#167 Brown Bread Ice Cream

Aside from all the smoked stuff we bought at the Cheshire Smokehouse, we also got ourselves some nice desserts (and VERY nice they were too). To go with them I knocked up this very traditional brown bread ice cream. It’s an easy one as you don’t require an ice cream maker to make it, and is also the last of the ice creams in the book. It’s seems a little over-simplified as dry baked breadcrumbs are used – as far as I know it is caramelised breadcrumbs that give it a special crunch. Hey-ho – one must do as one is told.

I don’t know anything about its history – I know it’s very English, but I can’t find any websites that say how or why the addition of brown bread to ice cream came about. If you know, send me a comment! Ta.

First of all spread six ounces of wholemeal breadcrumbs on a baking tray and bake in a moderate oven until crisp – around 20 minutes. Whilst they cool, beat together ½ a pint each of double and single cream along with 4 ounces of pale brown sugar until it thickens and the sugar dissolves. Now mix a tablespoon of rum into 2 egg yolks and add that to the cream mixture and beat it in well (the rum is optional, but makes all the difference). Whisk 2 egg whites until stiff and fold those into the creams, and then lastly the cooled breadcrumbs. Pour into a tub and freeze. There’s no need to stir it.

#167 Brown Bread Ice Cream – 6/10. A nice ice cream, but I was slightly disappointed; the brown bread, brown sugar and rum produced a lovely subtle malty taste, but because the crumbs were not caramelised with some sugar, they went soggy. I’m not sure why Jane doesn’t include this step, as it would take a good ice cream and transform it into a delicious one. If I were to make it again, I would caramelise the dried crumbs with a tablespoon or two of sugar and an ounce or two of butter so that they get really crisp before folding them into the cream.

#163 Wild Apricot Fool or Ice Cream

Seeing as we’d had a very un-summery meal of beef and dumplings, I thought I’d better do something nice and cool and refreshing for pudding. This fool is classed as a winter fool by Jane Grigson, I assume because it has dried fruit rather than fresh fruit in it. However, she says it can also be made into an ice cream, transforming into a summer pud.

It uses an ingredient previously unknown to me – dried apricots; not the semi-dried apricots you get from the supermarket, but whole, tiny completely dry ones from Asian supermarkets. They really are rock-hard dry so make sure you soak them in cold water overnight before you use them.

In case you didn’t know what to look for –

the apricots in their dry state

This recipe uses six ounces (dry weight) of the apricots.

Simmer the soaked apricots in their soaking water for 5 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and boil their soaking liquor down to a syrup. Meanwhile, remove the flesh, reserving the stones, and mash it into a coarse puree. Crack open the reserved stones, to reveal the kernels, chop them roughly and add those to the puree. When the soaking liquor is syrupy add that too and allow to cool. Add some icing sugar and lemon juice to bring out the flavours, if needed. Beat ½ pint of whipping or double cream and fold this into the puree. If you are making this into a fool put into glasses and chill, or alternatively pour into an ice cream maker.

Griggers suggests serving it with almond biscuits, but I went one better – I served them in ice cream cones with home make monkey blood (that’s raspberry sauce to you).

#163 Wild Apricot Fool or Ice Cream – 6/10. Very nice, though lacked flavour; this was, I think, due to it being cold and therefore requiring a lot more sugar and lemon juice than I gave it, as it tasted fine before freezing. That said it did have a nice honey-like taste and the chopped kernels were delicious and made it texturally more interesting than a bog-standard ice cream. I think the recipe was best suited to a fool rather than an ice cream. With a few changes though, this could be bumped up to be a 7 or 8 out-of-ten ice cream.

FYI: apricot kernels contain potent anti-cancer drugs and have been used to treat tumours since the 6th Century. They are also believed to cleanse the respiratory system and have been used to treat coughs. Combine this with the super-high carotenoid content of the apricot flesh, and you’ve got a serious super-food on your hands, mister!

#74 Vanilla Ice Cream with Plum Sauce and Lace Biscuits

Real vanilla ice-cream, a port-spiked plum sauce and a crunchy caramel oat biscuit; this is a dessert to impress. You could, of course, make any of the things separately as they are all good. In fact, you make much more of the sauce than you need, so freeze what is left for the next time you make ice cream. Make sure you have to the whole day to make it, or start it the previous day, which is what I did. The whole reason I made this was that I saw some lovely plums in the grocers window and remembered seeing this recipe, thinking I’d never get round to it, since plums in this country are usually a bit insipid. If you see some nice ones, make this dessert, people.

