Turn your crumbs into a dream dessert
Put your stale homemade bread to great use with this brown bread ice-cream
Brown bread ice-cream.
An English friend of mine was bemused one day when I mentioned the heel of the loaf – a term she had never heard of to describe the crusty end slices. Just as every country has language idiosyncrasies, every country seems to have a recipe for using up stale bread. From panzanella to pangritata, fattoush to bread and butter pudding, the uses for breadcrumbs and stale leftover bread are many and varied.
When you’ve made your own bread, you definitely don’t want to waste any. It is wonderfully fresh on the first day, fabulous toasted on the second day but, by day three, it might be more brick than brioche.
Our answer is brown bread ice-cream. The combination of creamy vanilla ice-cream with crunchy, caramelised, toasty crumbs is an absolute winner.
Green grass from our cool, damp climate enables our cows to produce rich thick milk and cream, perfect for ice-cream. This could explain our abiding love of a scoop, in all weathers. The rise of food markets means we can now access small Irish producers selling handmade ice-cream in hipster flavours such as gin and tonic, sea salt and seaweed, as well as rediscovering some old favourites like this brown bread ice-cream.
I love to see the jaw-dropping reaction of American tourists when they visit our cookery school and make it for the first time. My recipe uses brown soda bread. It is the quickest and easiest bread to bake and means the ice-cream has a true taste of Ireland.
The next time you turn to throw out the heels, why not immediately crumble and freeze them, ready for the next batch of ice-cream?
BROWN BREAD ICE-CREAM
Makes one pint
Brown soda bread:
200g coarse wholemeal flour 200g plain flour 1tsp bread soda, sieved 1tsp salt 325ml buttermilk
4 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
½ a vanilla pod, seeds
100g brown bread (preferably crusty end slices)
30g dark muscovado sugar, for caramelised breadcrumbs
1 For the brown soda bread, preheat an oven to 210 degrees Celsius fan, or equivalent, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix together the wholemeal flour, plain flour, bread soda and salt. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk, stirring with four to five turns of a spatula to a soft, sticky dough.
2 Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface. With well-floured hands, roll the dough around gently to tidy it up, then turn it over and shape it into a patty. Transfer to the lined baking sheet, score a deep cross over the surface and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until risen and golden in colour. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
3 For the caramelised breadcrumbs, blitz bread and sugar to fine crumbs, stir in a little water to moisten. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and spread the crumbs on the centre of the tray.
4 Bake in an oven preheated to 200 degrees Celsius fan, or equivalent for 10 minutes, until crisp but not burnt, set aside to cool.
5 For the ice-cream: Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until the mixture is thick and leaves a ribbon-like trail.
6 Bring the cream and milk to a simmer in a saucepan with the scraped seeds from the vanilla pod. First, whisk a third of the warm cream mixture into the eggs and caster sugar, then continue whisking in the remaining hot cream. Return to the cleaned saucepan, and stir over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
7 Transfer the mixture to a clean bowl to cool. When it is cool, transfer to the freezer and stir the ice-cream every hour for four hours until just set (and no longer slushy in the middle). Once set, stir in at least half the toasted sweetened breadcrumbs and refreeze.
8 When serving, sprinkle the remaining caramelised breadcrumbs over the ice-cream.
Different flavours such as fruit compote, rum and raisin and praline can be added to this basic vanilla ice-cream recipe.