Sunday, 3 August 2014

Honeycomb Ice Cream

OK, as promised, and before summer is over, here is the recipe for Honeycomb Ice Cream.  Actually the name is a little misleading as it doesn't taste of honey, but more like frozen crème caramel - I think the 'honeycomb' probably refers to the aerated nature of the Crunchie/cinder toffee chunks in the mix.

A word before the pictures start about the ingredients: as I said before, this is the easiest ice cream in the world as there is no churning required, either by hand or machine.  The ice cream is very smooth with no jagged ice crystals because the sugar content of the mixture is high and this prevents sharp ice crystals forming. However, I am conscious that some of the ingredients may not be readily available in all parts of the world. I know that in France they do not seem to have what we in England know as double cream.  Not sure what you have in USA or Australia but it says on the carton that double cream is 48% fat if that helps you to identify the equivalent product.

I guess you probably have sweetened condensed milk as it is made by Nestlé, and golden syrup (do you call it treacle? though our treacle is black), but I am not sure about bicarbonate of soda which is a raising agent and used to aerate the caramel to make the honeycomb/cinder toffee chunks.

If you cannot get bicarb (or do not want to make the honeycomb yourself) then you may be able to buy the sweet (candy) known as Crunchie here in England (which is a chocolate-covered cinder toffee bar) and crush that.

But it is great fun to make the caramel and see it froth up - my kids used to love to watch - so why not have a go?  Just be aware that the caramel gets very hot, much hotter than boiling water, and don't let any little ones get a burn from the hot sugar.

You will need:
600 ml or 1 pint of double cream
Tin of condensed milk (weight 397g which is about 14 oz)
5 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Measure the sugar and syrup into a small pan and heat on the stove.  DO NOT at any point be tempted to stir the mixture as it will prevent the caramel from forming correctly.

You can swirl the pan to mix the sugar and syrup as they melt.  You need the pan to be hot enough to form the caramel without it being so hot that the mixture catches and burns before the sugar has melted.

Cook the caramel until it is a good dark brown; I would say about the colour of cold tea but we all take our tea differently nowadays!  The darker the caramel the more bitter the taste (which is good, the bitterness sets off the richness and sweetness of the cream) but you don't want the sugar actually to burn.

If it doesn't work to your liking first time don't despair - the ingredients used so far aren't expensive and you can have another go.  Just put the pan to soak in cold water and start again.

While the caramel is cooking you shouldn't really take your eyes off it but you may just have a moment to grab a board and put a sheet of baking parchment (silicone paper?) on it; something non-stick anyway - NOT greaseproof  paper - as you need to be able to peel off the honeycomb/cinder toffee when it is set.

Now for the fun part:  make sure you have everything you need to hand as you will have to act quickly.  You need to have ready: one level teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda, a metal spoon, a knife and spatula to scrape the spoon and pan.

Tip the bicarb into the caramel (off the heat) and stir like mad with the metal spoon.  You will find that the caramel immediately froths up and expands.

As soon as all the bicarb is mixed in, tip the aerated mixture on to the baking parchment and scrape out the pan.  You will find that the mixture starts to set almost immediately so it is important not to delay in scraping it all out.

It doesn't look terribly appetising at this stage but it will taste fantastic; just leave it for half and hour or so to cool and set completely.

Put the pan to soak in cold water immediately and it will be no trouble to clean.  (If you delay don't worry, you will just have to soak it for longer before washing up.)

When the cinder toffee is cold, peel it off the baking parchment and set it upside down back on the parchment (it just makes it easier to break up this way).

Using the end of a rolling pin or something similar, gently break up the honeycomb/cinder toffee into smallish pieces: you don't want a fine powder but a variety of sized pieces works well.

I've done an extra-large picture so you can see the aerated, honeycomb structure of the pieces.

Into a large bowl now put the double cream and beat with an electric whisk until the cream just starts to hold its shape - you do not want it to be at all stiff however.
Next,  fold in the condensed milk.

Finally, fold in the honeycomb pieces and tip the whole lot into a plastic freezer box with a lid.

Once the lid is on, put the ice cream into the freezer for several hours, preferably overnight.

It will keep for a few weeks but over time the caramel may start to break down - it will still taste delicious but in my experience will become less crunchy the longer you keep it.

As with most things it tastes best if fairly freshly made, and it is divine with fresh berries or (my absolute favourite for impressing guests) fresh peaches poached in Marsala wine.

I hope you will be tempted to have a go at making this ice cream - do let me know how you get on.  It has been fun writing this food recipe as a tutorial, instead of a quilt recipe, but I plan to get back to focusing on quilts in the future.

In writing this recipe for an audience which may be in any part of the world, I have also been really conscious of how different places, even English-speaking places, have different words for ingredients and measurements, so I hope this makes sense to you wherever you are!

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