You can make any of the three elements in any order.

The vanilla ice-cream
Boil half a pint of milk or single cream (however, see review bit, below) along with a split vanilla pod with the seeds scraped out. Pour gradually onto 2 egg yolks, a whole egg and 2 tablespoons of soft brown sugar, whisking all the way. Then pour the whole lot back into the saucepan and heat gently until it thickens slightly. Don’t be tempted to turn the heat too high as you’ll get scrambled eggs. Pour the whole lot through a sieve and back into the bowl. You don’t have to sieve it, but it will remove any scrambled egg bits, should there be any. Fish out the vanilla pod; you can wash and dry it and use it again later (I keep mine in a jar of sugar, in case a recipe asks for vanilla sugar). Cover with cling-film and allow to cool.

When cold, pour the mixture into an ice cream maker, and when about half frozen, add half a pint of whipped double cram. Keep churning in the mixer until stiff enough to scoop into a tub and freeze. Make sure that you bring the ice cream out of the freezer at least half an hour before you want to serve it.

The lace biscuits
These are quite tricky customers. You can make them big or small, but the bigger they are, the more difficult they are to handle. I did big ones which looked great, but were a total nightmare. There was a small amount of swearing involved, so I recommend not to make them with children present.

Before you start making them, grease two baking sheets and a rolling pin, and set your oven to 180°C. Next, gently melt 2 ½ ounces of butter and take it off the heat. Mix in2 ½ ounces of rolled porridge oats, 4 ounces of caster sugar and a teaspoon each of flour and baking powder, then beat in the egg. Using a dessert spoon, drop blobs of the mixture at least 2 inches apart from each other as they do spread out rather a lot. The more generous you are with your spoons the bigger the biscuits will be. Bake one sheet at a time for 8-12 minutes, depending on size, until golden brown.

This is the tricky bit: Using a palette knife, remove the still-soft biscuits from the baking tray and drape over the rolling pin. Wait about 30 seconds for it to solidify a little and transfer to a wire rack to cool properly. Hey presto, a posh curly biscuit! Repeat with all the biscuits. If they start getting to hard again, just put them back in the oven to soften up.

The plum sauce
De-stone and slice 1 ½ pounds of ripe plums and gently heat with a few tablespoons of water in a saucepan. Make sure the fruit doesn’t stick. Meanwhile make a caramel. I’d never done this before, but it was a piece of piss, so don’t be scared. Stir 8 ounces of sugar in 5 tablespoons of water very gently over a low heat. When dissolved, stop stirring and bring it to the boil. Keep doing this for about 10 minutes until it’s a lovely dark caramel colour. Whilst it’s boiling, liquidise and sieve the stewed plums. When the caramel is ready, take off the heat and very gradually add 6 tablespoons of cold water by stirring. Be very careful here – if you add too much, it will spit on you. I cannot be responsible for any injuries! When fully incorporated, return to the heat to dissolve any lumps and stir in the plums. When cool, add a slosh of port; I’ll leave the amounts to you, as it depends on taste, though I put in around 4 tablespoons.

To present: Place one or two scoops of ice cream onto a biscuit and pour over the sauce.

#74 Vanilla Ice with Plum Sauce and Lace Biscuits – 9/10. A brilliant dessert! Everything works together perfectly. One of the best things about this dish is the real restaurant-quality feel you get about it. All the other desserts, even the ones that are a bit posh, are no way near as impressive as this. I made the ice cream with milk instead of cream, and it didn’t have the silky texture it had when I made the ginger ice cream (it’s exactly the same recipe, except for the flavourings). If I’d one it with cream, I think it would’ve been a 10!

#42 Soft Fruit Ice Cream

Since Greg had tonsillitis, I simply had to make some ice cream! Greg chose (#42) Soft Fruit Ice Cream (or Soffru, as Vic and Bob would say). It’s a great recipe and very different to the ginger ice cream I made last month; it doesn’t require any custards, so although there are several stages, it’s quite easy because you can take your time without the worry of your custard turning into scrambled eggs. If you’ve never made ice cream, this is probably the best place to start I reckon.

