Or What To Do When Your Brown Butter Ice Cream Refuses To Taste Like Brown Butter.
I was so looking forward to making the brown butter ice cream, it’s the one I had to have on the list when I was deciding what to make for this month. It’s light, delicate nutty flavour, smooth and rich. I even had some pecan tartlets on hand, they would complement each other perfectly.
It started like any other ice cream making session. I had my egg yolks and sugar in a bowl, whisked together. And I got my butter going in a small frying pan.
It took a long time, I went for the low-and-slow route for browning. It starts to change colour, it gains little flecks and it has the most amazing nutty aroma. It gets tempered into the eggs and then the ice cream is finished as usual. Strain right at the end to get all those flecks out. Then chill.
I gave it a quick taste before chilling, I was excited to see what it would be like. Nothing! Nada! Not a thing! All I could taste was that teeny tiny teaspoon of vanilla that had gone in there, nothing buttery or nutty at all. But, I didn’t worry, sometimes chilling can make the world of difference to a flavour. Maybe it just needed to be cold for the flavour to come out.
Fast forward to the next day. I take another taste. Still nothing. It’s vanilla ice cream. Albeit a really nice vanilla ice cream, the brown sugar and butter adding depths of flavour and richness. But not a single hint of brown butter.
Well, I can’t just leave it as vanilla, that’s no fun. So I think about ice creams that were on my “maybe” list. Hoky Pokey comes jumping out.
Hokey Pokey (not the song.. which is the hokey cokey to all you Brits out there) is vanilla ice cream with honeycomb in it. Not honeycomb as in from bees, but the candy. Ever had a Crunchie bar (you’ll see them in the imported food isle), no? Well, honeycomb candy is caramelised sugar that you trap carbon dioxide bubbles in, forming a light airy crisp, caramel-y wonderfulness! It’s called honeycomb because the bubbles give it the look of, well, honeycomb (apparently it can also be known as sponge toffee).
Apparently this is a popular flavour in New Zealand, and I recall finding it in some ice cream parlours in the UK. Hokey Pokey was a generic term for the street ice cream vendors in the 19th to early 20th century in England and also New York. I also hear tell that Hokey Pokey is a Cornish term for honeycomb.
Thankfully honeycomb doesn’t take long to whip up (the vital stages come and go quick though, so only photos of the finished article), just boil the sugar and honey with a dash of water to 300F. Then stir in baking soda. It rises alarmingly and you actually want to gently knock it back a little or it will become too airy and collapse. Of course knocking it back too much leaves you with a slab of hard caramel. Pour it out on a tray, greased parchment will do, but any excuse for me to get my trusty silpat out! Leave it to set. It really doesn’t take long. I left it an hour as I pottered about do other bits and pieces, 30 minutes would have done the trick.
Then break it up into pieces. I went for smallish chunks and doing that gave me plenty of crumbs too.
Once the ice cream is churned fold in the chunks and all the crumbs and leave to freeze.
The honeycomb loses some its crispness frozen in the ice cream, except for some of the larger chunks. But finding the pockets of it makes for fun eating. Those crumbs spread throughout the mix adding a nice overall flavour to the ice cream.