#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!

#61 Melon Water Ice

Melons are on tip-top form in late Spring and early Summer so I thought I’d better do the only (I think) melon-related recipe in the book. It also seems that we are not going to have any decent weather either, as it rained on St. Swithen’s day and that means it’s going to rain for forty days. Bloody St. Swithen. A bit of a crap Saint if you ask me, if that’s all he did/does. I digress…..Make sure you get a good, ripe melon. I used cantaloupe as it’s the most fragrant, but apparently any will do. A small one is just the right size for the recipe too. I tried doing it using the ice cream maker, but it turns out it’s easier just to stick the mixture in the freezer and break the ice up every now and again. To stabilise it, it has whipped egg whites, which didn’t down well with some that ate it. I don’t know why, as it’s pretty commonly used in all sorts – next time there’s something like that I shall not mention it! If you are squeamish about it, please don’t be, and have a go at making it:

Start off by making a stock syrup by boiling half a pint of water with 4 ounces of sugar and letting it simmer for four minutes. Allow to cool. Whilst you’re waiting, liquidise enough melon flesh to give you about half a pint’s worth and stir in the cool syrup. I found that after adding about three quarters of it, it was too sweet and added a bit more water, so be careful. Add enough lemon juice to bring out the flavour of the melon – it shouldn’t actually taste lemony – about half will do. Freeze the mixture and keep breaking it up with a spoon or wire whisk. When it starts getting quite firm, whisk an egg white until stiff, but not dry, using an electric mixer and add the melon to it spoon by spoon. It froths up a bit – it’s the bubbles in the egg white stabilises the mixture and makes it easy to spoon out when frozen. Return the mixture to the freezer, and when you want to serve it, bring it out at least half an hour before.

#61 Melon Water Ice: 7/10. A lovely, refreshing dessert. The egg made it nice and light. It was very sweet – perhaps too sweet, so I knocked it down a bit for that. I would probably mark it higher if I had eaten it on some sunny veranda somewhere, but hey-ho…