This maple honeycomb ice cream is the best ice cream I’ve eaten all winter (yes, contrary to what anyone else may tell you, ice cream is a year-round dessert). This one is the best because it’s a creamy maple ice cream swirled with maple honeycomb chunks. Like, whaaaat? I know, guys. I know.
But before we get to the maple honeycomb ice cream, I’d like to share the trip that inspired it. I was asked to come on a trip to Quebec by the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers (also known here in the US as Pure Canada Maple). I spent an absolutely glorious four days in Quebec visiting farms, sampling maple products (maple butter, y’all), and eating world-class meals made by Maple Master chefs (because being a maple master is a thing, and when I first heard about it my world got that much happier).
We flew into Montreal on our first day and were welcomed by a gorgeous “light lunch.” First course was octopus and northern shrimp over a cylinder of quinoa salad tossed in a pepper-maple vinaigrette. Second course was a crispy skinned salmon under a cauliflower mousse and finished with shellfish encasing foamed maple water.
Third course was an almond tart filled with maple custard and apple compote, topped with maple whipped cream, and enclosed in maple jelly and sweet almond crumbles.
(If this is considered light lunch, I want light lunch every day, please.)
Following that magic of a meal, we spent the afternoon roaming around Montreal. Old Montreal was especially gorgeous, lined with cobblestone streets and gorgeous old buildings.
That night we went to what I now call the most memorable dinner of my life. It was the annual Maple Festival, a huge annual gala put on by the Federation. Each year they honor their farmers and producers with a multi-course meal, made by world-renowned chefs dubbed Maple Masters. These chefs, prominent in the Quebec community, display a strong devotion towards local foods and practices, especially maple.
This is one thing that I was nearly unaware of before coming on this trip. In Quebec, maple is not just a pancake (or waffle, or french toast, or a little bit of your eggs and sausages…) topping. It is a flavor that is incorporated into many dishes. It’s an ingredient and a seasoning. This dinner was insane. We started off with maple cocktails in a large art gallery, then moved into a 200-seat dining room where we were served a 5-course meal with wine pairings.
Our courses included Gaspor Piglet poached in roasted hay with a juniper maple onion and a coffee-beaten maple egg, and a Woods scene made of maple meringue ‘rocks,’ maple graham, and angel food cake maple ‘tree bushes.’
The night was so inspired and impeccably done. They brought in French-Canadian explorer Bernard Voyer, who made an incredibly poignant speech about the future of our world and our climate. One thing he said particularly moved me:
We cannot dirty the earth that feeds us.
So simple and true. If we destroy our world, we ultimately destroy ourselves. In that very moment I almost walked out of the room to go build a garden.
The next day we headed to Quebec City. It had massively snowed the night before, but the city looked beautiful as anything I’ve ever seen. Of course I had to get French Macarons and hot chocolate. You know, for research.
That night, we had a dinner by chef Louis Pacquelin, a 26-year-old Parisian who is taking the Quebec culinary cuisine by storm. More maple cocktails for me, plus notably turnips four ways and a puff pastry topped with vanilla mousse, maple sponge cake, and coffee candy.
On our final day, we visited Cabane de PicBois, a top family-owned maple syrup farm in the countryside. We were shown the traditional maple production process. It’s a two-hour operation that turns 40 liters of maple water into 1 liter of maple syrup. But get this: maple is only harvested 20-30 days out of the year, so it’s an incredibly short season to supply world demand.
Inside, we ate a rustic Québécois meal made by the wife of the owner. We feasted on maple baked beans, maple bacon, maple bread, maple pork, and more. My absolute favorite part was the maple sugar pie topped with cream.
As if that wasn’t enough, we went outside and made frozen maple lollipops. The maple used was dark and nutty. So many applications of one flavor.
Interesting facts about maple syrup
Over the four days I was in Quebec, I learned so much about maple. Things I had no idea existed. Such as:
Canada produces 71% of the world’s maple syrup. 91% of that comes from Quebec.
Maple has the fewest grams per serving of sugar compared to granulated sugar, honey, and agave.
It protects one of earth’s natural biological processes — growing trees — thus aiding in environmental conservation.
Quebec is the only area to have organized quality control over all maple syrup production. The Federation has full-time employees who taste every barrel of maple syrup made for the market.
Maple syrup has the most minerals compared to granulated sugar, honey, and agave. It contains 18% of your daily zinc intake, and contains significant levels of magnesium, calcium, and potassium.
Beyond the facts, the thing that inspired me the most about maple syrup was the people. Each and every person we met on the trip, from the maple farmers to the director of marketing at the Federation to the guy who told us he has a maple syrup cellar in his basement, cared so deeply about maple. Cared about the environment, the trees, the livelihood of a cultural practice, and the sweet, sweet syrup.
It was inspiring to see the way that Québécois incorporate a local ingredient into their dishes. We ate maple vinegar, maple mustard, maple butter, maple candy, maple venison, maple vegetables, maple trout… the list goes on.
Because, to me, food with meaning is one of the best things ever. It creates friendship, growth, learning, exploration, and desire. So next time you’re debating Aunt Jemima’s or the Canadian Maple Syrup that costs a little bit more, I encourage you to get the syrup. For so many reasons 🙂
Speaking of desire, let’s get back to this ice cream. Oooh baby is it delicious.
Creating this maple honeycomb ice cream
It’s my favorite way of making ice cream — no churn. That means no fancy equipment required. Aside from the honeycomb, making the ice cream takes less than 5 minutes. I learned of this recipe’s inspiration while on my trip. One of the British PR guys told me about this recipe for a seriously addicting maple honeycomb ice cream. It was made from a no-churn maple ice cream base and swirled with crunchy maple honeycomb pieces.
So I just had to make my own version. This one uses less sugar, so you get just a hint of maple in the sweet creamy base.
And he was right, it’s totally addicting. Just ask my tummy.