“I felt the beauty of the morning. I could understand how a drowning man might suddenly feel a deep thirst being quenched.” - Denis Johnson, from “Emergency.”
I don’t often make zested, summered, and vibrant versions of ice cream. It’s not for lack of love or desire. When it comes to ice cream, my tastes are deep and brooding. And my yearnings for it, even stronger. A mouthful of dulcet intensity, stormed and fevered with a little sugared anguish is always what I crave best.
If you’ve been following along of late, you’d know that I’ve been working with sourdough. Perhaps working with isn’t the best phrase to use. The bread makes me work for it. And while I’m surely not qualified to write in detail about all things sourdough, the one thing I do know is that each loaf comes with its own unique character. There’ve been plenty of spirited loaves on the table these last few months. Most that never saw themselves through to slices but all that lead to the creation of this ice cream. An ice cream of bad-tempered left-over bread, but also one of sweetness, strength, and heat.
Brown Butter Sourdough Ice Cream is a wintered-and-stormed kind of ice cream. Full of deep caramelization, burnt nuttiness, and depth. Its richness shouldn’t go understated. Brown butter makes for wonderful nostalgia. Each time I begin the burning, its fragrance becomes memory, wound, and salve. And when mixed into an ultra-creamy ice cream base that’s further enriched with crème fraîche and a generous amount of vanilla bean, it’s all kinds of good.
- The measurements for this recipe are listed in both grams and US cups. I do recommend using a metric scale if you can. It’s the most accurate way to measure and ensure a recipe will come out as it should. The standard volume of a cup will differ depending on the country you live and how you measure. Cups will work, but please check prior to making the conversion between a standard US cup and the measuring cup that you are using.
- You’ll need an ice cream machine to make this recipe. Remember to freeze the churner bowl according to the manufacturer’s instructions before use. Also make sure that the ice cream base is completely cold before churning.
- Be careful not to overheat the ice cream base. It’s ready when a first single bubble rises to the surface in the middle of the saucepan and the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Never allow it to reach a rolling boil or heavy simmer. If you’re not sure it’s ready, it’s always better to under-heat rather than over-heat and run the risk of curdling.
- A good dark sourdough bread is needed here. I’ve been working with a high percentage of rye flour in my loaves lately, so they’ve been great to use. If you don’t have sourdough, you could use regular dark/brown bread.
Brown Butter Sourdough Ice Cream
For the crumbs:
(inspired by Tartine / a David Lebovitz recipe here)
80 grams | 2.8 ounces dark sourdough bread, cubed and crusts removed
30 grams | 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
20 grams | 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, melted
Pre-heat the oven to 180 C. Line a baking sheet with non-stick parchment paper.
Place the sourdough into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until evenly-textured small pieces have formed, about ½ - ¾ cm (.2 -.3 in) in diameter. Some larger pieces throughout are fine. Put the pieces into a small bowl. Sprinkle over the sugar and salt then pour in the melted butter. Stir to roughly combine then use your hands to toss the mixture together until everything is evenly coated. Spread into an even and flat layer on the baking sheet.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the tray every few minutes and giving the mixture a stir to ensure even coloring, until golden brown and fragrant. Remove from the oven and allow to cool and crisp completely. You can make the crumbs up to three days in advance prior to churning. Store at room temperature in an airtight container until needed.
For the ice cream:
140 grams | 1 stick + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
480 milliliters | 2 cups heavy cream
190 milliliters | ¾ cup + 2 teaspoons whole milk
170 grams | 2/3 cup + 2 teaspoons crème fraîche
6 large egg yolks
120 grams | ½ cup + 1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla bean extract
½ teaspoon salt
Place the butter into a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat. Heat, stirring often, until the butter is melted. Increase the heat to medium and continue to cook, swirling the pan occasionally but not stirring, until dark amber in color and nutty in fragrance. Some burnt solids should have formed at the base of the saucepan. Remove from the heat allow to cool.
Put the cream, milk, and crème fraîche into a large saucepan set over medium-low heat. Whisk to incorporate then let the mixture slowly come to a low simmer. Meanwhile, place the egg yolks and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 minutes.
Pour the brown butter into the saucepan with the cream and scrape in any burnt solids from the base of the pan. Whisk to combine and lower the heat. The mixture may sputter and look like it won’t incorporate at first but keep stirring and it will. Ladle a little of this mixture into the bowl with the whisking egg yolks. Whisk vigorously to combine and acclimatize the eggs to the heat. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the cream mixture set on the stove. Continue to cook, stirring constantly with a large rubber spatula, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not allow to come to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.
Strain the mixture through a sieve and into a large bowl. Immediately cover the top with a layer of plastic wrap. Chill overnight in the refrigerator until completely cold.
The next morning, remove the bowl from the refrigerator. Churn according to the instructions of your ice cream machine. Once churned, the ice cream will be very thick, aerated, and doubled in volume. Scrape half the ice cream into a container or loaf pan then sprinkle over half the sourdough crumbs. Spread over the remaining half of the ice cream then sprinkle the remaining crumbs over the top. Freeze for at least five hours before serving.