I’d be misleading you if I pretended that ice cream was a trivial thing to make, but I’d be doing you a worse disservice if I pretended it wasn’t worth it. Desserts, I rather feel, SHOULD be a bit more effort. A treat. A celebration!
This ice cream is, for me, a true celebration of English summer – it tastes like the simple joy of a perfect picnic and has a silk-and-velvet mouthfeel that is pure luxury. Homemade ice cream, additive-free and unique in flavour, is a wonderful thing to make – and with an ice cream maker and a few non-classical tricks, a reliable one too. Please don’t let the length of the recipe put you off – if you can make cake, you can easily make the ice cream base – a custard-based vanilla gelato.
If you wanted to ripple through some homemade stewed fruit (simple as leaving apples in a pan over heat to make applesauce, or caramelising bananas with some butter and brown sugar on the stove, or a saucepan of frozen berries cooked down into a sauce), you’ve already made a wonderful concoction far better, I believe, than any fruit-based ice cream because fresh fruit flavours just cannot be replicated on an industrial scale. (In fairness, I prefer bought ice creams for chocolate, caramel and nut flavours – when I’ve tried making my own, these are not better than their good quality bought counterparts. And, just to be clear – and contradicting my first paragraph – I very much enjoy a good bought ice cream, which sometimes should be in the freezer and available with absolutely no effort at all.)
But can I suggest you have a go at this version, with brown bread praline (easy to make!) and bramble jam? The buttery nutty caramel flavour is a wonderful warm counterpoint to the delicate high notes of freshly-picked blackberries, which add a lightness to the ice cream like sunbeams breaking through the trees, dappling bramble thickets with spots of dancing light.
Recipe: Bramble & Brown Bread Ice Cream
Before you start, make sure the bowl of your ice cream maker (if using) has been in the fridge for the required time. Some people store theirs permanently in the freezer with something dry inside, like frozen peas. Not a plastic bag of chicken stock, which cannot be removed without breaking and getting bird juices all over the bowl, where it freezes solid and cannot be removed without washing in hot water, melting the keep-cold chemicals inside the bowl. Sigh.
I’m told it’s also possible to make ice cream without a machine, by pouring the mixture directly into the tupperware it is going to be stored in, and periodically giving it a stir to break up the ice crystals, so don’t let not having a machine put you off!
In any case, please also make sure you have a suitable container to store the ice cream before you start, e.g. a clean ice cream tub, and room for it in your freezer.
For the gelato:
300ml single cream
600ml whole milk
6 egg yolks
120ml soft light brown sugar
1/3 vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp cornflour
1. Make a thin custard (don’t worry that it is more liquid than, say, a creme patisserie – for a long time this confused me hopelessly as I had unrealistic expectations for how much it would thicken. When in fact, it should end up the consistency of…melted ice cream. Yeah.) by heating the milk and cream in a large saucepan over a gentle heat, giving the occasional lazy stir with a heatproof spatula. Scrape in the vanilla pod seeds and throw in the scraped-out pod (if using bottled vanilla, hold on until you add the eggs). Don’t let it boil – if it does, reduce/turn off the heat.
2. In a large bowl (or the measuring jug you used to measure the milk and cream), add the egg yolks, saving the whites (one at a time! it’s too annoying to mess up the sixth egg and get a bit of yolk into your five whites) in batches of three if you want to make meringues or macarons. They keep in a tied sandwich bag in the fridge for a surprisingly long time. Add the sugar, cornflour and salt and whisk until the mixture has paled and become mousse-like. Lifting the whisk, you should be able to make a distinct ribbon-like trail of mixture, and the sugar should have dissolved.
3. Add a small amount of the hot milk to the egg mixture, whisking as you do, to temper the eggs so that they don’t scramble. Gradually add the rest of the hot milk and carry on whisking until the mixture is well-combined. Then pour the eggy-milk back into the saucepan, scraping it all out with the spatula, and cook on a low/medium heat, stirring with a balloon whisk and regularly scraping out the corners of the pan with the spatula.
4. The custard should thicken to the point where it coats the spatula, and you can draw a finger through it which leaves a line (as opposed to the custard being runny enough to just cover it up). If you overheat the mixture and it curdles (like scrambled egg) remove from the heat immediately, and whisk, cooling it down as quickly as possible. I’ve heard that you can also pour into a blender/food processor and whizz out the lumps, but the cornflour in the custard should mean you don’t need to do this!
5. Once it has reached this point, remove from the heat and add the bottled vanilla, if using. Whisk it well, then pour it into the bowl/jug and leave it to cool, stirring occasionally so a skin doesn’t form. Cover with cling film directly on its surface and leave it in the fridge to get very cold.
For the brown bread praline:
250g Brown bread, whizzed into breadcrumbs in the food processor
45g unsalted butter
100g (golden) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1. Preheat the oven to 200C and line a large baking tray with baking parchment/silpat
2. Melt the butter gently in a large pan (or bowl if using the microwave). Stir in the sugar and salt, breaking up any lumps, and then the breadcrumbs, making sure it is all evenly combined
3. Spread the breadcrumb mixture in an even layer over the baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Take the tray out of the oven and stir, then bake for another two minutes, remove and stir again. Repeat, stirring at two minute intervals, until the praline is golden and the sugar has melted. Everyone’s oven is different but this should take about 10 mins in total. Remove from the oven and stir one last time, then leave to cool.
For the Blackberry Ripple:
Generous dollop of Bramble Jam – I used my easy homemade jam, which has less sugar than ordinary jam, so perhaps reduce the sugar if using a commercial jam.
Or ring the changes with a lightly sweetened apple, plum or rhubarb compote (to make an ice with the flavours of apple/plum/rhubarb crumble and custard), or Lidl’s sour cherry jam would, I expect, be nice as cherry pie.
Whichever fruit you go for, keep it in the fridge so it is very cold until you use it.
Combine gelato, praline and jam
Follow the instructions of your ice cream maker to churn the gelato (leave the praline and jam out for now). Most have you set the machine moving, and then pour in the gelato base in, letting it do its thing for about 20 minutes until the ice cream is the consistency of whipped cream.
When it is ready, stop the machine and remove the mixer. Drop in a few generous tablespoons of jam (or cold stewed fruit) and ripple in with a fork. Add the crumbled up praline and stir in. Scrape the ice cream into the prepared container and freeze – this ice cream should be eaten within a week or two whilst the flavours are still fresh. Before serving, move it from the freezer to the fridge for 20 mins or so to ripen. The praline loses its crunch if this happens too many times, so ideally eat it in as few sittings as possible!
A note on equipment;
I find it quite frustrating when recipes call for specialised, expensive pieces of equipment, like bread makers (which I don’t have), food processors, stand mixers and so on. Mostly because it can undermine your confidence in trying something new (like when I first attempted to make marmalade, and was told that it was impossible without a spatula that was also a thermometer. It isn’t.). I have made ice cream both with and without a machine, and so I know it’s doable and I don’t suggest you buy one before having a go at making ice cream! Mine isn’t a fancy self-refrigerating one – just a low-tech attachment to my stand mixer (which admittedly, is high-tech and was a lovely present from a generous friend). But the machines are not too expensive and make lovely presents.