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Comfort Food #12: Brown Bread Ice-Cream

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Does anyone remember brown bread ice-cream? Has anyone ever tried it?

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It’s way too cold to be even thinking about ice-cream so I have no idea why the first comfort food feature of the year is going to include a recipe that probably won’t be tried and tested for another five months at least!

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Flicking through a recipe book last week, I came across a recipe for brown bread ice-cream and it took me right back to my childhood…

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When I was a child growing up in 1980s London, we didn’t have the variety of ice-cream flavours that we have today. Coffee was served steaming hot in a mug not ice-cold in a wafer cone; peanut butter was something we got in a jar and the idea of salted caramel in any form would have been scoffed at (rather than just scoffed!) I suppose there are some advantages of twenty-first century living!

Neapolitan: the ice-cream of my childhood

Neapolitan: the ice-cream of my childhood

Back in my day, ice-cream was almost strictly vanilla, strawberry or chocolate with ‘exotic’ flavours being banana or mint choc-chip! Oh, not forgetting the classic Neapolitan.

So it was a huge surprise for me to see recipes for brown bread ice-cream in the women’s weeklies that my mum used to buy. I also used to watch it being made on cookery shows. I was quite puzzled though because I always thought that ice-cream could only be chocolate or fruit- flavoured. How on earth could you make ice-cream out of bread? What would be next ‘ cornflakes? Cheese and onion crisps?

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However, now that I’m older and have developed quite a sophisticated palate (so I like to think!) I can appreciate the uniqueness of this particular sweet treat. The caramelised breadcrumbs give a deliciously nutty texture and a toffee – almost fudgy – flavour.

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Brown bread ice-cream became available in the eighteenth century after fruit flavoured ice-creams had been introduced but it didn’t gain in popularity until the late Victorian and Edwardian times when it was a privilege of the rich and served as a country weekend treat.

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It seems to have declined in popularity over the years though because despite recipes for this ice-cream being readily available, I don’t hear any real mention of it. It has not appeared on the cookery pages of any of the magazines I’ve bought for a good few years; I haven’t seen it on restaurant menus and it has never been one of Haagan Dazs’ one million and one flavours (at least not here in the UK.) It seems to have been very much consigned to the drawer marked ‘forgotten about’ which is a shame because it is a delicious tasting ice-cream. Those who have never tried it, don’t know what they’re missing. Furthermore, despite all the sugar and cream, it can’t possible be an unhealthy dessert – not when it contains brown bread!

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the recipe I came across was in a book Traditional Puddings by Sara Paston-Williams. It seems extremely easy to make so I will most definitely be giving it a go. It can be served with brandy snaps and your favourite ice-cream sauce served warm such as butterscotch or chocolate fudge or … salted caramel. However, I also found a recipe from the same book for a hot marmalade sauce which should complement this ice-cream very well.

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BROWN BREAD ICE-CREAM

Recipe by Sara Paston-Williams

Serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS:

75g (3oz) wholemeal bread

50g (20z) unsalted butter

75g (3oz) castor/soft brown sugar

4 eggs, separated

115g (4oz) castor sugar

30ml (2 tbsp.) rum, brandy, Madeira

400ml double or whipping cream

METHOD:

  • Prepare breadcrumbs by frying in butter until crisp and adding 50g sugar.
  • Let this caramelise and then cool completely before crushing with a rolling pin.
  • To prepare basic ice-cream, beat egg yolks with sugar and alcohol.
  • Whip cream until it holds its shape.
  • Add to egg mixture.
  • Freeze in a lidded container for about 1 hour.
  • Stir in crumbs then freeze again.
  • Remove from freezer 30 mins before serving.
  • Scoop into glasses.
  • Serve with brandy snaps and sauce.

MARMALADE SAUCE

Image from storiesfromthestove.net

Image from storiesfromthestove.net

INGREDIENTS:

5ml cornflour

Juice of 1 orange

250ml white wine

60ml mamalade

30ml soft brown sugar

METHOD:

  • Dissolve cornflower in juice.
  • Heat wine, marmalade and sugar in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved, stirring from time to time.
  • Stir in cornflour mixture.
  • Bring to the boil, stirring well.
  • Simmer for two minutes.
  • Serve hot.

Enjoy this very retro dessert!

