Mmmm, bacon. But in ice cream? Surely only a genius or a mad scientist could make that work; fortunately, Heston Blumenthal is a bit of both, and bacon and egg ice cream is a signature dish of his Fat Duck Restaurant. I've never visited nor do I own any of his cookbooks (broad hint to any family members reading this), but he's made the recipe available online, and I thought I'd try it out.
The recipe appears in several places (The Guardian, Channel4) and there is a short video you should also watch, where Blumenthal narrates the production & presentation. However, the dish seems to have evolved somewhat, and later versions use liquid nitrogen or dry ice to make the ice cream, and it now looks for all the world like scrambled eggs. Accordingly, he serves it with caramelized brioche, which looks like toast, a tomato and red pepper paste that looks like jam, and to wash it down, jellied tea. The last two I thought I would leave to the Fat Duck, but the scrambled-eggs-on-toast look of the first two parts really appealed to me. I've done a bit of cryogenic mixology in the past using dry ice (the Color-Changing Martini, and also see Eyeball Cocktails) and I figured some of these skills might be handy in making this wacky dessert...
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Step 1: Ingredients
For our (simplified) version of the dessert, we used:
6 rashers (slices) of bacon
24 egg yolks
175 g caster (berry) sugar
25 g skim milk powder
1 liter whole milk
50 g corn syrup (the original recipe called for liquid glucose, but the supermarket didn't have any)
Liquid nitrogen (dry ice works, too)
1 loaf brioche. We made ours in the breadmaker, using the following ingredients:
3 large eggs
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp salt
3 cups bread flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1/3 cup milk
3 tbsp water
And unsalted butter and caster sugar for the frying/caramelization.
Step 2: Brioche
Add the liquid then the dry ingredients to the breadmaker, adding the yeast last. Cook on a normal or sweet bread cycle with a light crust setting. Once done, remove, allow to cool, and cut into soldiers by cutting a thick slice, cutting off the crusts, and cutting into thirds.
Step 3: Marinate Bacon
Grill the bacon for 15 minutes or so, or however long it takes to brown. Allow to drain on a kitchen towel, and chop up into a bowl containing the whole milk. Refrigerate overnight.
Step 4: Simmer Milk and Bacon
Add milk powder to the milk & bacon mix, and bring to a simmer in a saucepan.
Step 5: Eggs and Sugar
Separate 24 yolks, and add to a bowl containing the caster sugar and liquid glucose. Whisk with an electric beater until nearly white and increased in volume a lot (see pictures 2, 3 and 4). While whisking, add some of the hot milk mixture (no bacon), then dump ALL of this mixture into the saucepan. Heat the mixture slowly, with stirring, up to 85ºC. Leave at that temperature for about 30 seconds.
Step 6: Sieve and Cool
Pour the mixture through a sieve into a large ice-cooled bowl, pushing it through with a spoon if necessary. Discard the bacon bits. Put the bowl in the fridge until you're ready to serve.
Step 7: Fry Brioche and Caramelize
Fry the brioche soldiers in butter. The original recipe calls for clarified butter, but we decided it would look more toasty if it was more browned. Once you've done all sides, set aside on a kitchen towel. Then clean the frypan, turn up the heat, and put a layer of caster sugar in the pan. Melt it, then coat the soldiers in the caramelized sugar. Set aside on a silicone tray, wash the frypan, and do another batch. We did about 8-10 at a time.
Step 8: Flash Freeze and Serve
Ladle some of the eggy mixture into a stainless steel bowl, and add liquid nitrogen while stirring with a wooden spoon (crushed dry ice works well, too). Spoon on to a plate containing a soldier or two, and serve. Maple syrup an optional extra.
We had 14 people try the dessert, and everyone liked it, even my youngest son who doesn't like ice cream & my wife, who doesn't like bacon. It's very sweet, very rich and incredibly smooth, and the bacon flavor is strong but far from overpowering. The brioche soldiers are crunchy on the outside & soft in the middle. As Blumenthal says, it's "all about overturning expectations". It looks and even smells like hot scrambled eggs & bacon on toast, but instead it's a frozen sweet treat. It's lots of fun to make & serve - highly recommended!
Note: the dry ice version is undoubtedly safer and it will be easier to obtain than liquid nitrogen. If you leave excess dry ice in the ice cream, it will also be fizzy (but don't leave any big chunks in there)! Liquid nitrogen should be handled using stainless steel dewars only, as glass vacuum flasks have a nasty habit of imploding and that will seriously ruin your dessert and your eyesight. Liquid nitrogen is reasonably safe otherwise, as the Leidenfrost effect ensures that burns only occur with extended contact. So treat it with respect, but really, it is a lot safer than boiling water to handle.
Finalist in the
Food Science Challenge