Your New Zealand Must-Sees

Johanna’s Chocolate Caramel Brulée Crunch

Johanna’s Chocolate Caramel Brulée Crunch

In the past, I’ve been telling you about where I’ve been and the good eats along the way so you can experience them too. But I’m in the midst of trip planning so this month I want YOU to tell ME! In exchange, I’ll share my recipe for the best ice cream ever—Johanna’s Chocolate Caramel Brulée Crunch.

In September, I depart on a six-month journey to Oceania and Southeast Asia. Some of the countries I’ve been to before, and some I haven’t. First on the list is New Zealand, so my planning thoughts are focused there.

I’ve been hearing about the wonderfulness of New Zealand for most of my life—one of my uncles is a Kiwi and his three children have all lived there for a while. One of them is getting married in September, which is the reason for starting my grand voyage in Auckland, and why I’ll spend most of my NZ time on the North Island.

New Zealand is known for cool things like bungee jumping, Zorbing, white water rafting, caving with glow worms, and, of course, tramping (i.e. hiking). I’m sure I’ll end up doing some of those things. But I want to know about other stuff to see and do, and the stuff I must eat along the way. This is where you come in.

Stuff on my potentials list already:

  • Dolphin watch in the Bay of Islands (and, if I can find an operator who properly respects the dolphins, jump in and swim with them)
  • Be on the constant lookout for anything with passion fruit that I can eat (hoping to repeat my passion fruit gorging experience in South Africa last year)
  • Dive the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve
  • Swim with sharks and stingrays in Gisborne, or in their tank at the National Aquarium in Napier
  • Hear my cousin’s band Cold Harvest Trust (check out their wacky video, filmed in the Hauraki Gulf, for Flagships, a single from their New Bones EP)
  • Marlborough sauvignon blanc

    Marlborough sauvignon blanc

    Roll along the Forgotten World Highway and get my passport stamped at the self-declared village republic of Whangamomona (I have a weakness for micro-nations, recognized or otherwise)

  • Eat lots of seafood and lamb
  • Tramp some magnificent beaches
  • Eat kiwi fruit that hasn’t flown halfway around the world
  • Drink quite a lot of Marlborough sauvignon blanc, my most favorite wine in the world
  • Learn more about the weird New Zealand volcanic geography from my new cousin-in-law
  • View some geysers and steaming, stinking, bubbling hot pools at the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve (this is as close as I plan for seeing the sites of Middle Earth, by the way)
  • Immerse myself into some such pool (a less stinky one, I hope) … perhaps at Te Aroha, where the pools are fed from the Mokena Geyser, the world’s only hot soda geyser (woah, that’s unusual!)
  • Dig myself a sand hot tub at Hot Water Beach
  • Experience a Maori haka and enjoy a hangi feast with some new Maori friends

So, what else should I do? Where should I eat? What snacks can I absolutely not miss? Please give me your advice by commenting below! And, as promised… the recipe!

Johanna’s Chocolate Caramel Brulée Crunch Ice Cream

When I was a kid, my cousins told me about this awesome ice cream flavor they had in New Zealand. Hokey Pokey—vanilla ice cream with sponge toffee mixed in. It has been in my head ever since, yet the only version I’ve ever eaten—so far—is this variation I invented. If you want to shortcut it, you don’t need to make your own chocolate sponge toffee, just crumble in some Crunchie bars. You can even just buy the caramel ice cream. Ben & Jerry’s Caramel Hat Trick would do nicely.

Caramel Ice Cream (adapted from Nicole Kaplan who was at NYC’s Eleven Madison Park)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp Lyle’s Golden Syrup (You can substitute corn syrup)
2 cups whipping cream
2 cups milk (Whatever you have on hand, usually skim or 1%)
4-6 egg yolks (Depending on the richness you like. The original recipe called for 10, and this was too eggy for me. I usually use about 4 yolks. Make a pavlova, New Zealand’s national dessert, with the leftover whites!)
1/2 tsp fleur de sel

Place 3/4 cup sugar and corn syrup in heavy bottomed saucepan. Don’t stir (or it will crystallize in ways you don’t want). Cook over medium-high heat to a dark caramel, swirling as it begins to brown to distribute the sugar. (You’ll be nervous wondering if you’re too close to burning it. Be brave. You want this caramel brown.)

Slowly pour in the cream. It will bubble up so be careful. Slowly pour in the milk. The caramel will harden into a glob. Bring to a boil, then simmer and stir to dissolve the caramel. Set aside to cool a little.

In a large bowl, whisk the 1/2 cup sugar, yolks, and salt. Whisk a little cooled caramel mixture into the egg mixture to temper, then combine the two and stir. Strain the mixture through a sieve to remove any egg bits.

Chill in your fridge until cold, then freeze in your ice cream maker.

Once the ice cream is set, stir in your chocolate covered sponge toffee bits (you want a mix of crumbs and chunks). Cover the ice cream with plastic wrap, then put the dish cover on and store in the freezer. It will start to deteriorate after a few days, so eat up! (And if you’ve decided to go classic with no candy, then sprinkle a little more fleur de sel on top when you serve).

Sponge Toffee (by Anita Chu)
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp Lyle’s Golden Syrup (You can substitute corn syrup)
3 tsp baking soda
8 oz dark chocolate (optional)

Prepare pan: a silpat is ideal, and I fold and shape it into a cone and rest it in a bowl to get maximum thickness of the toffee. A baking pan lined with foil and buttered will also work. Keep in mind that the toffee will lose air and flatten out as it cools, so avoid helping this process by not pouring it onto a flat surface.

Heat sugar and syrup in a large saucepan, without stirring, although you can swirl occasionally. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches 285 F, the hard crack stage.

Remove from heat and quickly and thoroughly stir in the baking soda, mixing well to aerate and to ensure it all dissolves. The mixture will bubble up high, so be careful.

Pour onto the prepared pan to cool thoroughly. You can score it with a knife as it cools to make neater chunks if you like.

Once cooled, break/cut into pieces and dip each into melted chocolate. Allow chocolate to set before you chop it up to add to your ice cream.

Enjoy—and don’t forget to give me your advice for visiting New Zealand!

Johanna Read

About Johanna Read

TravelEater, aka Johanna Read, is a Canadian who loves travelling and loves eating, but hates eating tourist food. She collects -- and shares -- advice about eating around the world (and about what to do between snacks). Johanna is World Travel Buzz's new International Eating Expert and will be writing a monthly column.