One of my very favorite things in the world is ice cream. Well, frozen desserts to be honest – if it’s anything frozen and dessert like, I’m in. I remember the first time I went to Tickleberry’s in Okanagan Falls, BC and saw how many flavours they had (72!)… it was love at first sight. If you’re ever in the area, and like frozen things, you have to go! I remember we didn’t understand that the little pictures near the prices indicated how many scoops each size actually had. I mean, when you order a single, you imagine it’s one scoop, right? Wrong! It’s three! I actually ordered the “large”, thinking it was 4 scoops (6), and was so confused when they kept asking me to choose more flavours! It came in a little bucket!
So for me, one of the saddest things about having to leave my Kitchenaid mixer in Canada, was the lack of the ice cream attachment. It’s kind of hard to make my own ice cream without one 😉
Enter the no-churn ice cream method! Now, I experimented with this a little last summer, with my No-churn Piña Colada ice cream and the No-churn Strawberries + Cream. But the big problem I have, is that almost all no-churn recipes out there use only double cream and condensed milk. And that, my friends, tastes as rich and heavy as it sounds! It’s waaaay too rich with only double cream, but it’s the only way to whip the mix prior to freezing. You dilute the fat content too much with milk, etc. and not only will it not whip up thick before freezing, but it may even separate in the freezer – ending up with a layer of soft cream on top, and hard frozen milk below.
So I tried experimenting with some old recipes (that I had made before I got an ice cream maker) – but ended up with the problems described above. That’s when I saw a little video on Pinterest, of a recipe from Co-Op. It was a Balsamic Strawberries + Cream no-churn recipe, that used an ingredient I hadn’t considered before – yogurt! I mean, I use it to make popsicles, but never thought to try and use it in my ice cream mix. So, I made a small batch, with no strawberry or anything in it, just to see what the base flavour tasted like. And it was nice! I mean, you could definitely taste the yogurt, but it wasn’t as rich and heavy, while still being soft. I figured that if you added a strong enough flavour to it, the slight tangy yogurt taste would fade to the background, or you might not even notice it at all!
Which brings me around to this recipe! (Finally, right?)
Richard’s favorite ice cream in the world is Pooh-Bear (now called “Poor Bear” because of some Disney legal woes) from Maud’s Ice Cream in Northern Ireland. It’s literally one of his first stops after getting off the plane in Belfast. It’s a vanilla ice cream with chunks of honeycomb, which partially melt in, creating little ribbons of caramel and crunchy bits. And ever since I started playing around with ice cream recipes – I knew I’d have to make it for him. (more…)
Honeycomb. Sea Foam. Sponge Toffee. Cinder Toffee. That-stuff-inside-a-crunchie-bar… the list of names for this stuff goes on and on. But they all mean the same thing. It’s a caramel candy that has been made light, fluffy, and full of holes through the addition of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). The baking soda adds a slightly salty taste to the caramel, hence the “sea foam” moniker, but the overall taste is caramel.
I grew up loving crunchie bars, and what I then called sea foam. I remember learning how to make it myself, and dunking it in chocolate to make my own little bite size crunchies. It looks complicated, but it’s really not – once you understand it, that is.
All you need (besides the usual things) is a candy/digital thermometer which can get up to 150°C (~300°F) and liquid glucose. Now, you’re local store (if you’re outside the UK) may not sell liquid glucose, but any specialty cooking/baking store should, and even DIY brewery places too. If you still can’t find any, substitute white corn syrup, but make sure to evaporate off the water sufficiently. It’s a similar product (both are invert sugars) but the water content tends to be higher. If you’re unsure what I mean, read on, it’ll make more sense later.
You can find recipes out there for making honeycomb without the glucose, but this recipe is my favorite. I’ve tried a few in the past, and found that their candy instructions weren’t always adequat. They often resulted in flat soft honeycomb, or burnt tasting stuff. Which isn’t exactly ideal; I adapted this recipe from my work, until it was perfect. Just stick with me kid 😉
There are three key things for making this work well – patience, temperature, and the right container. For patience – you have to let the solution boil slowly (to evaporate off the water), instead of turning up the heat and rushing it. Candy temperatures are less about the actual temperature, and more about what they represent. Since water boils at 100°C, for a solution to climb above that, it needs to evaporate off water. The higher the temperature, the less water is present (until you hit 100% sugar and caramelization occurs). If you boil too quickly, it may read a certain temperature, but there is still too much water present. So let it boil slowly, and the temperature will climb with the reduction in water.
As for the temperature, you need an accurate thermometer. It’s one of my main faults with a lot of honeycomb recipes out there, as they use colour descriptions instead of temperatures. For honeycomb, you want to get to what is known as “hard-crack” stage. Anything below that, and your honeycomb will be too soft and chewy, and may even deflate entirely. Hard crack is between 149-154°C. I generally like to get to at least 150, to ensure it’s reached the right stage, but be careful as it’ll climb quickly once it gets past 145ish. Anything above 154°C and you’re in caramelization territory – sounds nice, but too much caramelization ends up tasting burnt. In fact, despite the fact that honeycomb is caramel in colour, we don’t actually caramelize the sugar! It’s the chemical reaction with the baking soda that creates the colour as well as the taste (and sudden increase in size).
For the container – you want to ensure you don’t pick one too big. Having the right sized container to pour the honeycomb into will ensure it’ll stay nice and tall. I actually used one waaay too big when making this trial batch (see above). I’m used to making this recipe 8x as big, and wasn’t sure how large a pan to use. What ends up happening is that without it reaching the sides, it’ll fall quite a bit and end up sort of flat 🙁 If you put it into a nice sized container, the sides wil support it while it cools, and you’ll end up with tall chunks of light honeycomb. For this amount, I’d recommend a small square pan (like 8×8″), but maybe put some parchment paper underneath incase it overflows a tiny bit.
And that’s it! If you follow those three things (and the recipe below – obviously), you should end up with great honeycomb! I’ve taught quite a few people to make it in the past, so hopefully you’ll have no issue. Use it to make my No-Churn Honeycomb Ice Cream, coat it in chocolate, or just eat it! Just make sure to store it properly, and quickly. Honeycomb will absorb any moisture present, so if you were to make it on a rainy day, with a window open, you might not have as great success as a drier environment. Once your honeycomb is hard, break it up and store it in an airtight container. I worked at a restaurant where we would vaccuum-seal little bags of it, so that we only had to open a small amount during service. Just don’t let it sit around in the kitchen too long after you make it, or it’ll get all sticky. (Like cotton candy! That stuff practically melts if left outside…)
It’s such a fun thing to make – the baking soda creates such an instant reaction (which is why I have no photos of it). It’s a fun thing to make with older kids, as long as they are careful. It’s like a science experiment you can eat! Yum!
In a small pot over medium heat, use a whisk to combine all ingredients except for the bicarbonate*
Bring to a boil, and dissolve the sugar, whisking occassionally
Continue boiling, evaporating off the water, adjusting the heat so that it doesn't boil too rapidly
While the mixture is boiling, sift the bicarbonate in a small bowl, and prep a small baking tray by completely lining it with parchment paper
Once the sugar solution reaches 150°C (302°F), remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the bicarbonate. Make sure you whisk enough that you aren't left with pockets of baking soda, but not too long or you'll deflate it
Immediately pour the honeycomb into your prepared pan, being gentle so as not to deflate the mixture. Don't be tempted to touch the surface while scraping in the last bits, or you'll end up deflating it
Allow to cool (the surface will be hard) then break into small pieces and store in an airtight container
*make sure the pot isn't too small, as the baking soda reaction grows a lot!