A few weeks ago, Amanda and I were tasked with a tough assignment: we were asked to be judges for an ice cream contest hosted by Just Food at their annual benefit, Let Us Eat Local.
We were a little nervous about eating all of that ice cream -- would we be able to get through all of the entries without being ill? Luckily, there were just 8 entries, rather than the 20 plus we'd imagined, and the contestants obligingly gave us dainty portions. We had plenty of room in our dessert stomachs to enjoy each and every one.
Our favorite -- and apparently the favorite of the other judges as well, since it took home the gold -- was Blue Marble's entry: popcorn-flavored ice cream with crunchy little bits of maple candy swirled into it. When we asked how he'd done it, the chef told us he'd used maple syrup to make his own version of honeycomb candy, also known as seafoam or sponge candy. (If you've ever wondered how a British Crunchie bar gets its funky texture, read on.)
To make this almost otherworldly candy, which sort of reminds me of astronaut ice cream -- only much better -- all you need is sugar, honey (or in this case, maple syrup) and a little baking soda. Just as it does with cake batter or pancakes, the baking soda creates lots of air bubbles, giving the candy that incredible crunchy, airy texture that almost seems to defy science.
Of course after we'd tasted this new maple version, we had to hustle back to the Food52 test kitchen and try it ourselves. Here's how you make the maple candy:
Combine maple syrup, sugar and a bit of water in a heavy saucepan and bring it to a boil.
When the mixture reaches 300 degrees, take it off the heat and whisk in baking soda like mad.
Immediately pour the candy (be careful -- it's hot!) onto a lined baking sheet and sprinkle some flaky salt over the top.
Let the candy cool completely, until it's solid. Break it apart with your fingers into rough, jagged chunks. Store in an airtight container (do not refrigerate!) for up to a week. Optional: dip the chunks in melted chocolate and lay them on a parchment-lined baking sheet to dry.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).