All it’s Cracked Up to Be: Matzah Buttercrunch Ice Cream

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Soooo, anyone else have an extra box or two of matzah left over after Passover? I don’t know about you, but I can safely say that every year I have at least a full box left, which I keep around with the intention of making I-don’t-know-what-at-some-point, but hey, there it is the following Passover! This could be rectified by purchasing fewer boxes of course, but for some reason a 5-pound box costs, like, a buck more than a single box, so I always end up with the mega-pack. And then it becomes like a personal mission– I will use all the matzah this year, damnit! Well, friends, this is finally the year that I used all 5 pounds of matzah… and you can too. I have to say that I’m having an unusually fun time with Passover desserts this year, in large part due to Matzah Buttercrunch toffee!

In some circles (generally circles that I’m very fond of), buttercrunch is affectionately referred to as Matzah Crack for its addictive properties. (Also, it cracks n’ stuff.) This name is 100% warranted– it is pretty much the best outcome that matzah can hope for in its otherwise cardboard-esque existence. During the week of Passover when Jews are not supposed to eat any sort of bread products, we (I?) will generally resort to any measures of obtaining delicious desserts, and fortunately Matzah Crack is wicked easy to make. I don’t know at what point it came into my consciousness, but for some reason I hadn’t made it until a few years ago. It’s fair to say that this discovery was pretty much life-altering during Passover– I’ve been known to finish off more of a sheet tray in one sitting than I’d like to admit. Needless to say, it requires an amount of self-control that I that do not claim to have on my best day. I accept this.

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Last year Matzah Crack was elevated to a whole new level in my life, and probably lots of people’s. Brooklyn’s Ample Hills Creamery, one of the best ice cream makers in the country, created their “Land of Milk & Honey” flavor for Passover: salty honey ice cream with cinnamon bun matzah buttercrunch pieces from The Matzo Project. As if Matzah Crack wasn’t addictive enough on its own, they put out into the world this sweet and salty, creamy, crunchy masterpiece, and we can eat it on Passover?! That was a moment (among many) when I sincerely regretted not living in the New York City metro area– so unfair that I couldn’t partake! And so, I did what any dessert-seeking, ice cream-loving, Passover-suffering girl would do– I decided to figure out how to make it myself. I pored through the Ample Hills Cookbook hoping to locate a recipe for salty honey ice cream, but it was not to be. I decided to use their “Walt’s Dream” sweet cream ice cream and add a little salt, and I was hopeful that this would be a scrumptious combination.

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When I first made it last year, the ice cream firmed up to a very hard texture, then became thin and icy when it melted. It still tasted good, but I was hoping for a thick, rich, creamy ice cream texture that lingered on the tongue; this wasn’t it, so I decided to try again this year. What could I do differently to make it softer and creamier? First of all, I added an extra egg yolk for richness. Also, I think last year’s batch of ice cream base was both under-cooked and under-churned– the recipe is supposed to reach 165°F on the candy thermometer, but it was quite thin. This time, I let it go to 185°F, when it finally started to thicken a bit; it was still thinner than other ice cream bases I’ve made, but it seemed more promising than the first batch. (The Ample Hills ice cream base uses less cream than most others, instead using nonfat milk powder. I’m not sure if I like this formula– more experiments needed.) In addition, I wanted to try making a version of salty honey, not just sweet cream. I did this by subbing ¼ cup of the cane sugar for honey, and I added more salt.

Anyway, the ice cream looked promising while churning– it kept growing, so much so that it almost breached the top of the plastic shield on the ice cream machine. It turned out much better than last year! The only thing is that I was a little heavy-handed with the Matzah Crack and the pieces were too large, so the finished ice cream was a little crumbly. Totally my bad– make sure to crush the Matzah Crack into tiny pieces to maintain creamy pockets of ice cream. Still, I loved the different textures of this ice cream, and it’s likely to be a Passover staple from here on out.

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Matzo Buttercrunch Ice Cream
Ice cream adapted from Ample Hills Creamery: Secrets & Stories from Brooklyn’s Favorite Ice Cream Shop & Matzah Buttercrunch adapted from Smitten Kitchen (who adapted from David Lebovitz, who adapted it from Marcy Goldman)
Yields 2 quarts ice cream

This recipe will only use about a ½ batch of Matzah Buttercrunch– use additional pieces as garnish and snack on the rest or give it as gifts.

