Back in the olden days, i.e., my childhood, we made our own amusements all summer long. Unlike modern mothers—myself and others, you know who you are—our mothers were not particularly interested in how we passed the time. If we were bored, they certainly did not perceive it as their problem. There’s the door, go out and play.
One summer, a pack of pre-adolescent girls took a bike ride. We whizzed past flowering rosa rugosa, honeysuckle, and mysterious, deep pine woods as we pedaled the flat pavement on the mainland side of Barnegat Bay at the Jersey shore. The morning turned hot, so we veered down shady lanes and sped along without the resistance of hills or wind to slow us, until late afternoon. Where were we? We wended our way back in what we hoped was the direction of home. A posse of station wagons approached. Angry parents! Scolding! We were miles from home! This is the only actual parental intervention I remember from summers of yore.
So, what did we do when we had reached the outer limits of boredom? We made candy. I have a very tolerant aunt to thank for that. Aunt Eileen allowed, no, encouraged my cousins and me to tear up her kitchen in pursuit of sugar. She had a droll sense of humor and a sweet tooth as prodigious as any nine-year-old girl. She handed us her legendary recipe for fudge—I remember it involved marshmallow fluff—and let us have at it. After fudge, there were rice krispie treats (more marshmallows) and eventually taffy. Burned in my memory is an image as clear as a photograph: three cousins on the front steps, pigtails, short shorts, tiny tee shirts, skinny legs and all. Eat a little, pull a little, eat a little, pull a little. Aunt Eileen in the background, only too happy to test the results.
Recently Elise (Simply Recipes) Bauer posted a recipe for Coffee Heath Bar Ice Cream. Hold the phone! Those are two of my absolute favorite flavors! They called up memories of candy making and summer, and inspired the following idea for honeycomb ice cream. Besides, it is officially National Ice Cream month.
Don’t be fooled by the name and think you are getting something natural: the candy is all about sugar, even though I used organic cane sugar here. The name comes from the air pockets that permeate the candy and make it look like a honeycomb. It is at least as sweet. The resulting ice cream has edgy, grown-up, burnt sugar flavors, and boy, is it good. I won’t lie. I am a sucker for edgy, grown-up, burnt sugar flavors.
First you must make the candy. I haven’t made honeycomb candy since, well, since I can’t remember. Maybe I never made it. I can tell you it is quick to accomplish, especially if you avoid the missteps I made, which I willingly share with you herewith. After that, make basic ice cream custard. Finally, send the mixture through a painless churn in the ice cream maker and stir in more crushed candy before packing it into a storage container. Just try to find something like this in the freezer case at your local market.
Honeycomb Candy Recipe
Vegetable oil spray
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup organic cane sugar or white granulated sugar
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
A pinch of salt
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and coat it lightly with vegetable oil spray. Set it next to the stove. Sift the baking soda twice into a small bowl and set it next to the stove. Have a silicone, heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon nearby.
2. Pour the water, sugar, honey, vanilla and salt into a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. (The candy will bubble up to at least four times its volume, so the pan should hold at least 2 quarts.) Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Shake the pan from time to time to keep the sugar from burning at the edges, but do not stir. Cook until large, even bubbles form and the candy looks like dark caramel. Theoretically this should measure 300 degrees on a candy thermometer, but pay attention to the way it looks and smells. Your thermometer may not be precisely accurate and you risk burning the sugar. My thermometer measured in at 275 degrees.
3. Pick up your spatula with one hand and sprinkle the baking soda into the pot with the other. Immediately stir as briefly as possible with the spatula, just long enough to mix in the baking soda. The candy will billow up tremendously, which is a good thing. Try not to deflate it by over stirring. Immediately scrape it onto the awaiting parchment-lined baking sheet. Let it cool.
4. Break the candy into pieces and store it in an airtight container in the freezer if not using right away. The candy is very hydroscopic, which means, it sucks moisture out of the atmosphere like nobody’s business and becomes a sticky mess in no time.
5. To crush the candy for ice cream, place it between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and lightly tap with a rolling pin. It is light and airy, so it doesn’t take much force to break it up into coarse crumbs.
Look and Cook: How to make honeycomb candy
Pour the water, sugar, honey, salt and vanilla into a saucepan. Cook it over medium heat without stirring. Shake the pan from time to time, and cook until large, even bubbles form and the syrup looks like dark caramel. With just a few strokes of a heatproof silicone spatula, stir in the sifted baking soda. It will billow up, don't try to stir it down and deflate it.
Immediately pour it onto a baking sheet lined with oiled parchment paper. The baking soda forms uneven air pockets that make it look like a honeycomb when you break it apart.
Don't say I didn't warn you. Even though I hopefully (and generously) buttered a baking sheet, the candy stuck to the pan. Line the pan with non-stick parchment and spray it lightly with vegetable oil for insurance.
If you still don't believe me, this is how the candy looks if you use the oiled parchment paper.
Honeycomb Ice Cream Recipe
Makes about 1 quart
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup honey
5 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups coarsely crushed honeycomb candy
1. Combine the cream, milk and honey in a heavy saucepan (2 quarts or larger), and heat over medium heat until scalding (tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pot.)
2. Whisk the egg yolks together in a bowl. Set the bowl on top of a damp paper towel or dishcloth to keep it from sliding around. Whisking constantly, gradually dribble about half the hot cream mixture into the yolks. Still whisking constantly, add the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining cream.
3. Use a heatproof spatula to stir the custard constantly over medium-low heat until it thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon, about 170 degrees measured on a thermometer. Set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and strain the mixture to catch any little bits of egg that may have cooked and solidified. Stir in the vanilla, almond extract and 1/2 cup of the crushed honeycomb candy. Reserve the remaining 1 cup of crushed candy in an airtight container in the freezer to mix into the ice cream later. Refrigerate the custard until very cold, 4 to 6 hours or overnight. The candy will dissolve into the cream.
4. Churn the ice cream base in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.
5. Remove the churning paddle and carefully stir in the remaining 1cup crushed honeycomb candy. Pack into a container and freeze for several hours, or until the ice cream is firm enough to scoop.
More ice cream from around the web:
Salted butter caramel ice cream (David Lebovitz) and many more
Bitter chocolate ice cream (Leite's Culinaria)
Dulce de leche ice cream (Smitten Kitchen)
Coffee heath bar crunch ice cream (Simply Recipes) and many more
How to make ice cream without a machine (David Lebovitz)
Mint chocolate chip ice cream (Cooking Lessons)
Orange frozen yogurt (Cooking Lessons)