Tiger sugar boba ice cream

So these have been a dessert craze that had taken the Internet and all of my local Asian supermarkets by storm. For those of you who don’t know what they are, these are ice cream bars/popsicles made with milk, brown sugar syrup, and chewy, soft boba. Despite being frozen, the boba is still soft, which was one of the two reasons why they were such a huge hit. The other reason being that they were inspired by tiger sugar boba, which is boba milk tea that is swirled with a brown sugar syrup to make the glass look like an aesthetically-pleasing, swirly caramel mess. The drink version was a huge hit in Singapore, and managed to make its way over to America, shortly followed by the popsicle version. The popsicles are hugely popular: most grocery stores have limits on how many boxes you can buy, and every grocery store in my neighborhood is ALWAYS sold out of them, to the point where I never even got to try them. So a lot of this was based off of a combination of me referencing the flavors of the drink version, which I did have, taking notes from the reviews I found on the Internet, and asking my friends who have had it before to describe the sensations of eating it in vivid detail.

I think the biggest challenges in making these are keeping the boba pearls soft despite the freezing process, and getting that caramel swirl pattern. Luckily, the Internet disclosed that despite the pearls looking like boba, they are technically mochi. And that makes sense to me, because in mochi ice cream, the mochi is still soft and chewy. So that part was actually easy to figure out. I just made the same kind of mochi you would make for daifuku or Japanese wagashi, and it worked like a charm – because of how much brown sugar I added into them, they stayed chewy, despite being frozen. For the pattern, for my first attempt at making these, the sugar syrup sort of just melted into the ice cream and wasn’t as noticeable. But then my friend Ann(special thank you for suggesting this) told me to try pouring the sugar syrup into the popsicle molds first and freezing that separately, then adding my ice cream base into my popsicle molds. And voila, it worked perfectly! Now just a last note, I KNOW that the original version doesn’t technically have tea in it at all, despite the misleading name, but I included black tea in mine, just because I feel like milk tea isn’t can’t be called milk tea unless there is actual tea steeped into it. You don’t have to include the tea flavoring in yours, but for me, it’s A. my own take on it, and B. me wanting to balance the sweetness a bit with that bitterness.

For the ice cream base:
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup black tea leaves
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons honey
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Steep tea leaves into condensed milk and soy milk on low heat for 10 minutes. Transfer to a container and refrigerate two days. Strain out the leaves, squeezing to extract as much flavor as possible from them. Combine with other ingredients. Once the boba has been made and has been poached in the simple syrup for an hour, churn your ice cream base through an ice cream maker just to thicken the mixture.

For the soft boba:
1/4 cup mochiko
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon activated charcoal powder
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
a pinch of salt
cornstarch

Combine mochiko, water, charcoal, and salt. Steam in a bamboo steamer for 20 minutes. Transfer into a nonstick pot and stir on low heat with the sugar until the sugar has fully melted into the mochi. Pour onto a cornstarch-lined surface. Cut into 1/4 inch cubes and dust with more cornstarch. Press down the corners of the cubes to form them into spheres. Freeze for at least 2 to 3 hours before attempting to fold into the ice cream.

For the simple syrup:
1 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup water
a pinch of salt

Bring to a simmer and reduce by half. Keep warm.

For assembly:
Start by spreading some simple syrup inside of your popsicle molds, and freezing that solid. This will ensure that the popsicle will have that “Tiger sugar” aesthetic. Fold your “boba”, then the rest of your syrup into your partially set ice cream base and pour into your molds. Insert the popsicle sticks. Freeze for at least 4 hours before attempting to remove from the molds.

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