To the average cook, flavor pairing is a critical art to understand and master, but in truth, it’s much more of a science than anything else. Matching up similar volatile molecules in various ingredients ensures a much greater likelihood of ending up with a dish that has all its elements both well-balanced and working together harmoniously. Taking this approach, there have been many dubious, unusual, and just bizarre pairings concocted (caramelized cauliflower and chocolate, anyone?) but most surprisingly, the flavors do always seem to work together.
Fascinated by this concept, I’ve been quietly watching this blog event, They Really Go Well Together (TRGWT), seeing what creative entries came in for such unique combinations. When the most recent theme of soy sauce and malt was announced, something about those two just struck me as perfect, and I completely understood that they belonged together. The bright saltiness of the soy sauce, the deep, woodsy notes of malt- This was one that I had to try for myself.
Believe it or not, I had actually made a soy caramel sauce many months ago for a base recipe that never fully worked out, so I already knew that that would make an appearance here. Instead of putting it on the side as a dipping sauce, keeping it separate from the “action,” if you will, I wanted to have it swirled throughout… And what better to swirl caramel through than ice cream?
So malted ice cream with soy caramel ripple it was! With just enough sweetness to counteract the high level of salt in the soy sauce, the caramel ripple adds bursts of bright flavor, livening up the smooth, musky malt ice cream. An odd couple, perhaps, but they really do create a harmonious symphony of flavor!
Maybe there is something to this whole “science” business after all?
Malted Ice Cream with Soy Caramel Ripple
1 Vanilla Bean
1 Cup Plain Soymilk, Divided
1 Cup Plain Soy Creamer
1/2 Cup Coconut Milk
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1/2 Cup Barley Malt Syrup
1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 Teaspoon Xanthan Gum (Optional, but Recommended*)
1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
*The ice cream will work just fine without this, but it vastly improves the texture and therefore mouth feel of the finished product.
Slit your vanilla bean down the center and use the side of your knife to scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds into a medium sauce pan, along with 3/4 cup of the soymilk, plus all of the soy creamer, coconut milk, malt syrup, and sugar. Place the pan over medium heat, and stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved.
In a separate dish, whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup of soymilk with the cornstarch, making sure that all of the lumps are beaten out. Pour the slurry into the pan while whisking constantly, and continue to cook the mixture until bubbles begin to break on the surface and it feels significantly thickened. Remove from the heat, sprinkle in the xanthan gum and very quickly and vigorously whisk it in. If you don’t trust that you can move fast enough, incorporate it using a stick blender, because it absorbs liquid and forms lumps very rapidly. Finally, whisk in the salt, and plunge the pan into an ice bath to cool it down. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface, and let it chill in the fridge for at least one hour.
While the base chills, you can make the soy caramel. Simply combine both the brown sugar and soy sauce in a small sauce pan, place over medium heat, and cook the mixture until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside. (It may start to harden by the time you get back to it, but just reheat it gently and it should be fine)
Once the base has thoroughly chilled, churn it in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. After freezing, transfer it into an air-tight container, and swirl in the soy caramel using a wide spatula. Quickly move it into your freezer so that it can fully solidify.