For the Matzah Buttercrunch:

  • 4-6 sheets matzah
  • 1 cup (2 sticks/8 ounces/16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup (215 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups (250 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup (140 grams) roughly chopped almonds, toasted (or other nuts of your choice)
  • Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, to taste

For the salty honey ice cream:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • ½ cup (100g) organic cane sugar
  • ½ cup (60g) nonfat milk powder
  • 1 ⅔ cups whole milk
  • 1 ⅔ cups heavy cream
  • ¼ cup (80g) mild-flavored honey, such as clover
  • 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste

For serving:

  • Crumbled Matzah Buttercrunch

To make the Matzah Buttercrunch:
Preheat an oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed half-sheet pan (11×17″) with foil, making sure to cover the rim, and then cover the bottom of the pan (on top of the foil) with parchment paper.

Line the bottom of the pan with squares of matzah, edge to edge, covering the entire pan. Break pieces to fit any extra spaces– this can be tricky because matzah doesn’t always behave when you try to break it along its perforations, but do the best you can. Bottom line, cover the entire pan with matzah pieces!

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Combine the butter and brown sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt it over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until it begins to boil. Once it has started boiling, let it bubble for 3 more minutes, continuing to stir (make sure to get into the corners of the pan). Remove it from the heat and stir in the salt and vanilla, then quickly pour it over the matzah. Working quickly, spread it with an offset spatula to cover all the matzah; it will start setting as soon as it is poured.

Transfer the baking sheet to the oven for 15 minutes, watching carefully to make sure the caramel doesn’t burn; it will bubble vigorously. Turn down the heat a little if it gets too brown.

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Take the pan out of the oven and immediately scatter the chopped chocolate evenly over the hot caramel. Let it stand for 5 minutes, and then spread it evenly across the caramel with a large offset spatula– it should spread out smoothly. Sprinkle the chopped almonds across the surface of the wet chocolate, and follow it with a generous sprinkling of flaky sea salt.

Let it cool to room temperature, and if the chocolate has not firmed up yet, place the pan in the fridge for about 20 minutes. Break the buttercrunch into shards and store it for up to a week in an airtight container at room temperature.

You will use about ½ the batch for the ice cream– chop up this amount into very small pieces and reserve.

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To make the salty honey ice cream:
Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl halfway with ice, then cover the ice with water. Place a smaller heatproof vessel in the bowl; I like to use a large (4-cup) measuring cup with a pour spout, but a bowl or pitcher would be fine as well. Set a fine-mesh sieve over the bowl or measuring cup. Set aside.

Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and set it near the stove.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar and milk powder, making sure to break up any milk powder lumps. Whisk in the milk vigorously until the mixture is smooth and no lumps or large granules of dry ingredients remain; it may be a bit frothy on top. Whisk in the heavy cream until the mixture is homogenous.

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Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan and set it over medium heat on the stovetop.

Cook the mixture until it reaches 110°F, about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring with a rubber spatula regularly. Scrape the bottom and corners of the pan to prevent sticking and burning. Remove the pan from the heat.

Stream ½ cup of the hot milk mixture into the bowl of egg yolks, whisking constantly, in order to temper the egg yolks.

Continue to whisk until the mixture is an even color and smooth consistency, then stream the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the hot milk, whisking until blended.

Put the pan back on the stovetop over medium heat and continue cooking until the mixture starts to thicken, 5 to 10 minutes more; the custard should cling a bit to the spatula and if you run your finger through it, it should leave a trail. The temperature should be in the range of 165-185°F; do not let it boil.

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Pour the custard through the fine-mesh sieve and into the measuring cup/bowl/pitcher. Add the honey and salt, then whisk until they are incorporated. Let the ice cream base cool for 15-20 minutes, or until barely lukewarm, whisking occasionally to release the heat. Remove the container with the custard, cover it, and transfer to the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, preferably closer to 24 hours (up to 3 days); the custard will thicken the longer it sits in the fridge.

Transfer the cooled honey ice cream base to an ice cream maker and churn it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. My custard was fairly thin, so I let it churn for 25 minutes– it kept expanding, to the point that it almost breached the top of the ice cream machine’s plastic shield.

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After churning, transfer about ¼ of the ice cream to a freezer-safe container and spread it on the bottom. Sprinkle about ½ cup chopped matzah toffee over the ice cream and swirl it into the ice cream with a rubber spatula. Top with more layers of ice cream and Matzah Buttercrunch until you reach the top of the container, swirling them together as you go. If you have more ice cream left over, use a second container and repeat the process. Reserve some buttercrunch to sprinkle over the ice cream later. Cover the container(s) of ice cream tightly and place in the freezer for 8-12 hours to firm up.

When ready to serve, scoop the ice cream into bowls and top with the extra Matzah Buttercrunch. Don’t share.

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© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2017.

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