Who burned the ice cream?

Chef Sin and I have freakishly similar tastes in most things, but especially in food. We both prefer our meat medium rare. We both despise beets. We both think Dungeness crab is the greatest shellfish ever and that crunchy tacos from the Value Menu are the only thing worth ordering on those rare occasions when we visit Taco Bell.

On one food, however, we part ways—not greatly, but enough to note: toast. I prefer my bread to be toasted to a tan or light brown color; Sin wants hers dark brown, and some black along the edges is just fine, thank you very much.

So when the editors of Food52 published a recipe for something called Burnt Toast Ice Cream, it seemed … yes, weird. But intriguing.

As the editors explained, burning is just another word for caramelization, that amazing chemical reaction that occurs when foods, especially those containing carbohydrates, are exposed to high heat. Caramelization gets the credit for all manner of deliciousness, from a hellfire-seared steak to a respectfully charred stalk of asparagus.

We employ all manner of devices to achieve this wonderment, from charcoal grills and oven broilers to cast-iron skillets and butane torches. And in its purest form, the process applies heat to ordinary sugar to create, yes, caramel, a popular ice cream ingredient for generations.

So the recipe made sense, at least in theory: Burn some toast, grind it to powder, mix it with ice cream base, and freeze. The sugar will mellow the bitterness of the toast, and the egg yolks and cream will add a butter-like note.

Everyone loves toast, and everyone loves ice cream. So what could be better?

Well, Burnt Toast Ice Cream tastes like toast, all right. Not burned, but toasty. And creamy.

Trouble is, that’s it. With no vanilla or actual caramel or any other flavors along for the ride, Burnt Toast Ice Cream is pretty one-note. And unlike either really good toast or really good ice cream, this gets old rather quickly.

It wasn’t until I pondered the origins of Burnt Toast Ice Cream a bit more that I hit on the solution. What goes good on toast? Jam, of course. A couple of spoonfuls of Berryhot Jam (made by my sister, information here), and suddenly the toast in this ice cream had a purpose.

Also, this recipe can help you make sure your smoke detectors are working.

Burnt Toast Ice Cream

Recipe by the editors of Food52

2 slices country-style white bread
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cups skim milk powder
4 egg yolks

Toast the bread long enough to develop a deep brown color, even black in spots. Blitz the toast to dust in a food processor.

In a pot, whisk together the cream, milk, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and the milk powder. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, then remove from the heat.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar for 1 minute. Gradually whisk the milk mixture into the yolks.

Pour the milk-yolk mixture back into the pot and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the base thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Add 1/4 cup of the burnt toast dust to the ice cream base (use any extra for garnish). Let the warm base steep for 30 minutes, then pass it through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Chill the base completely in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours but ideally overnight.

Pour the chilled base into an ice cream maker and churn it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Makes 1 quart.

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