I was literally chilling this base on the countertop when my friend Nick asked “Have you ever thought about doing an anise flavor?” So it was certainly one of my easier naming conventions. Anise is a flavor I’m fond of, but it can be overpowering if you’re not careful. I had a couple of ideas, but I didn’t want to dilute the flavor with another element. I came up with using caramel shards (some of which will dissolve into liquid) to add sweetness, smokiness, and a bit of texture.
Nick’s Anise Crunch
2 cups milk
1 ½ cup cream
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground fresh star anise
½ teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks
Whisk to combine cream, 1 cup milk, ½ cup sugar, ground star anise, and salt in a medium pot. Heat over medium heat, whisking frequently, but don’t let it boil.
Whisk three egg yolks in a medium bowl. It’s OK if there are some traces of egg white — no need to be a perfectionist — but try to minimize that. Place one cup milk in a large bowl and position a strainer above.
When the dairy mixture is hot but not yet simmering (honestly, if it starts to simmer a little, you’ll be OK), remove from heat. Let stand thirty minutes covered, then remove cover and reheat on medium heat. Once the mixture is warm, slowly ladle about a cup into the egg yolks, whisking with one hand while ladling with the other to temper the yolks.
Once complete, transfer the yolk mixture to the pot, and then return to medium heat. Stir the mixture with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom at times. Once the custard is thick enough to slightly coat the back of the spatula (another sign: you will start to notice that scraping the bottom of the pot encounters some solid residue), remove from heat and pour through the strainer into the milk.
Place the bowl in an ice bath to cool for thirty minutes (if you’re too lazy, it’s ok to just do this on the counter). Then, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and refrigerate for at least two hours before churning.
While ice cream is cooling, place 1 ½ cups sugar in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet and place parchment paper over it (using a rimmed sheet will prevent spilling). Stir the sugar occasionally as it dissolves. When the sugar has dissolved, continue to stir as the sugar begins to turn darker. Once it is a medium-dark brown, pour onto the parchment paper. Take the sheet in your hands and turn it so that the caramel spreads into a thin layer. Let cool for thirty minutes.
Once cool, take the end of the parchment paper together so that the caramel breaks into large pieces, and agitate the parchment paper to continue to break the caramel into pieces. When the largest pieces are no more than one inch square, you should be ready. Set the pieces into a bowl and refrigerate.
When chilled, process the base in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Add the caramel shards when the ice cream is nearly complete. Freeze for eight hours.