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Comfort Food #10: Bread and Butter Pudding

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Hubby and I were watching a recent episode of our guilty pleasure, Celebrity Masterchef, and we were amazed to see that the lovely Les Dennis totally messed up when it came to making a simple bread and butter pudding. Now I may never qualify as a contestant in any future series’ of Masterchef but I do know how to make a decent bread and butter pudding and have been doing so since I was twelve!

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Not to be confused with bread pudding, bread and butter pudding is real comfort stodge at it’s best; a delicious combination of sliced, white, buttered bread, raisins and baked egg custard. Crispy on the outside while soft and creamy on the inside, it sounds incredibly basic but it tastes delicious and is one of my father’s favourite puddings. Not only is it inexpensive and easy to prepare but as in bread pudding, it’s a great way of using up leftover bread. It’s a traditional British classic and is usually served with custard, double cream or evaporated or condensed milk. it goes down a treat on a cold winter’s evening!

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The origins of this great British dessert are believed to date back to around the early seventeenth century, although John Nott wrote down one of the earliest recipes for a bread and butter pudding  in 1723. The poor – not wanting to throw out any leftover bread – would steam it with fruit or even meat. An early form of this pudding was known as a whitepot and could be made using bone marrow (yum!) and sometimes substituted the bread for rice thus initiating the process of another nursery dessert, the rice pudding. However, with the introduction of new foods from abroad, people became more inventive and started adding spices and various types of fruit. Milk, eggs and sugar soon became more accessible and affordable for most people and the pudding as we know it today was beginning to take shape.

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The basic recipe remained the same until the latter part of the twentieth century when the popularity of this dessert was beginning to fade. However, many celebrity chefs who have a real love for British cuisine have revamped the humble bread and butter pudding, adding their own spin on a classic showing that many variations of this traditional pudding are possible.

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Bread and butter pudding is still fairly popular today, although I have yet to see a classic version of this dessert in a restaurant menu. I have come across the brioche version which I suppose is a little more sophisticated and updated. Here’s a recipe for a delicious, classic, bread and butter pudding by Elaine Lemm. It’s so easy and tastes soooo good!

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Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Serves 4
Heat the oven 355°F/180°C/Gas 4.

Ingredients:

  • 50g / 2 oz soft butter
  • 10 slices soft white bread, cut diagonally across or any of the other breads mentioned above
  • 50g / 2 oz golden raisins/sultanas
  • ¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 350 ml / 12 fl oz milk
  • 50 ml / 2 fl oz double / heavy cream
  • 2 large free range eggs
  • 25g / 1 oz white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or paste (see note below)

Preparation:

  • Grease a 2 pint/1 litre pie dish with a little of the butter. Spread each of the bread triangles with butter.

  • Cover the base of the pie dish with overlapping triangles of bread, butter side up. Sprinkle half the golden raisins/sultanas evenly over the bread, then lightly sprinkle with a little nutmeg and cinnamon. Repeat this layer one more time or until the dish is filled, finishing with the raisins on top.
  • In a saucepan gently heat the milk and cream – DO NOT BOIL.
  • In a large baking bowl beat the eggs with 3/4 sugar and the vanilla extract until light and airy and pale in color. Pour the warm milk over the eggs and continue beating until all the milk is added.
  • Pour the egg mixture slowly and evenly over the bread until all the liquid is added. Gently press the surface with your hand to push the bread into the liquid. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the surface then leave to one side for 30 mins.
  • Bake the pudding in the hot oven for 40 – 45 mins, until the surface is golden brown and the pudding well risen and the egg is set. Serve hot.

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VARIATIONS
Another great thing about this pudding is that you can vary the recipe in countless ways so you can have a different version bread and butter every day of the year and never get bored!

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Try:

  • soaking the dried fruit in brandy or rum overnight.
  • using alternatives to sultanas or raisins. Dried cranberries and prunes work very well. My favourite are dried apricots.
  • substitute the dried fruit for chocolate chips; layer some fresh orange segments between the bread, and add some orange zest to the custard for a yummy chocolate and orange bread and butter pudding.
  • fresh fruit  instead of dried.
  • adding a splash of Baily’s to the custard.
  • adding some cocoa to the custard mix to give your pudding a chocolate flavour.
  • cinnamon-infused milk, vanilla extract or paste or ground nutmeg work well in adding flavour.