The main problem was finding soft fruits in April in Britain! It’s easy to buy strawberries, but they are so insipid unless they’re in season. I had a look in the greengrocers and saw some lovely ripe peaches and snapped them up. I knew I had raspberries frozen at home as a back up, and they are prefect with peaches – a la peach Melba.

To make the ice cream start by liquidising a pound of soft fruit along with the juice and zest of an orange in a blender, add about 4 ounces of icing sugar to sweeten it (you must use icing sugar as it dissolves instantly). This was folded into half a pint of double cream and a quarter of single single cream that had been whipped and sweetened, again with icing sugar. The mixture was poured into the ice cream maker. Meanwhile, I whipped two egg whites, and when the ice cream was softly frozen, I folded it into the whites, along with three tablespoons of Cointreau. Then I scoffed a load of it the next day. Oink!

#42 Soft Fruit Ice Cream – 8/10. This is a lovely fresh ice cream, very different to a custard-based one. It could have been improved by the addition of a more appropriate liqueur, such as creme de framboise, seeing as I used raspberries. However, I shall be practicing this one loads whenever I see some nice fruit in the summer!

#37 Ginger Ice Cream

Oh my god! Everybody has to go out and buy and iced cream maker right this instant! I made (#37) Ginger Ice Cream as a pud to eat after a super-hot Thai red curry. It was super-easy to do and tasted gorgeous! No bought stuff can compare, even the posh bought stuff. You use the stem ginger in syrup to flavour it. All you do is make a custard with cream, 2 egg yolks and an egg, add ginger syrup and churn. Then add loads of chopped stem ginger and lightly whipped double cream after 10 minutes or so. When it’s finished churning, eat straight away for soft ice cream or freeze in a tub and eat whenever!

FYI: Ices were invented by the Greeks in the fifth century BC, who added fruit juice and honey to crushed ice. The Romans made iced wines. All the ice had to be either imported or collected from frozen lakes in the winter and stored in ice houses, as apparently Thomas Jefferson did. It was in tenth century Baghdad where ices that included milk and cream were made commercially. In terms of English food, the first ice cream recipe appears in the 1751 Hannah Glass book, The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy – a favorite book of Jane Grigson’s – for raspberry ice cream.

These days there’s loads of posh creamy ice creams these days and the cheap ones are OK compared to the cheap stuff when I was a lad. I’m sure I read a few years back that in the seventies and eighties, the really cheap stuff, like the ice cream you’d get for a dessert in your school dinner contained whipped lard and other animal fats. Does anyone else know of this? I may have dreamt it!

#37 Ginger Ice Cream. 9/10 – I love ice cream and I love ginger! Perhaps there are better ones out there, but I think that home-made ice cream cannot be less than an 8 anyways.

#24 Orange Marmalade

Since I’ve no money and everyone was out having fun, it was the perfect time to make (#24) Orange Marmalade. In a weird and quite geeky way I actually quite enjoyed myself! Boil 3 pounds of Seville Oranges in 6 pints of water for about 1 1/2 hours, scoop out the innards and put in a muslin. Add muslin to pot of water, shred the peel, add shit load (6 pounds) of sugar. Boil. Piece of piss. The tricky bit was getting it to set.
FYI: pectin sets at 105 degrees Celsius after boiling for 10 minutes. Viciously boiling a pot of molten sugar for that long is quite scary and it took ages for me to pluck up the courage! Eventually I did and it passed the ‘wrinkle test’. The kitchen and I ended up one massive sticky mess! Then it was the simple procedure of funneling everything in with my new jam funnel. I haven’t had a chance to taste it yet, except for the molten splashes that landed on me; and it seems very nice, strong and bitter. I am labelling them up and distributing them about.

FYI: I got all the jam-making stuff and posh jars from internet/ebay shop Country Cook Shop (http://stores.ebay.co.uk/COUNTRY-COOK-SHOP) which is situated in The Travelling Hen, Herefordshire; and very good they are too! Plus the fancy Gingham pot lids were from Greg as a Christmas pressie. I can’t believe he feeds my geekiness by buying me these things! Anyone else would be ina permanent state of embarassment…

I think I may start a new career in conserve production…