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You won’t believe your tastebuds: this homemade ice cream tastes just like freshly baked sourdough bread! Topped with crunchy caramelized breadcrumbs, it’s a truly unique and delicious treat you have to taste to believe.
Bread-flavored ice cream might sound a bit weird, but trust me on this one: it’s simply divine. And a sprinkle of sweet sourdough breadcrumbs on top makes for the perfect textural contrast to the rich, custard-based ice cream.
Back in December (you know, back when eating out at restaurants was totally normally and not terrifying) we sat down to a wonderful meal at Rolf & Daughters—one of our favorite neighborhood spots that never disappoints.
After a soul-satisfying meal, we glanced at the dessert menu, sure that we were too stuffed to even consider another bite.
And then I saw it.
Sourdough. Ice. Cream.
My eyes lit up. My stomach growled (how that was possible I have no idea). I may have drooled a little bit.
Despite it sounding a little bit weird, I knew I just had to try it, and ordered a serving for us to share.
The dish arrived, and rather than scoops of ice cream like I expected, the ice cream was spread on top of a cake-like layer underneath and topped with sweet crunchy bits (I don’t exactly recall the exact components, I just know that it was one of the best things I’ve eaten in a long time). At one point we looked at each other, our eyes widening over the tops of our spoons, not quite believing what we were tasting.
It was ice cream. That tasted like sweet, toasted sourdough bread.
We’ve had Rolf’s sourdough ice cream twice now, the second time things looked a little bit different since it came in a take out box along with the rest of our dinner, dropped on our doorstep by a gloved and masked delivery person. I miraculously managed to make that little half-pint container last for 3 nights by only eating a spoonful at a time (trust me, it took nearly all my willpower not to devour it in one sitting).
But now… well, let’s just say I’ve cracked the secret to making this amazing sourdough ice cream at home, so willpower is no longer an issue (so give me a triple scoop, please!)
When I set out to recreate this uniquely flavored frozen treat, I first had to figure out how to infuse the flavor of sourdough bread into a custard ice cream base.
I started by steeping toasted and torn pieces of sourdough in hot milk, much like you would infuse coffee beans or fresh mint leaves when making homemade coffee or mint chip ice cream.
I wasn’t confident this would result in the intensity of flavor I was aiming for… so I was seriously shocked at just how much the milk took on the sourdough flavor after only 30 minutes of steeping. I was ready (and willing) to test this half a dozen times if necessary, but as it turned out the first attempt was yeasty, toasty perfection.
I tested both toasted and untoasted bread, and while the difference wasn’t too apparent, I thought the toasted version had a slightly more enhanced bready flavor, so that’s how I’ve written the recipe.
I used a loaf of homemade sourdough, made with a mix of all-purpose, sprouted whole wheat and rye flours, and baked for just a few minutes longer and a few degrees hotter than normal to give the crust a bit more caramelization.
But you don’t have to make a special loaf of bread just for this recipe, it’s a great opportunity to use up a few stale slices or sad leftover heels from your last loaf. For the breadcrumbs the bread really needs to be dried out (so I suggest leaving a few slices out on the counter overnight even, or if you must, lightly toast it in a warm oven until it’s thoroughly dry).
I also think this recipe would work with other uniquely flavored varieties of bread such as rye or brown bread.
It’s rather difficult to describe this flavor in mere words, it’s really something that has to be experienced.
I mean, it tastes like bread (obviously), with notes of wild yeast and toasted flour and a hint of subtle sourness underlying the rich sweet cream.
I know that bread flavored ice cream sounds weird (you don’t need to be ashamed to think that, I did too when I first encountered the concept). But trust me when I say that the flavor of sourdough bread, when paired with sweetened milk and cream and a hint of sea salt, then frozen and churned into a lusciously smooth ice cream is indescribably good.
If you think about it, things like French toast and bread pudding are both sweet, bready things, and are both quite enjoyable to consume, and if you think of it that way, sourdough ice cream doesn’t sound quite as weird.
The sweet sourdough crumbs on top are totally optional, made by toasting fresh sourdough breadcrumbs with a bit of butter and sugar until brown and caramelized and deeply crispy. I opted not to stir these in to the ice cream base, as they’ll lose their delightful crunch and get undesirably soggy, and instead keep them on hand to sprinkle on top.
Sourdough sprinkles, if you will.
Sourdough Ice Cream
Homemade ice cream that tastes just like freshly baked sourdough bread? Trust me, it’s delicious, especially when topped with crunchy caramelized breadcrumbs for a truly unique frozen treat you have to taste to believe.
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 slices sourdough bread, lightly toasted
- 5 large egg yolks
For Sourdough Crumbs:
- 2 slices stale sourdough bread
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- pinch sea salt
- Pour 1 cup of the heavy cream into a heat-proof bowl and nest inside a larger bowl filled with ice water. Place a fine mesh sieve over the top of both bowls. Alternatively, you can use a gallon sized freezer bag nestled in a bowl of ice water instead of a second bowl.
- In a saucepan, combine remaining cream, milk, sugar, and salt. Tear bread into chunks and submerge. Heat over medium, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and mixture just starts to steam.
- Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 30 minutes, then pour through a fine mesh sieve, pressing out as much liquid from the soaked bread as possible. Discard solids, and return saucepan to medium heat until steamy (you want the mixture to be just below boiling point).
- In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks. Slowly drizzle in some of the hot cream mixture, 1/3 cup at a time, until about half of the cream mixture has been incorporated and yolk mixture is warm to the touch. You want to do this gradually; doing so will temper the egg yolks rather than cook them.
- Pour yolk mixture back into the saucepan and return to medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spatula, about 5 to 7 minutes, or until it reaches approximately 175ºF. Do not allow it to boil. Remove from heat, and pour mixture through a fine mesh sieve into cold cream, discarding any solids. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Cover with plastic wrap, carefully pressing wrap down onto the surface of the cream mixture. This will prevent a skin from forming on top of the custard. Refrigerate until completely cool, at least 3 hours or overnight if possible.
- While ice cream base is chilling, make the breadcrumbs. Pulse stale bread in a food processor until broken up into small crumbs (note if your bread is too fresh, it won’t break up as well, which is why stale bread is ideal here).
- Melt butter in a large skillet set over medium heat until frothy and sizzling. Add breadcrumbs and toss to coat. Sprinkle over sugar and stir until evenly coated. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until breadcrumbs are golden brown and sugar has caramelized, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and spread onto a parchment-lined baking sheet to cook, stirring to break up any stuck together chunks as it cools. Once cool, store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- When ice cream base is thoroughly chilled, churn ice cream according to manufacturer’s instructions. When ice cream is the consistency of soft serve, transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze at least 2 hours or overnight until firm. Serve topped with a generous sprinkle of breadcrumbs.
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