The wonderful thing about owning an ice cream machine is letting it take your imagination down the rabbit hole. In Alice in Wonderland, the infamous potion, with its big “Drink me” label had “a sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast”. The flavour of hot buttered toast. How curious. Toast is usually just a convenient vehicle for the transport of honey, strawberry jam, scrambled eggs, melted cheese, smoked salmon or marmalade. And while it might have flavour of its own, there’s simply nothing else that has its flavour. Curiouser and curiouser. Once upon a time, when I was small, I wanted ice cream for breakfast. “But ice cream isn’t for breakfast” I was told, by people who were bigger than me and therefore must know better. If I’d been a little bigger when I was small, I’d have known better myself, and I could have told them what nonsense they were talking. Ice cream has milk in it, and milk is for breakfast. And eggs are for breakfast, and ice cream has those in it as well. If I’d had the toast flavoured ice cream card up my sleeve, I might have won this argument once and for all. Of course, the wonderful thing about being a grown up is you can eat whatever you want and you don’t even NEED an argument. You might be big enough to know better, but you don’t have to know better just because you’re big enough. You can have any six impossible things you like for breakfast. And you can have toast ice cream any time you feel like it.
Toast Ice Cream with Honeycomb
You might think that toast ice cream would resemble in some way brown bread ice cream. It does not. Toast ice cream has the flavour of hot buttered toast, but is marvellously smooth and ungrainy. So smooth in fact, that I wanted to add something with a little bit of texture. Honeycomb candy – with the crunch of toast and the flavour of honey, is perfect. Its method of production as well – hot caramel billowing up out of the saucepan – feels very Wonderland.
- 100g sugar
- 2 tbsp golden syrup
- 1 tsp baking soda
Put the sugar and golden syrup in a deep saucepan and heat over a low heat, stirring as it warms to dissolve the sugar in the golden syrup. Continue to heat until the sugar syrup reaches the hard crack stage (approximately 150C if you have a candy thermometer). Remove pan from heat and, working as quickly as you can, whisk in the baking soda (the mixture will rapidly foam up when you do this) and immediately pour onto a large sheet of baking paper. Allow to cool for 30 mins – 1hr, then put in the freezer in an airtight container for 2hrs. Once completely cold and hard, the honeycomb can be broken into pieces. If for some reason, you happen to own a toffee hammer then by god, now’s your chance to finally use it. Otherwise a gentle bash with a rolling pin will do fine. Store in an airtight container in the freezer until you’re ready to use it.
Toast Ice Cream
Since my last ice cream post, I’ve found a simpler and easier way to make the ice cream base using a water bath. If you don’t have a water bath, see below for how to improvise one or use the conventional method from the previous post.
- 6 egg yolks
- 180g caster sugar
- 700ml (700g) milk
- 200g buttered toast
- 600ml (600g) cream
Set water bath to 79C. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until the sugar dissolves. Heat 300ml of the milk until it just starts steaming, and temper the eggs by slowly adding the hot milk in a thin stream while whisking. Transfer this custard to a zip lock bag, force the air out and seal it. Cook in the water bath for 1hr. Meanwhile, soak the buttered toast in the remaining 400ml of milk until the toast is completely saturated (30 mins). Add more milk if the toast is still dry. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. Remove the custard from the water bath and add to the blender with the pureed toast. Blend until both are well combined. Finally, transfer both into a large bowl, add the cream, and mix until all very well combined. Taste for flavour, and reserve in the fridge until cold (at least 2hrs or ideally overnight) Churn in your ice cream machine as per manufacturer’s instructions, adding honeycomb pieces right at the end (you probably won’t want to use the whole batch of honeycomb – it’ll overpower the toast flavour). Firm up the ice cream in a freezer for a couple of hours before serving.
Tips for Geeks
I’m still experimenting with honeycomb, but here’s what I know so far.
This recipe makes more honeycomb than you’re likely to need. Just use the best bits and eat the rest – it’s too difficult to make a smaller batch.
Honeycomb, with all its little bubbles, has a huge surface area. This means that it absorbs moisture from the air quite quickly and turns gooey. To avoid this, you can keep it in an airtight box, dip it in chocolate (which doesn’t contain water and will harden to form an airtight barrier) or keep in the freezer, (which is a dry environment because its too cold for water vapour). When I tried to make the honeycomb thicker by pouring it into a bowl, it tended to collapse under its own weight.
For this recipe, height wasn’t crucial, so I set the honeycomb on a flat surface and let it find its own level. If you’re having any difficulty with the honeycomb, you might get on better with a recipe like this one from The Pink Whisk. This blog post has better pictures than I was able to get and a step-by-step guide. It also uses a much more forgiving method for making honeycomb; including water in the beginning. This takes a lot longer because you have to essentially boil off most of the water to raise the sugar’s temperature to 150C, but that means that the sugar is in the right phase for a lot longer, so you have a bit more margin for error.
Speaking of temperature, this post by David Lebovitz mentions that he wrecked a probe thermometer (the type on a wire) making caramel one time by letting the probe touch the bottom of the pot, which is hotter than the syrup, and can cause it to blow out. I don’t know if this is true, but I try to use the cold water test for candy making instead. It’s a good idea to let the honeycomb cool right down before you seal it in a container – it’ll prevent condensation from forming. The water bath ice cream base method is fantastic – it never goes lumpy, you can do vast amounts of custard at the same time and you don’t have to watch or stir it.
If you don’t have a water bath but are interested in sous vide cooking, you can get a pretty decent result by filling an ice chest/eskimo cooler box with water at the right temperature, putting its lid on and topping it up with water from the kettle as and when it needs it.Be sure to stir the water vigorously before you take its temperature to give you an average reading.
If you DO have a water bath, you’ve probably already tried soft-poaching an egg in it. If so, you might be concerned that the temperature I give to make the custard (79C) is much higher than the temperature for getting a custard-y yolk to an egg. 79 degrees would give you a completely hard-boiled egg. The reason for this difference is that when contained in an egg shell, the various proteins in the egg yolk set between 60-69C (different proteins setting at different temperatures are what gives the variation of textures to the yolk of a boiled egg). When blended up in milk, the proteins are dispersed and therefore further apart, and thus need to be brought to a higher temperature to achieve a custardy consistency.
Most domestic vacuum sealers can’t handle liquids in the bag – they suck it right out. The trick to get around this is to use Archemedian displacement. Put your ingredients in a zip lock plasic bag but don’t seal it. Hold the bag by the open corners, and lower it slowly into a deep bowl of cold water. The water will force the air out of the bag, whereupon you can seal it. The other way to do it is to freeze your liquid as ice cubes, then seal them. This ensures slightly less air in the bag, but takes longer.
Turn your ice machine on to get it really cold about 20 minutes before you put the mix in and start churning. This will reduce the freezing time and give a better texture to your ice cream.
Ice cream is best stored at the back of the freezer. Usually this is the coldest part of the freezer because it’s closer to the element, and there are also fewer fluctuations to the temperature from the door being opened. This means your ice cream will keep for longer because the surface isn’t repeatedly melting and refreezing (which affects the texture.) The alternative is just to eat your ice cream more quickly. This has the added benefit of freeing up freezer space for new flavours.