When travelling, my plans are primarily guided by food. For every destination a list and map develops, with coordinates plotted to work out what may or may not be possible. While I'm certainly getting better at refining my strategy the list is invariably larger than my ingestive capacity allows, and there are always a few dilemmas as to where and/or what will have to be given a miss.
On one such trip, I was taking in the delights of London's Maltby Street and, having just powered our way through a (then Justin Gellatly) St John custard doughnut for breakfast, Little Bread Pedlar croissant for second breakfast and a scoop of Kitty Travers' finest for breakfast dessert... we began to wonder whether we'd slightly overdone it somewhat. A discussion of feasting strategies promptly ensued, during which one of my fellow gorgers shared a market-goer's secret: rumour had it that a select and special few were resolving such dilemmas by taking their freshly-purchased LBP brioche bun down to the La Grotta Ices hole-in-the-wall and, just quietly, having it filled with a scoop or two of their choice.*
A fresh brioche ice cream sandwich!? This was genius! And of course, being genius, had already been around for ages, I was just the dunce who had somehow managed not to have heard of it yet...
Brioche con gelato, or brioscia, is a traditional Sicilian dessert consisting of a brioche bun filled with ice cream. So simple, and yet so, so good. Good quality ice cream is a must and, like all ice cream sandwiches, consideration of the bun's structure is also important. Fresh and/or toasted is best, as the warm and crisp exterior adds a nice contrast to the soft ice cream centre, and the crumb should also be light but sufficiently sturdy to take the melting ice cream without becoming too soggy (if it happens to last that long).
For my take on this gastronomic delight I decided on a browned butter dried strawberry brioche filled with strawberries and cream ice cream. Now that's what I call breakfast dessert!
BROWNED BUTTER STRAWBERRY BRIOCHE (Adapted from Maggie's Harvest by Maggie Beer)
- 185 g butter
- Half a vanilla bean, seeds scraped
- 10 g dried strawberries
- Madeira or orange liqueur, for soaking
- 15 g fresh yeast
- 60 ml milk, lukewarm
- 300 g plain flour
- 40 g light brown sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 eggs, beaten
- Ice cream* and fresh strawberries, to serve
Place the butter and vanilla bean in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until the butter begins to brown. Remove the vanilla bean, transfer to a bowl, and allow to cool. The butter is ready when it's solid but soft.
Cover the dried strawberries with the soaking liqueur and leave to reconstitute. Just before use gently drain, reserving the soaking liquid for the glaze.
To prepare the brioche, dissolve the yeast in the milk and then combine with the flour, sugar, salt and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a dough hook, mix until the dough becomes elastic (this will take around 10 minutes). With the mixer running, slowly add the butter in five or six goes, making sure the butter is fully absorbed into the dough before adding the next piece. The dough will be sticky but should still retain its elasticity. Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover with a towel and leave to rest in a draught-free spot until tripled in size (around 4 hours).
Turn the dough out onto a clean bench and press out into a rectangle. Spread the surface with the strained strawberries and fold in three. Again press the dough out into a rectangle and repeat the folds, then return to the bowl and leave to rest until doubled in bulk (around 1.5 hours). Shape the dough into a round and then refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Once chilled, divide the dough into six, 120 g pieces and shape each into a round. Place each bun into a well-greased cup of a six-cup muffin pan*, then cover and leave to rest for 1.5 hours. Brush the buns with egg wash and bake in an oven pre-heated to 240°C for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 200°C and bake for a further 15 minutes before removing to a wire rack, brushing with the reserved soaking liqueur to glaze, and allowing to cool.
To serve, lightly toast the halved brioche buns and fill with a dollop of strawberries and cream ice cream.
** NB: This trip was from a few years back and the rumour went unverified, so my apologies if it turns out to be little more than a good story.
** The recipe I used for the ice cream was from the new Ample Hills Creamery cookbook.
** The buns were a bit tall for my liking so I ended up cutting a slice out of the centre to get the right brioche-to-ice-cream ratio. While this time I baked them in tins to make sure they came up I think the dough has enough strength to go it alone, so will be trying them as 80-100 g buns next time.