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Who said you can only use sliced, white bread? And why shouldn’t you throw in some kind of fruit conserve or spread for added flavour? The following are examples of great flavour combinations:

  • Brioche and apricot jam.
  • Pannetone and orange marmalade.
  • Granary bread and black cherry jam.
  • Wholemeal bread with peanut butter, chocolate spread and sliced bananas (the Elvis bread and butter pudding!)
  • Croissant and lemon curd.

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Finally, you can use stale or fresh bread to make this dessert but I find that bread that is slightly stale gives a more pleasant texture.

Happy eating!

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Down Memory Lane On A Milk Float!

Milk glorious milk

Milk glorious milk

Hubby and I were on our way to work a couple of days ago, when we spotted a milk float. At a risk of sounding like a couple of people who don’t get out much – and maybe we need to after this – but we got all excited! Neither of us could remember the last time we saw a milkman doing the rounds on his milk float, when as kids we used to see them every morning. Furthermore, Hubby said he didn’t think milkmen existed in the States any more (if you’re a milkman in America, please feel free to prove us wrong!)

Milk as I remember it

Milk as I remember it

When I was a kid growing up in the 1980s, it was as common to see a pint of milk on someone’s doorstep as it is to see someone yacking away into their mobile phone today. My mum always used to ask the milk man to deliver several pints a week, and I remember her leaving the empty bottles on our doorstep for him to collect as well as the occasional note she would roll up and pop into one of the bottles when she needed to amend the order. And of course milkmen used to deliver products other than milk including eggs, bread, cheese and other dairy items. They were pretty much a corner shop on wheels! And they were also a huge help to stay at home mums with very young children who perhaps couldn’t pop down to the shops as often as they needed to.

Milk as we know it today

Milk as we know it today

Today, even though milk men are still driving around in their milk floats, they are few and far between. Perhaps with supermarkets open twenty four hours a day and other local shops open even on a Sunday, most people don’t think it’s such a struggle to pick up a pint of milk themselves, which is quite ironic considering we live in an age where we like to have everything done for us.

Milkround

Milkround

However, most people realise that they could save themselves a few pennies by nipping down to the supermarket to pick up some milk. Furthermore, the introduction of long life milk; adequate packaging and good refrigeration means that it’s not necessary for the milkman to have to deliver milk to your door every morning. There’s also the possibility of milk being taken from doorsteps, especially today when certain people are likely to walk off with anything that’s not nailed down. On a more sinister note, the reason we stopped using the services of the local milkman was after our house was broken into. The neighbours were convinced it was the milk left on the doorstep for too long that gave away the fact that no one was at home at the time. So Mum cancelled all future orders and took herself off down the shops if ever we needed milk. A sad end to many happy years of seeing our cheery milkman! I suppose all of these factors have contributed in the dramatic decrease of milk delivery people.

Milk float

Milk float

And seeing a milk float always reminds me of Open All Hours, a BBC comedy starring Ronnie Barker and David Jason of which my dad was a huge fan. Jason’s character Granville, is romantically involved with the local milk woman and he waits for her to go by in her milk float before dashing outside to talk to her. So milk floats remind me of the happy times we spent as a family watching Granville’s escapades.

Arkwright and Granville in Open All Hours

Arkwright and Granville in Open All Hours

The milkman and his float is a big part of my childhood memories. Hubby’s too. According to the Dairy UK website, there are five thousand milkmen and women today who deliver to around 2.5 million homes. When you consider what the population of the UK is, those figures are alarmingly low. It’s a pity that milkmen seem to be disappearing and I would hate to lose yet another iconic symbol of my childhood in the 80s. Furthermore, we live in an era where ther’s something of a green revolution so surely environmentally friendly reusable bottles are a great idea. Hopefully more people will start to use milk delivery services again – but I have a feeling it’s going to take more than nostalgia to float people’s milk floats!

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Posted by on August 6, 2013 in Old School Stuff, Products

 

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Comfort Food #7: Eggy Bread/French Toast

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You wouldn’t believe how something so inexpensive and so simple to make could be so tasty!

Even now when I bite into a warm slice of just-out-of-the-pan French toast, it brings back such wonderfully comforting memories. We never grew up calling this delicious snack eggy bread like most people did; instead it was the more fanciful French toast. And until today, I didn’t realise that it was also called Gypsy toast!

Mmm... Yummy French toast!

Mmm… Yummy French toast!

