If you love caramel, especially salted caramel, and sweet crunchy bits, you’ll go crazy for Honeycomb Crunchy Salted Caramel Ice Cream.
This adventure was a long time in the making. In 2013, during a visit to Ireland, my beloved and I happened upon Murphy’s, a delightfully funky ice cream store in Dublin. We went back two – or maybe three – times in four days. The ice cream was excellent and the vibe was superb. Even when the store bustled with customers, each server found time to chat. Their smiles and recommendations made me wish that I could move to Ireland, preferably next door to the Murphys’ ice cream factory on the Dingle Peninsula.
During one of those ice cream forays, I spied Seán and Kieran Murphy’s Book of Sweet Things on the store counter. Hoping to bring a bit of Ireland (or at least the memories) back to the States, I bought a copy. Then, as is my terrible habit, the book sat on my shelf unused and unloved – until this summer.
While doing some much-needed cleaning of my bookshelves, I rediscovered the book a few weeks ago. The dusting and re-arranging had to wait, as I went back into the magical world of the Murphy brothers’ ice cream fantasies.
When I ate ice cream at Murphy’s storefront, I went for variations on chocolate and coffee. Those are my usual go-to flavors. But since then I’ve learned the joys of homemade salted caramel sauce. As soon as I saw Murphy’s caramel-flavored ice cream, I knew that was just where I had to start.
Before getting down to the serious business of ice cream making, I tweeted Murphys to ask if I could blog their recipe. They kindly gave their permission. Eventually my directions diverged from theirs and I changed the caramel from plain to salted. Still, the inspiration and more is straight from them.
Now, onto the ice cream.
First, the crunchy honeycomb. I’d never heard of honeycomb candy before and had no idea that it is a “thing.” A quick Google search showed me that there is a whole community of honeycomb devotees out there. Who knew?
Also called hokey pokey or Violet Crumble candy, honeycomb candy has four ingredients: sugar, water, Lyle’s Golden Syrup or honey, and baking soda.
Turned into candy via a process more akin to a science experiment than a recipe, the result resembles real honeycomb. After the science experiment, you get to take your aggressions out on the candy by smashing it into tiny bits. The recipe makes more than you need for the ice cream, so I’ve also been sprinkling them on yogurt and on the foamed milk in my morning coffee. My beloved appreciated the ice cream, but found the honeycomb morsels too sweet.
I’m pro-honeycomb, but I do understand that some are not. In any event, definitely go for the caramel ice cream. You’ll be glad you did.
The ingredients for the ice cream base are simple. Four natural ingredients that make a rich and creamy custard base. Once you master this part, you can make almost an infinite variety of ice cream flavors. By the way, when looking for cream, check out my explanation for the difference between heavy and whipping cream.
Tips on Making Honeycomb Crunchy Salted Caramel Ice Cream
- Plan ahead – The honeycomb needs hours (overnight if you’re in a humid climate) to harden, the custard needs a few hours to cool, and the ice cream needs about that long to freeze after you’ve churned it. Don’t let these times dissuade you, just plan for adequate time between steps. If you’re adding honeycomb, make that candy and the custard for the ice cream in the morning, put the ice cream together and churn it before you go to bed and enjoy the ice cream the next day. (Hint – you can definitely insist on testing it for breakfast:)
- Don’t be impatient – Learn from my mistakes. I had to make two batches of the honeycomb because I touched it before it was hard, causing air bubbles to burst and the candy to flatten. Also, my custard got a bit overheated. I was able to rectify that problem by straining the custard, but it would have been better if I’d let it heat more slowly.
- Measurements – In their book, the Murphys offer a spirited argument in favor of weight-based measurements. Also, they use the metric system. They’re right on both counts. However, because I’ve used volume up until now on this blog, I’ve provided American weights (ounces) with approximate volume equivalents.
Don’t blame the slightly melted condition of the ice cream in several of my photos on the recipe or the Murphys.
It was 80 degrees in my kitchen on a 99+ degree summer day. Plus, I’m not exactly a speedy photographer. But the upside was that I realized this ice cream is superb even under less-than-ideal conditions.
Honeycomb Crunchy Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Creamy and crunchy, sweet and salty, this ice cream take caramel to new heights.
- 14.1 ounces granulated sugar approximately 1 3/4 cups
- 3 1/3 ounces water about 6 3/4 tablespoons
- 2 tablespoons Lyle's golden Syrup or honey
- 1 tablespoon baking soda, well sifted
Salted Caramel Ice Cream
- 4.6 ounces granulated sugar
- 5 egg yolks
- 6.7 ounces whole milk (4% fat)
- 7.4 ounces heavy cream
- 3 ounces honeycomb candy
- 1 heaping tablespoon salted caramel sauce
Grease an 8-inch square metal pan or cover the pan in foil and grease the foil.
Combine the water, golden syrup or honey and sugar in a medium-sized pot. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture becomes amber-colored. You can turn up the heat slightly once the sugar dissolves, but do not touch or stir the mixture!!!
Once the mixture is caramelized, take it off the heat and stir in the baking soda. Try to get the baking soda well incorporated without mixing too much, which bursts the air bubbles that make the honeycomb.
Immediately pour the mixture into the baking dish. Leave it alone in a cool place for hours, preferably overnight, until it is hard. Once it is fully cool, pry it out of the baking dish and break into pieces.
Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Beat the sugar and egg yolks together until they are a thick, pale yellow mixture.
Separately, slowly bring the milk to a low simmer. Add the hot milk to the sugar and egg mixture in a slow stream, whisking as you add. This process is called tempering and prevents the eggs from scrambling, which would happen if you added the hot milk all at once.
Pour the mixture back into the pot you used to heat the milk. Place the pot back over a low flame on the stovetop and heat to 160 degrees F., whisking constantly. Once the mixture is smooth and coats the back of a spoon, take it off the heat, transfer it to a small bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap against the top of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate (for several hours) until cool.
Whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form.
Fold the cream into the custard in a few batches, then churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Add the salted caramel sauce and the honeycomb candy once the ice cream is semi-solid, about 15 minutes into the churning process.
Once the honeycomb and salted caramel sauce are in and the ice cream is fully churned (to a soft serve consistency), transfer it to a freezer-proof container and freeze until solid.
As you can see from the photo, I didn't succeed in fully mixing the baking soda into the honeycomb. I was a bit gun shy because I didn't want to burst the air bubbles. I used a fork to mix and a whisk would probably do a better job.
It's easy to make homemade salted caramel sauce without a thermometer, but store-bought is fine too.
If you prefer to make this ice cream closer to the Murphys' version, use "regular" i.e. unsalted caramel sauce.
The instruction to bring custard to 160 degrees F is a food safety rule for pasteurizing the egg yolks. It's a somewhat different instruction than the Murphys provide in their recipe. Mine comes from the US Food & Drug Adminstration (FDA.) As an alternative to either method, use yolks from pasteurized eggs.
If your custard gets too hot and begins to scramble, take it off the heat, whisk it vigorously, and put it through a fine strainer. That should eliminate most or all of the lumps and bring it back to a smooth consistency.
The book points out that you can make this ice cream without a machine if you put the ice cream in a container in the freezer after adding the whipping cream to the custard base and then stir every few hours until it is solid, adding the honeycomb and caramel sauce once it is fairly solid.