These days, the ubiquitous honey bear may not cause us to stop and give thanks.
Sure, it may sweeten our tea or Greek yogurt, but that pales in comparison to the reaction the golden nectar may have inspired in the hearts of ancient peoples when sweetness of this magnitude was incredibly rare. Imagine how wide their eyes opened at just one drop of the intense syrup on their tongues, especially after risking the stingers of angry bees protecting their hives!
Perhaps the best indication of honey’s lofty position in the ancient world is its significance in religion. Hindus consider it an elixir of immortality. Buddha is said to have been fed honey by a monkey on one of his forest retreats. And the god of the Bible describes the promised land to Moses as one of free-flowing milk and honey, a symbol of both abundance and completion.
It is for this reason that at this time of year, Jews commemorate the new year (by the Jewish calendar) by nibbling on apples dipped in honey.
While the honey contained in that little plastic bear is perfectly fine for your morning cup of tea, might I suggest you seek out some good old fashioned raw honey for this Rosh Hashanah-themed ice cream? The former is an amalgam of myriad nectars that are boiled down to a uniform flavour and sweetness. But raw honey tells a story of what one particular colony of bees may have feasted on, from orange blossoms to cactus flowers, buckwheat to clover.
These dynamic honeys are complex in flavour, perfect when making something as simple as a honeycomb candy ice cream. They have the power to transport us back to the days when squeezing a dollop of honey on your tongue was an act of pure luxury and gratitude.
APPLES AND HONEYCOMB ICE CREAM
Start to finish: 5 hours (1 hour active), plus freezing
For the custard:
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons skim milk powder
2/3 cup sugar, divided
6 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
For the honeycomb candy:
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons raw honey
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 teaspoons baking soda
For the apples:
3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup raw honey
Splash of bourbon (optional)
Pinch of salt
To make the custard, in a medium saucepan over medium, bring the heavy cream, milk, milk powder and half of the sugar to a gentle simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves completely.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and remaining half of the sugar. Whisk in 1/3 of the hot cream mixture, then pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan. Place the saucepan back on low heat and stir until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon (about 170 F). Remove from the heat, stir in vanilla and salt, then strain into a heat-safe container. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
To make the honeycomb candy, line a large baking sheet with kitchen parchment.
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, water, honey and corn syrup. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain an enthusiastic simmer and cook until the mixture registers 296 F on a candy thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat and gently sprinkle in the baking soda. It will start to double and triple in volume. Don’t be alarmed! Pour onto the prepared baking sheet and allow to cool at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes.
Break the candy into pieces, then put them in a large zip-close plastic bag. Bash the candy with a rolling pin until you get small pieces, about the size of granola. Store in the freezer.
To make the honeyed apples, in a small saucepan over medium-high, bring the apples, sugar and honey to a boil. Cook the apples until softened but not mushy, about 10 minutes. Add the bourbon, if using, and salt. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
To churn the ice cream, set up your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to churn the custard. Spoon the ice cream into a container. Fold in half of the honeycomb candy and the apples until evenly distributed. Spoon into bowls or cups, then offer remaining candy to sprinkle over the tops.
Food Network star Aarti Sequeira is the author of “Aarti Paarti: An American Kitchen with an Indian Soul.” She blogs at www.AartiPaarti.com.