 

I think I might have been about five when Mum first made this for me and my sister. I was a very fussy eater and it was very difficult for my mum to get me to eat anything. I’d never finish meals and would only ever pick at my food. However, when I first tried French toast it was definitely love at first bite! I couldn’t get enough of this yummy fried bread. It was quite good for my parents because growing up, we didn’t really have a great deal of money, so Mum must have been thrilled that the one thing I wanted to stuff my face with was as cheap as… well, a loaf of bread! French toast was very much a firm favourite in our house when I was growing up, not just with me but with all of us.

French toast: my first attempt in as long time

French toast: my first attempt in as long time

 

That’s hardly a surprise considering that French toast is eaten practically all over the world, so it really is a very popular dish. It’s unclear where or when this dish was created and by whom. It may not even have originated in France!

The basic ingredients for French toast: eggs, milk, bread, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon

The basic ingredients for French toast: eggs, milk, bread, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon

 

The earliest form of French toast is believed to have originated as far back as the fourth century, when it was found in a collection of Latin recipes. In Sweden, Finland and Norway, French Toast is known as ‘poor knights’ after the fourteenth century German name for this dish Arme Ritter.

The sweet egg and milk mixture

The sweet egg and milk mixture

 

My love for French toast took on another dimension when I met my husband and began my frequent trips to visit him in the States. As an American, he’d been eating French toast his entire life – well since he was old enough to eat anyway! But there were two major differences: in America, French toast is eaten as a breakfast food rather than an anytime snack, accompanying bacon and eggs, and served with lots of maple syrup. Furthermore, French toast in the States is always a sweet dish whereas Mum’s French toast was always savoury. In fact, I don’t think I know anyone other than Mum who made the savoury version.

French toast cooking away!

French toast cooking away!

 

I also found so many different ways of making French toast while I was in the States. You can use pretty much any kind of bread; flavourings such as vanilla, nutmeg or cinnamon, and you can stuff them with mascarpone and fruit such as blueberries before you fry them. Then there are amazing French toast casseroles, where the bread is left to soak in the egg mixture before being baked in the oven not too dissimilar to our bread and butter pudding – delicious!

And into the pan they go!

And into the pan they go!

 

I saw an episode of Nigella Express where she made jam doughnut-flavoured French toast. I didnt even know such a thing existed! It sounded like a fried piece of heaven and I cannot wait to get stuck into that. French toast may be quite a simple concept but with so many variations it has become something quite spectacular. I’ve heard that there are even French toast cupcakes! I’ve never seen one before nor eaten one but I plan on rectifying that situation!

With a good bit of Butter! Image from pixabay.com courtesy of s_masako

With a good bit of Butter! Image from pixabay.com courtesy of s_masako

 

I suppose it sounds as though I’m more geared towards sweet French toast but I do think both the sweet and savoury versions are equally tasty. I couldn’t choose between the two types. And neither could I choose between Mum’s savoury French toast and my brother-in-law Dizzy’s yummy sweet cinnamon version. So I’ve included the recipes for both. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

MUM’S SAVOURY FRENCH TOAST

Serves 1-2 people

INGREDIENTS:
2 slices of sliced white bread, cut in half, crusts on.
1 large egg
1 tbsp. semi skimmed milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for frying

METHOD:

  • Heat a little oil in a frying pan. just enough to stop the bread sticking to the pan.

  • Mix together egg, milk, salt and pepper in a bowl.

  • Plunge each piece of bread into the egg mixture so that it is well coated on both sides.

  • When pan is hot, add bread.

  • Cook until side is golden brown then flip over and cook the other side.

  • Eat!

Simple yet delicious!

Dizzy’s Cinnamon French Toast

French toast and syrup. Image from pixabay.com courtesy of annaj

French toast and syrup. Image from pixabay.com courtesy of annaj

 

Serves 1-2 people

INGREDIENTS:

2 slices cinnamon bread or cinnamon raisin bread

1 large egg

1 tsp. sugar

A dash of vanilla extract

Oil for frying

Butter and maple syrup to serve

METHOD:

  • Heat oil in pan.

  • Mix together egg, sugar and vanilla in a bowl.

  • Coat each side of the bread with the egg mixture.

  • Brown each side.

  • Serve with butter and maple syrup

Note: If you cannot find cinnamon bread, you can add a 1/4 tsp. of ground cinnamon to the egg mixture. Butter can be used instead of oil for frying, and the French toast can even be deep fried in very hot oil. All depends on how health conscious you want to be!

 
 

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