a stroll down memory lane & toasted “brown bread” ice cream

During grad school, my friend Melissa and I used to frequent an ice cream shop in Hollywood called Scoops.  It was our treat after a full day at work, and the agonizing 4-hour forensic microscopy class that followed.  Aside from the animated mornings at the morgue, and the multiple scoops of sweet, iced butterfat before bed, my days were dreadful.  Dread.  Full.  Dealing with a certain professor and the grades she handed out was supremely dreadful.  But, I digress.  I made it through.  All that’s ancient history now.

Tai, the owner of Scoops, is an artisan ice cream designer.  All of his ice creams are unique.  Banana Oreo, maple bacon (yes, I know it’s everywhere now), strawberry Riesling, pear and goat cheese, and Guinness tiramisu are just a few of his formulations.  Tai has a suggest-a-flavor board at the shop where patrons can write down suggestions, so presumably, some of what he makes is based on someone else’s munchie-powered idea.  Not important.  Flavors vary daily, but what remains his most popular scoop, is the brown bread ice cream– a sweet base with crunchy, spiced bits mixed throughout.  So so good.

It’s been years since I’ve felt the torment of grad school and joy of Scoops, and only one of those was worth experiencing again.  Hint: it has nothing to do with refractive indices or polarizing microscopes.  This treasure had to be shared.

Brown bread baby, it’s good to have you back!

Materials (makes 1.5 quarts, adapted from David Lebovitz)

For the ice cream:
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup sour cream
6 egg yolks
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp bourbon


For the brown bread:
1/3 cup grapenuts cereal
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon


“Brown bread” crumbs
1. In a small skillet, melt butter and allow it to brown.  You don’t have to, but the nuttyness of it complements the bourbon.

2. Add cereal crumbs, sugar and cinnamon, and stir well to coat.  Cook for about 5 minutes, and set aside.  Store in an airtight container until ice cream is ready.

The brown bread crumbs can be made a day ahead or the day the ice cream is churned.  The first time I made this ice cream, I thought the cereal crumbs were just a bit too hard and crunchy, so I’ve since been soaking them in 1/3 cup water, and making sure all the water’s absorbed before mixing into the ice cream.


Ice cream
1. Combine milk, 1 cup cream, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan and heat on medium-low heat.  Do not let boil.

2. Pour the other 1 cup cream into a bowl, add sour cream and set a fine mesh strainer over the top of the bowl.

3. In a second bowl, whisk the yolks.

4. Remove the milk mixture off the heat, and in a slow and steady stream, pour about a cup of the heated milk into the yolks, while whisking.  This is to temper the eggs so they’re not shocked and scrambled when they meet the rest of the milk.

5. Again, working slowly, pour the tempered eggs back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk, and return to low heat.  Stirring constantly with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, cook the custard until it coats the back of your chosen utensil.  Do not let boil.  Custard is cooked at about 175  degrees F, so if you’re using a culinary thermometer, don’t go over that.

6. Pour cooked custard over the strainer into the bowl containing the cream and sour cream bowl, add gently whisk until smooth.

7. Add vanilla and bourbon, and stir.  Allow ice cream base to cool in the refrigerator overnight, then process per ice cream maker’s manufacturer’s instructions.

8. About 5 minutes before the end of the churning process, add the “brown bread” crumbs.

Thanks, Tai for the great idea, the sweet memories and your contribution to my grad school “freshman 15.”


vanilla bean bourbon caramel sauce

Though I usually don’t adulterate ice cream, I somehow convinced myself that I need this caramel sauce.  The intimidation must’ve come from the few tablespoons of bourbon a recent day of Hot Toddy healing left behind.  Save it, it was a small bottle.  And by the way, in case of illness, an army of Hot Toddies is your ally.  It lets you sweat out the sick, take seven naps in two hours and forget that you can’t hear anything other than the aggressive whistle of the tea kettle.

Caramel sauce isn’t just for ice cream topping.  It’s for filling cupcakes, spiking frosting, swirling ice cream ribbons, and, if you’re watching your calories, dipping apples.  This jar o’ meltedsugarbutterohyeah reminds me of why I take power walks.

Water meets sugar.  Syrup meets cream.  Vanilla and bourbon crash the party.  Not much to it, but do practice patience, and forget that a watched pot never boils.  If you don’t watch, this pot not only boils, but it’ll make you regret the last 17 minutes of your life.  Watch it.  Then get on with the indulging.  It’s sweater season.


Materials (makes about a cup)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup butter, cut into 1 Tbsp pats, at room temperature
1 vanilla bean, split, cut and scraped
1 tablespoon bourbon


1. Heat water and sugar in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and allow to simmer on medium-low heat for about 18-21 minutes.  Don’t stir or whisk, but if you must, you can gently swirl.

2. After 15-20 minutes, the sugar will morph into a hardened, crystallized mass, but don’t worry.  Within a minute or so, it will melt back into a golden syrup that will shortly turn amber.

3. Lower the heat, and slowly and carefully pour in the cream (be careful: mixture will bubble and create a scalding steam).  Whisk until smooth.

4. Remove saucepan from heat, add butter, vanilla bean seeds and bourbon, and whisk to combine.

A few notes:

  1. Make sure you have a dedicated 25 minutes to this process.  It’s not all active time, but the sauce goes from ideal color and temperature to burnt in seconds.
  2. Have the cream measured out and ready to pour.  At this step, there’s no time to waste looking for anything.
  3. Because of the cream, this caramel sauce can’t be canned.  However, it does keep well in the fridge for about a week.
  4. Sugar will slightly crystallize at refrigeration, so just warm the sauce before use and it will return to its original smooth texture.