Heston Blumenthal’s Perfect Treacle Tart recipe was the best we’d ever tasted, but to make the perfect ice cream to go with it you’ll need some dry ice.
Heston’s Perfection Treacle Tart recipe is a wonderful thing, but without access to dry ice we had trouble making the Jersey Milk Ice Cream that’s essential to go with it.
You see, that ice cream needs a smooth, light mouthfeel and pure diary flavour to balance the Treacle Tart’s buttery sweetness. To achieve that lightness Heston’s recipe omits eggs and other fats. Problem being that the lack of fats makes the ice cream hard to set.
We found this out the hard way, trying to churn Heston’s Jersey Milk Ice Cream recipe in our trusty ice cream making drum. We’ve had some great success with our machine, but even after an hour this particular recipe had set no further than a rough slush. We had to set it in the freezer, which meant big ice crystals and an unpleasant mouthfeel. You can see the chunky texture in the picture from last attempt here:
Heston’s method is simple: freeze the ice cream very fast, using dry ice. At minus 80°C dry ice will freeze your ice cream base almost instantly, and the teeny tiny ice crystals that result with give your ice cream an astonishingly smooth mouthfeel. Heston has mentioned this loads of times on TV and in print, frequently using even colder liquid nitrogen to create super-smooth ice-creams.
If you fancy using the dry ice technique at home here’s a video from our current favourite website, ChefSteps, showing you how it’s done:
Now that we’ve finally managed to get our hands on some dry ice let’s see how it works…
Recipes: Heston’s Perfect Treacle Tart recipe with Jersey Milk Ice Cream
Special Equipment: Plastic bowl, silicone spatula, safety gloves, safety goggles
Special Ingredients: Dry Ice, Jersey Milk, Liquid Glucose
Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4 – 6
This recipe was made possible by us acquiring a convenient way to store and dispense dry ice. Specifically, a second hand C02 fire extinguisher.
Heston typically recommends you buy kilogram blocks of dry ice, they cost “a few pounds off the internet” he tells you. We were quoted £28 plus delivery for a single batch. You’d have to be an obsessive, a chump, or a prize arsehole to shell out that kind of money -particularly as the dry ice is going to start evaporating into thin air the moment you get it.
I’m all three of the above, but when I happened across this video on YouTube from a clever and innovative fellow called Grant Thompson I knew we had a viable alternative to costly and impractical dry ice blocks. Here’s the video, which will show you everything you need to know about how to make dry ice ice-cream at home using a fire extinguisher.
Our second hand extinguisher is a 2kg model that cost us £16 fully charged (but untested). A refill should cost about the same. Even better, you don’t have to engage in the clumsy and potentially dangerous business of smashing the block of dry ice up into pieces you can actually use.
We reckon using a fire extinguisher is a much more practical alternative to buying hugely expensive and difficult-to-store blocks of dry ice. (and, as an added benefit, can be used to put out electrical fires or inspire fond memories of Gaspar Noé‘s 2002 drama Irreversible).
Step 1: Prepare the Ice Cream Base
Since this recipe doesn’t contain egg you don’t need to worry about cooking it to the correct temperature or consistency (usually 82°C, or when it coats the back of a spoon).
Instead just weigh all your ingredients into a pan, then stir over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
At this point you can cover and store the ice cream base until later, or go straight to the next step. The dry ice is so cold that the mixture being slightly warm won’t make much difference (your skin is warm and if you’re not careful the dry ice will freeze that just fine).
Step 2: Prepare the Dry Ice
If you’ve watched the King of Random how-to video above then you won’t need any help with this bit. But just so none of you lot try and sue us we have to advise you to take proper safety precautions.
So, make sure you’ve got some thick, protective gloves, a sturdy pillowcase to discharge the CO2 into, and some protective eyewear – in my case a pair 3D glasses left over from when I went to see the thought-provoking historical drama 300: Rise of An Empire.
Since discharging the extinguisher is going to put a lot of CO2 into the air you’re breathing we’d also recommend you do it outdoors, or at the very least by an open window or door.
Shake out the pillow case into a large plastic bowl. You should end up with a load of dry ice crumbs like this:
Note: Metal is a better conductor of heat than plastic. Which means it’s good for rapidly conducting heat out of your hands too. For this reason we’d recommend you use a plastic bowl and a silicone whisk for this next step. Here’s a quick safety video to remind you of the dangers of freezing cold metal:
Step 3: Mix
Pour some of your ice cream base into a second big plastic mixing bowl, then start adding the dry ice (don’t use your hands).
You should see the mixture start to set. Carry on adding more ice cream base and more dry ice.
Eventually the mixture will chill until it’s solid but malleable. At this stage it’s a good idea to use a flat spatula to smoosh it against the sides of the bowl to make sure there’s no whole crumbs of dry ice left in the mix – those crumbs are still at minus 80 and you don’t want them in your mouth.
Congratulations, you’ve just made Heston Blumenthal’s Dry Ice Ice-Cream recipe.
There’s no denying it, using dry ice from a fire extinguisher is an incredible way to make ice cream.
Using dry ice to make this recipe works particularly well. As stated the smooth mouthfeel and clean dairy flavour really do pair brilliantly with Heston’s Treacle Tart.
You’ll have to excuse the knackered appearance of our treacle tart slices here, instead of remaking the whole recipe we just rescued the last two slices of our original In Search of Perfection Treacle Tart from the back of the freezer, where they’d been languishing for the past 6 months.
One thing you might not expect is the slight tingle you get with each mouthful of ice cream. CO2 is used to carbonate drinks after all, so there’s a very slight fizz in the finished ice cream.
This is the closest you’ll get at home to the ice cream they serve at ChinChin Labs. It’s our favourite ice cream in the whole world, made super smooth using minus 200°C liquid nitrogen, just like at the Fat Duck.
Here’s a video to show you what you can look forward to when you go to Camden Lock and pay them a visit:
There’s no question we’ll be making dry ice ice-cream again, just as soon as we can get our extinguisher refilled. Granted, if those dry ice refills do end up costing us £16 a go we won’t be using it all the time (not even for some of the later perfection recipes that specify it) but for special occasions it’ll definitely be making appearance.
Our next experiment might be to combine the dry ice ice-cream technique with another daft and under-used kitchen gadget we own: our soda siphon. Using it we think we can carbonate a sorbet base to make a fizzing sorbet.
Incidentally, if you’re planning on making Heston’s Treacle Tart recipe and you can’t get your hands on any form of dry ice, our genuine advice would be to simply replace the ice cream with clotted cream or extra-thick double cream instead. You’ll get that cooling dairy freshness with no greater hassle than opening the tub.
Have you tried making dry ice ice cream? And if so what did you think? Is Heston’s dry ice ice cream worth the effort, or what ice cream making tips would you give us. As always we’d love to hear your thoughts below in the comments section.