heston blumenthal’s egg and bacon ice cream
Heston Blumenthal was born in West London in 1966. His childhood fed many of his culinary fantasies he was to later draw upon and revisit: from fish and chips at Norman’s Plaice, to ice cream at the Regent Snack Bar. Breakfast and ice cream recur throughout his career, and the confluence of those is one I’m going to look at and cook today: egg and bacon ice cream.
This recipe, like so many of Heston’s, was born out of obsession and one of the first foods he investigated in depth at The Fat Duck restaurant. He wanted to find the perfect creamy mixture, with bold flavours, and yet not tasting too eggy. Not every ice cream recipe needs eggs but egg is an emulsifier that suspends butterfat particles and creates richer, creamier ice cream that stores really well. Searching for the perfect ice cream he began to experiment with all the variables, tweaking egg volume, freezing time, sugar content. After pushing received wisdom that custard bases should be cooked no higher than 85°c, his pastry chef Jocky Petrie commented that the overheated result “looked just like scrambled egg”. This eureka moment sent Heston off in a breakfast direction, remembering how much egg and bacon was a special treat growing up. After some refinement the dish first appeared on the menu at the Fat Duck restaurant in 2000.
It might surprise you that this recipe uses milk powder. Heston has long favoured ice cream recipes with a low sugar content. Not for dietary reasons, but to create a denser texture and heightened flavours. Because of reduced fat and sugar, this recipe is high in egg yolks. The skimmed milk powder stops the ice cream from crystallising to create richness yet light and clean.
There are two published versions of the recipe: the uber-recipe from The Fat Duck Cookbook is an unsurprisingly complex and multi-layered affair, with tea jellies and tomato compotes. But there’s also the comparatively laid back version in Heston at Home, which is what I’ve emulated here: with the ice cream served with an egg-soaked bread and candied bacon. Much more approachable and likely more crowd pleasing.
The original recipe requires dry ice. I wasn’t willing to stretch to this – I can’t find it for under £37 – but instead used my ice cream maker for the final step. It may not be truly authentic but at least it’s Heston’s own endorsed model?
The result is a surprising and playful dessert that combines sweet, creamy ice cream with the savoury and smoky flavours of bacon. The Egg and Bacon Ice Cream reflects Blumenthal’s signature style of molecular gastronomy, where he combines unexpected ingredients and techniques to create unconventional but delicious dishes.
It is terrific. Really, super tasty. If you like dishes that combine sweet and salty flavours this is the one for you. The ice cream has a sweet but smoky flavour with a slightly ‘chunky’ texture and is a real winner. But the pain perdu / french toast / eggy bread is stunning. With a glass-like finish and sweet, chewy middle it’s sensational and worth having with other desserts.
egg and bacon ice cream
- Ice cream machine
For the ice cream base:
- 66 g sweet-cured smoked back bacon
- 166 g full-cream milk
- 5 g semi-skimmed milk powder
- 4 large egg yolks
- 20 g caster sugar
For the pain perdu:
- clarified butter
- 2 slices brioche stale (refrigerate overnight in a container to speed this up)
- 100 g milk
- 1 egg
- 10 g golden caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the caramelised bacon:
- 2 slices smoked bacon
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
For the ice cream base and caramelised bacon:
- To start the ice-cream base, preheat the grill to high. Lay the bacon slices on a baking tray lined with baking paper and place under the grill for 5-7 minutes or until crisp.
- At the same time mix the syrup, salt and sugar together and then brush on two more bacon slices and grill with the other bacon. When this is cooked refrigerate until needed.
- When the initial bacon is cooked, drain on kitchen paper and cut it into strips. Place in a bowl, pour over the milk then refrigerate to infuse overnight.
- The next day, put the milk and bacon into a saucepan and add the milk powder. Place over a medium-low heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Remove from the heat and strain off the bacon.
- In the meantime, blitz the egg yolks and sugar together using a hand blender. Combine the egg mixture with the warm milk and return the pan to the heat. Warm the liquid until it just reaches 90ºC.
- Once this temperature has been reached, remove the pan from the heat and pass the ice-cream base through a fine sieve into a clean container over iced water, pushing the custard through with the back of a spoon. Transfer to an ice cream machine and churn until done. Freeze until needed.
For the pain perdu:
- Mix the egg, milk, vanilla and sugar together. Dunk the bread in to soak for 20 minutes. After this time remove the bread to a rack to drain for a couple of minutes.
- Melt a tablespoon of clarified butter in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add the bread and fry on all sides, remove and place on paper towel to absorb any excess fat.
- Wipe the pan out then place it over a medium-high heat. Add enough sugar to cover the bottom of the pan and allow to melt.
- Once the sugar has completely melted and caramelised, add the bread and cover every side. Once coated on all sides, remove the bread from the pan, place on a silicone mat and allow to cool.
- To serve, scoop the ice cream into a serving bowl (I used an egg cup). Place a slice of crystallised bacon on top and serve with pain perdu on the side.