Humphry Slocombe chef and co-owner Jake Godby is known for creating unexpected, sophisticated, and inventive ice creams at his San Francisco shop. One of only three flavors offered daily among an ever-changing roster of creative ice creams, the wildly popular Secret Breakfast stands out as a prime example of what Humphry Slocombe is all about.
"It's adult-oriented and playful," says Godby. "It just kind of sums up who we are in one quick bite." An ice cream made with bourbon and corn flake cookies, Secret Breakfast is easily the shop's best seller, beating out other flavors some four times over.
Godby says much of the ice cream's success can be attributed to its quirky name, which he and a friend came up with before there was even a recipe. Godby had been making bourbon ice cream for a while before the shop opened, and had the idea to pair it with corn flakes as a nod back to breakfast and the fact that bourbon is made from corn. While a bourbon and corn flake ice cream is certainly unusual, Godby explains that it's actually based on some pretty classic flavor combinations: bourbon and vanilla and ice cream and cookies.
Those combinations certainly work. The beloved Secret Breakfast has helped Humphry Slocombe earn a spot on the Eater SF 38 and some of the most epic lines in the city. Eater SF editor Allie Pape explains :
"Though Humphry Slocombe earns a lot of praise for its innovation in ice cream, if Jake Godby were ever to take the longstanding Secret Breakfast off its menu in favor of a new creation, he'd have a riot on his hands. Boozy and creamy, with crunch from the caramelized cornflakes, it's a treat that every food-loving San Franciscan (read: every San Franciscan) has sampled and continued to come back for. For bonus entertainment, ask the staff about the craziest thing someone's done to make the cutoff for the omnipresent line when closing time rolls around. Deathbeds, engagements, dying pets: they've heard it all. The ice cream is that good."Below, the elements of Secret Breakfast ice cream:
1. The Base
Secret Breakfast ice cream begins with a modified anglaise ice cream base. Godby combines local organic milk and cream along with condensed milk and a bit of kosher salt over heat. Godby says that using condensed milk creates a "nice mouthfeel" and texture. Another reason he adds condensed milk to the base is because it is an integral part of his Vietnamese coffee ice cream, a popular flavor that is commonly paired with the Secret Breakfast. Godby says he puts kosher salt in almost everything at the shop. In the recipe he's not using enough to alter the chemistry of the cooking, just enough to enhance the flavors. Godby also infuses the liquid with the "scraped out pods" of vanilla beans. To this mixture he adds egg yolks that have been mixed with sugar, before cooling the mixture by transferring it to another vessel in an ice bath. Godby says the ice bath is just a quick way to cool the mixture down, while cooling prevents the base from overcooking. After the bourbon is added, the mixture is chilled in a refrigerator for at least a few hours, but preferably overnight. (At the shop, Godby explains, there's not always the luxury of time).
2. The Bourbon
One of the most buzzed about ingredients in Secret Breakfast ice cream is bourbon. Godby explains that he used to use Jim Beam, but that over time he realized that using nice bourbon was a waste of money. "With all the fat, sugar, and being cold," he explains, "you can't really tell the finer points … I'd rather drink nice bourbon than cook with it." Godby now uses "whatever is available," but always looks for neutral bourbons that aren't too smoky. The bourbon is added once the base has cooled down. Godby prefers adding the bourbon when the mixture is cold because he can more accurately taste the flavors as they will translate in the ice cream when the base is cold. Godby estimates that he uses a quart of bourbon for each four gallon liquid batch, with the shop going through about a case and a half of bourbon per week.
3. The Corn Flakes
The other signature component of Secret Breakfast ice cream is Kellogg's Corn Flakes cereal. As Godby tested the recipe, he noticed that incorporating corn flakes into ice cream made the cereal go soggy, so he devised a solution: extra crispy corn flake cookies. Godby modified his favorite basic oatmeal cookie recipe, folding in corn flakes instead of oats. The cookies are then baked "almost to the point of being burnt," the goal being to make them as crisp as possible. Godby explains that the cookies on their own are rock hard and biscotti-like, which means that while not ideal for snacking they are ideal for mixing into moisture-rich ice cream. The cookies are chopped before being added to the ice cream.
4. The Assembly
To assemble the ice cream, Godby pours the cooled base into a 24-quart Emery Thompson batch freezer. It's important that mixture has been thoroughly chilled, because the ice cream machine will not be able to effectively spin a lukewarm liquid. The machine chills down the liquid and spins it extremely quickly in a cylinder with a blade spinning in the opposite direction, bringing in air. The whole process is speedy, with three gallons of ice cream being made in about eight minutes.
As the ice cream comes out of the machine, Godby folds in the chopped corn flake cookies, being careful to make sure the cookies are evenly distributed throughout the ice cream. Godby explains that this step is one of the most challenging for his employees because the ice cream comes out of the machine quickly, making it easy for the bottom of the batch to be less cookied. From there the ice cream is moved into the shop's classic dipping cabinet. Customers can order the ice cream in a cup or in a Keebler Sugar Cone, which Godby found to be the best sugar cone in his taste testing (though he prefers to skip the cone altogether).