A while ago, the best part of a decade in fact, I read a recipe, by Heston Blumenthal no less, for popping-candy chocolate cake. It looked good. It looked fun. I wanted some. I wanted it all. It lodged itself in my memory and stubbornly refused to budge. A few years later, Heston having by now defected from The Guardian, where he invented recipes for the weekend magazine, to the Times, where he apparently published the same recipes for the weekend magazine hoping that nobody reads both papers and has a long memory, I read it again. It still looked good. It still looked fun. I still wanted some.
Last new year, from nowhere, it sprung back into my mind and this time there was no shaking it. It didn’t happen for New Year’s Eve, but the next good opportunity I got, out it popped. I searched online for the recipe, and found I wasn’t the first to be so inspired. The Chubby Hubby blog cropped up first. They had made the cake, and found it “dense and a little too heavy”. Msmarmitelover, a London-based food blogger, told me via Twitter that she had “found the proportions for the base wrong and the chocolate mousse too intense”. Dammit, the whole thing was crashing around my ears!
At which point, I would simply have replaced his mousse – a genache composed of nothing but chocolate and cream, with a pinch of salt, which sounded a bit much from the start if truth be told – with a lighter version. But, dammit again, at least two of the people coming round for dinner were pregnant, and raw eggs, a staple of the genre, had to be off the menu. And so, out of nothing but a grim determination to have a popping candy based desert come what may, my Extremely Poppular Ice Cream Tart was born. It’s tasty, it’s fun, and it’s only slightly more difficult than scratching your arse. It is my blog’s first recipe, recipes not really being my thing, but I might well want to make it again and I need to know what was in it.
So, let’s just get on with it, shall we?
You will need
A tart tin with a loose bottom. Mine was 12in wide, but you may need a smaller but deeper one to fit in your freezer.
A food processor
A space in your freezer big enough for your tart tin to sit flat.
190g dark chocolate-covered digestive biscuits
280g whole blanched almonds, toasted in a dry, non-stick frying pan until golden
A good 150g popping candy, ideally chocolate covered (cheap if you live in America, expensive if you live in England and are a bit desperate (though those Infusions4chefs.co.uk folk do have excellent customer service, if that’s a factor), but definitely covered in something. I wasn’t keen on the colour or flavour of the widely available British versions, hence the chocolate. It looked, for what it’s worth, like this:)
2 500ml tubs of your favourite quality chocolate ice cream (Green & Blacks works well, I used Haagen-Dazs Belgian Chocolate)
4 tbsp Amaretto
150g dark chocolate, in chunks
Some toasted flaked almonds for decoration
Take 140g of your almonds, put them in the food processor and blitz until they’re in small bits. Add the biscuits and blitz again, until you’ve got fine breadcrumbs. Pour into a bowl. Add the butter, melted, and mix so you’ve got a moist crumb. Then add the popping candy – as much as you like, within reason – and mix in. You may hear a very small amount of popping at this stage, but so long as you add the butter before the popping candy it’ll be fine.
Spoon piles of the base mixture into your tin and, with your fingers, push and prod and poke until it is compacted and solid and covers all the bottom and as much of the sides as you can (I didn’t quite make enough, hence the unprofessional appearance of my sides, but I’ve altered the ingredients so you should be fine). Incidentally, you can get an idea from this what percentage of my base was popping candy – maybe 20% or so. Put in the freezer for a couple of hours at least.
At least a couple of hours later, take your ice cream out of the freezer. Put the rest of your almonds into the food processor and blitz with the Amaretto for several minutes, until smooth. By now your ice cream should have softened, but if not wait until it looks a little oozy and then chuck that in and blitz again, until mixed. Now add the chocolate and blitz briefly until combined.
Take your case out of the freezer, tip in the ice cream mixture, level it off and then stick it back in the freezer, for at least three hours.
When you’re ready, take it out of the freezer five minutes before serving. Scatter some flaked almonds and, if you like, a little bit more popping candy on top. Then serve in slices and wait for the applause. Don’t forget to put your leftovers back in the freezer before they turn into slop.
And that’s it. I should warn you that I asked the team at infusions4chefs before making this whether their crackle crystals could be frozen. That was Friday afternoon. They didn’t reply until Monday, when they said they “would not recommend cooking or freezing them”. By then it was too late, of course. I made the base about 24 hours before serving and they still crackled merrily, but maybe you shouldn’t leave it in the freezer for much longer. I’ll try some more tonight and see if it still pops. Just for research, you understand.
Edit: Wednesday evening, five days after I made the base, and I think it’s now popping at 60% capacity. Maybe even a little more. Still lots of fun. And very tasty.