Technical

Humphry Slocombe’s “Secret Breakfast” Ice Cream

Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book cover.

Humphry Slocombe is an ice cream shop that’s famous for using ingredients like bacon, chilies, prosciutto, mushrooms, and even foie gras, so of course I had to check it out when I was in San Francisco a while back. Their signature flavor is “Secret Breakfast”, made with bourbon and corn flakes. The name alone is fantastic!

I have to tell you two things about this ice cream. First, I hate all types of whiskey, including bourbon. I sort of forced myself to try it because it’s their most popular flavor — they sell four times as much of it as anything else, and it’s one of the few flavors that’s always on their rotating list. And second, it may well be my favorite ice cream of all time. I’ve made it at home several times now I can’t get enough of it!

Jake Godby, the pastry chef and co-owner behind this flavor, has managed to bring out the oak and vanilla flavors from the bourbon and pair them perfectly with the flavors in corn flakes and brown sugar. It’s a truly unbelievable combination, even if you don’t like bourbon — trust me.

The recipe is interesting for a couple of technical reasons as well.

First, ice cream with alcohol is always tricky. Use too much, and the ice cream won’t freeze all the way. Also, I think the idea of alcohol in ice cream sounds a lot better than it usually is. The sharp bite of too much alcohol tends to monopolize the conversation.

The other interesting problem in this recipe is how to include corn flakes without them getting soggy. I once tried making ice cream with fortune cookies and they turned to mush. Jake solved the problem by making super crispy cookies out of the corn flakes. The cookie pieces soften just slightly as the ice cream freezes, creating a perfectly crunchy, chewy texture to go along with the smooth flavors.

You can find the recipe for both the ice cream and the corn flake cookies in their Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book, which has recipes for lots of their other great flavors as well. Be sure to try their “Here’s Your Damn Strawberry Ice Cream”, with strawberries perfectly matched with red wine vinegar.

Secret Breakfast ice cream.

My notes:

  • Early copies of the book have a typo for the amount of bourbon. Use 1/4 cup instead of 1/2 cup or it won’t freeze at all. You’ll then end up with a quart of ice cream that’s about 6.25% alcohol by volume.
  • The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of chopped corn flake cookies, and that makes an ice cream that’s mostly smooth, with an occasional small piece of cookie mixed in. It comes out exactly like they serve it in the shop, so if that’s what you want to reproduce, the recipe is right on. But I gave it the Ben & Jerry’s treatment and tripled the amount of cookies to 1 1/2 cups of fairly large pieces, and it’s the only way I make it now. Big, chewy chunks of cookie in every spoonful, and the balance of cookies and bourbon is spectacular. Also, the cookie recipe makes way more than you need, so you can cut it in half and still have enough for four batches of ice cream the way I make it.
  • Jake likes using kosher salt in his recipes to amplify the flavors but if you use table salt instead, the recipe’s two teaspoons will make this ice cream inedible. The conversion to table salt would be about 1 1/2 teaspoons but I decreased it to 3/4 teaspoon and still felt like it was too much. If you like salt with your desserts (salted caramel, etc.) start with 1/2 teaspoon of table salt and see what you think. I skip it altogether when I make it now and don’t miss it at all.

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