March 17, 2009
I first ate brown bread ice cream in Cambridge, England, in the dining hall of a college famous for its ice cream varieties. Brown bread isn't the most auspicious of flavourings, not in a world that includes chocolate and fig and pistachio, but somehow, once caramelised with sugar and mixed in with cream and vanilla and egg, it becomes almost toffee-like, and incredibly good.
The history of brown bread ice cream is a little confused: both Ireland and England claim it as their own. Either way, people started eating it in the nineteenth century. It's mentioned in Cassell's New Universal Cookery Book, published in England in 1894 (that version includes brandy, which sounds like a good idea to me).
This recipe doesn't use an ice cream maker, but the result is still smooth and creamy - the very best texture I've seen from a non-machine made ice cream. It's almost more like a frozen custard.
Brown Bread Ice Cream
1 cup crumbs from brown soda bread or crustless whole wheat bread, preferably a little stale
8 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp (packed) dark brown sugar
2/3 cup whole milk
1 3-inch piece vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 large egg yolks
1 1/3 cups chilled whipping cream
Preheat oven to 375°F / 190°C. Line baking sheet with foil; butter foil. Mix breadcrumbs, 3 tbsp sugar and all the brown sugar in a medium bowl. Scatter over prepared baking sheet. Bake until sugar begins to melt and crumbs are slightly darker, stirring crumbs occasionally with metal spatula to prevent sticking, about 10 minutes. Transfer breadcrumbs to a bowl and cool. Break crumbs into small pieces.
Place milk in medium saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring to simmer. Remove from heat and let steep 30 minutes.
Whisk egg yolks and 5 tbsp sugar in a large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in milk mixture. Return mixture to same saucepan. Stir over low heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 5 minutes (do not boil). Strain into small bowl. Chill custard until cold, stirring occasionally, 1 hour.
Beat whipping cream in large bowl until firm peaks form. Fold custard into cream. Gently fold into breadcrumbs. Transfer to covered containers and freeze. Can be prepared 3 days ahead. Keep frozen.