Editor's note: Every weekday in July, the Serious Eats editors and staff will serve up their thoughts on everything from sprinkles to soft serve. It's all the ice cream you want, with no brain freeze.
I would like to make a case for Pralines 'n Cream. For those who have tried the caramel ribbon-laced vanilla ice cream with praline-coated pecans, the superiority of this flavor is self-evident. However, the sheer fact that more ice cream makers don't bring caramel and pralines together in their frozen cream suggests that a case need be made.
The one dependable source for Pralines 'n Cream is Baskin Robbins, and it was in their shop in my hometown that I laid the groundwork for a lifelong love of the flavor. Unfortunately Baskin Robbins maintains exclusive distribution of their ice cream, so unless you live near one of their parlors, satisfying a Pralines 'n Cream craving can be near impossible. There is not one trip to the freezer section of the grocery store where I have skipped a preliminary hopeful scan of the shelves for a new producer of the flavor. Countless times I have shuffled and shifted pints of Haagen Daaz; searching in vein for proof that they actually produce their own version. (I thought I once saw the elusive flavor passing by a freezer case of a corner store in San Francisco's Mission. The next day, when I returned, it had vanished.)
Butter Pecan is a poor substitute. Cold, wet, praline-less pecans are a bummer, especially when you know how good a crunchy, sugar and butter coated pecan can be. I would even settle for more pralines in ice cream and skip the caramel. That would be a good start. But the salty, buttery ribbons of caramel add just the right dimension, why would anyone want to leave it out?
I am not alone in my fierce devotion. The flavor, first introduced in 1970, is considered Baskin Robbins' most popular Flavor of the Month ever. It was so loved by the UC Santa Barbara students that they staged a sit-in at a local store demanding that the flavor be made all the time. And now it is. How many ice creams have inspired that kind of activism?
So, please, ice cream makers of the world, make Pralines 'n Cream (especially you, Graeter's).