar, if its needed (note: I don't think it is).  The bulk of the sweetness will come from xylitol, which will be caramelized.  The rest would just be to taste.

Warning: making caramel is like making napalm in your kitchen. 
This stuff will cause permanent skin damage if it gets on you. TAKE PRECAUTIONS.

Wear long sleeves and long pants and good, closed-toe shoes. 
Baby-gate the animals and children OUT of the kitchen area. 
Have baking soda and a big pot lid, and an empty sink available.

Also-- it smokes. A LOT.  So open some windows and turn on the vent in advance.

So, with all that out of the way, here we go!

1 1/4 c. heavy whipping cream.
3/4 cup xylitol
1 teaspoon corn syrup or very mild flavored honey, or agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon sea salt (could add another 1/4 tsp if you like it very salty)

1/4 c. additional heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons glycerine
2 tablespoons vodka
(I thought it was sweet enough with just the xylitol called for, but if you think you need more sweetness, have 1/4 cup splenda (bulk, or the equivalent in liquid sweetener) standing by)


First-- prepare for the hot caramel situation.  Block off the kitchen, get your safety gear, open the windows, turn on the vent.  Prepare mentally.  Don't answer the phone.  And you CAN take the pot off the heat now and then to check on it.  Go slow.
Have your 1.25 c. of heavy cream ready and standing by.

Next, in a very clean, very large pot, place the xylitol and the teaspoon of syrup (or honey or agave, whatever you are using).  Heat over medium until everything melts-- you can stir it with a very clean fork or spatula to get everything melted.

Once melted, you'll just swirl.  You'll start to see the color change slowly.  There will be some smoke.  It will smell like it's burning, because it is, that's the point.

Sometimes it might bubble a little bit, sometimes not. 


Here is everything for the caramel, prepared:


Xylitol and syrup are melted.  Now the swirling starts

Very faint color change, to a very very pale yellow

Now a pale gold, and the smoking has started

More like a light honey color

Getting deeper, like an amber, and a lot more smoke

Darker amber - this is where I decided to stop and pulled it off the heat.  This took about 10 minutes or so, but depends on your stove, so just stand there and keep an eye on it and swirl.

Next, off the heat but still very very very hot, I add the cream 1 1/4c. cream

This is why you have to use a much bigger pot than you would think-- LOOK at the bubbles!

Once it calms down, you can stir in the vanilla and sea salt, and let it cool to room temperature, and go on with the recipe.

Once you've calmed down, you should make the custard.  Yes, I'm going to do the whole custard thing for this recipe, maybe it'll become a regular occurrence (or not).

So-- bring the milk and the remaining cream just to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally.

In a medium bowl on the side, lightly beat the eggs, then add half of hot milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Pour back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (a heat-proof spatula will be fine too), until custard coats back of spoon and registers 170°F on an instant-read thermometer (do not let boil or stop stirring- yuckiest scrambled eggs ever).

Remove from heat and pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, then stir in cooled caramel mixture. Add in the glycerine and vodka (these help with texture and scoopability in sugar-free ice creams). Taste the mixture (the eggs are cooked at this point) and sweeten if needed,using extra Splenda or liquid sweetener, to taste.  Keep in mind cold foods taste less sweet than warm ones, so err on the side of a bit sweeter. I didn't think it needed any extra, and after it froze, I thought it was  perfect. 

Chill custard, stirring occasionally, until very cold (especially if you are using a canister-style ice cream maker).
Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to maker's directions (it will still be quite soft), then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to firm up, 2 hours at least, more if you can keep your hands off it.

Here it is, quite soft after not-quite 2hrs in the freezer- I actually added another 1/2 scoop to the serving.

Since I don't eat this flavor often, or really, at all, this was new for me.  I thought it was  A-MAZING!!!  I might try to get the caramel a bit deeper in color (but given the smoke, maybe not) and maybe a pinch more salt.  But overall, YUM!

Nutritional Info:
Assuming 8 nice size servings:
304 calories

20g of fat (12 saturated, 6 monounsaturated, 1 polyunsaturated)
147mg cholesterol
302mg sodium
128mg potassium
23g carbohydrate
18g fiber (counting the xylitol here as well)  So 5g net carbs for people who count those.
5g protein
9% of your day's calcium
16% of your vitamin A
12% of your B2 (riboflavin)

Full props for the sites I used for my research:


  1. Thanks for this recipe!

    I tried this Salted Caramel recipe yesterday and it is outstanding BUT way too sweet: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2007/04/salted-butter-c/

    I saw xylitol at the store tonight and I thought, "Hmm, I wonder if this will caramelize." So I googled it and found your recipe.

    I'll give it a try within the next few days.

    1. Hi Michael! Glad I could be of help :D If you get a chance, let me know how you found it, I'm open to ideas and tweaks! :)