Culinary Wizard Wylie Dufresne’s Recipe for a Magical Ice Cream Dessert
Neil Patrick Harris asked his pal to share an otherworldly recipe, and now you too can put a little abracadabra in your kitchen
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As a card-carrying magician (the Three of Hearts), I can confidently say this: Cooking is a feat of magic. It’s alchemy that, at its best, transforms seemingly disparate ingredients into a singular, scrumptious experience. (Remember that scene early on in Ratatouille where Remy explains flavor profiles to his brother? The. Rat. Nailed. It.) Now, in our family, [my chef husband] David is obviously our house Houdini, but I’m the sorcerer’s apprentice, constantly studying (and nibbling) and being amazed by the myriad ways fire, frying and fricasseeing can morph ingredients into dazzling, delicious dishes.
There are also ways in which food — and drinks — are literally magical. Their ephemeral power can, with a single bite or sip, take you around the world, or transport you back to a moment in time (again, a tip of the toque to the Ratatouille filmmakers who captured the latter in the film’s moving namesake scene). It can defy expectations — and sometimes, seemingly, physics. Now, I’m not just talking about stuff like Mentos exploding in Diet Coke (always a blast), I’m talking about the kind of wizardry that envelope-pushing geniuses in the worlds of food and drink conjure up to delight the senses and boggle the mind.
One of those geniuses is world-renowned chef Wylie Dufresne. His previous New York City restaurant wd~50 (2003 to 2014) was a revelation. Nay, a revolution. His never-done-before use of molecular gastronomy was radically new — and delicious — and cast a spell on critics and diners alike. Dude won a Michelin star and the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef in New York City award. So, you know, he can cook. Now, I realize your kitchen isn’t Wylie’s kitchen…I’m guessing you don’t have liquid nitrogen tanks lying around. So, when I asked Wylie for a magical recipe, I gave him just one note: to share something that’s accessible to any home chef. Take it away, Wylie! — NPH
I first realized that food could be magical sometime around age 6, when I had my first Dairy Queen cherry-dipped cone. It didn’t make sense: Someone took an ice cream cone, dunked it into a tub of fire-engine-red liquid and out came this bulbous treat with a hard, plastic-looking shell. The cone looked like it was ready to burst out of its cherry-flavored coating at any moment, and oh man, I couldn’t wait to bite into the thing.
When Neil asked me to share a dish that sums up kitchen magic, my mind went straight to DQ and the thrill of my first magic shell. But turning that inspiration into a full-scale, restaurant-style dessert required…some additional magic. I thought about other “gee-whiz” moments from my childhood, when I bit into something and couldn’t imagine how someone made it. That happened with astronaut ice cream (freeze-drying is a technological wonder that will never cease to amaze me!), and again when I first tasted honeycomb candy in the form of a British Crunchie bar. Honeycomb is a marvel of food chemistry: You start with sugar and water and end up with an impossibly crunchy, aerated, toffee-flavored treat. Making it is as exciting as watching the baking-soda volcano blow up in high school.
And so, without further ado, I present you with this: vanilla ice cream coated in chocolate magic shell, on a bed of sweet freeze-dried-corn soil with honeycomb crunch and — because it all started with a cherry cone — a boozy dark-cherry compote.
WYLIE DUFRESNE’S MAGIC-SHELL ICE CREAM WITH HONEYCOMB, CHERRY, CORN AND BASIL
Yield: 4 servings
- 1 pint vanilla ice cream
- Honeycomb (recipe below)
- Corn soil (recipe below)
- Cherry compote (recipe below)
- Magic shell (recipe below)
- Small basil leaves, for garnish
- Line a small sheet pan with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 10 minutes. Place 4 small scoops of ice cream onto the chilled tray and return to the freezer for at least 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, make the honeycomb, then the corn soil, cherry compote and, finally, the magic shell.
- Pour the magic shell into a tall glass (one that’s wider than your ice cream scoops). Using a spoon, carefully dip each ice cream scoop into the candy melt mixture and return to the chilled, plastic-lined tray, keeping the tray in the freezer as you work. Freeze the dipped scoops for at least 30 minutes, or until ready to serve.
- Place some of the corn soil on each plate. Top with a scoop of magic-shell ice cream, along with some honeycomb, cherry compote and a few basil leaves.
- ½ cup water
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- ⅔ cup light corn syrup
- 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
- 2½ tsp. baking soda
- Pinch of cream of tartar
- Grease and line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper so the paper comes up slightly higher than the sides.
- Measure the maple syrup into a small bowl and sift the baking soda and cream of tartar together into another small bowl. Keep these handy by the stove.
- In a large saucepan, bring the water, sugar and corn syrup to a boil over high heat, stirring just once or twice to make sure everything dissolves evenly. Continue boiling, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 284ºF. At this point, stir in the maple syrup and continue boiling until the mixture reaches 300ºF. Remove the pot from the heat and, using a spatula, quickly stir in the baking soda mixture, making sure it’s fully incorporated. Once the baking soda is no longer visible, stop stirring. Quickly scrape the foamy mixture (it will keep growing!) into the prepared pan and let set until cool. This can take up to 2 hours. It will continue growing a little more before it sets.
- Break up the honeycomb with a heavy spoon into bite-size pieces.
- ½ cup almond flour
- 3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
- 3 Tbsp. freeze-dried corn powder
- 3 Tbsp. salted butter, melted
- Preheat the oven to 220ºF. In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, sugar, corn powder and salt. Mix in the melted butter to form a crumble and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Spread the mixture evenly onto a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Remove and let cool, then break up with a fork until the mixture resembles a streusel.
- 1 cup frozen cherries
- 2 Tbsp. Cherry Heering or other cherry liqueur
- 1 Tbsp. Luxardo Maraschino or other maraschino liqueur
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Mix the cherries, liqueurs, sugar and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer; cook until the mixture thickens to a syrupy consistency. Mash the cherries lightly with a fork. Let cool.
- 6 oz. milk chocolate chips
- ¼ cup refined coconut oil
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Melt the chocolate chips with the coconut oil and salt in the microwave on low power in 30-second intervals, stirring, until smooth. Let cool.
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