One of the things I miss most about living in London is the sense of adventure my husband J. and I had in our determination to explore a new neighborhood each weekend. On a sun-filled early autumn afternoon we window-shopped the stylish boutiques of Marylebone. The highlight of our trip was a tiny, now-defunct Italian food shop with a selection of fresh salads, sandwiches and imported products lining its simple white shelves. What caught our attention was the small case of homemade ice creams, and when the owner behind the counter said he served them on a brioche bun, we couldn’t refuse.
It was an ice cream sandwich unlike anything we ever had consumed in the States with the American version stacked between two thin cookies. We left the shop and made our way to the bench diagonal across the street to share our purchase. We haven’t forgotten how the buttery brioche absorbed the vanilla ice cream as it slowly melted. After years of J.’s requests, I finally made brioche ice cream sandwiches. As a nod to the flavors of Sicily where I learned this treat originates, I made roasted almond ice cream. A world away from that street corner in London, we enjoyed our ice cream sandwiches in the midwestern sun on our back deck.
Makes 12 ice cream sandwiches
For brioche buns
1/4 cup warm water
2 teaspoons dry active yeast
2-1/3 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1-1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg whisked with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash
For roasted almond ice cream
1 cup whole almonds
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
6 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
For brioche buns:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the water and yeast and let sit for 5 minutes until the yeast becomes foamy. Add 1/3 cup flour and stir to make a sponge. Cover the bowl and let the sponge rise and fall when the bowl is tapped, about 30 minutes.
Combine the remaining bread flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl.
Beat the eggs into the sponge at medium speed until fully incorporated. On low speed, add the flour mixture to form a soft dough. Beat in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time making sure it is fully incorporated after each addition. The dough will be very sticky and smooth.
Cover the bowl and let the dough chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Line a sheet pan with parchment. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll the dough into balls and place them on the prepared sheet pan. Cover the dough and let rise until the buns have doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the buns with egg wash and bake for 15-20 minutes until deep golden brown.
For roasted almond ice cream:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the almonds in a single layer on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. Toast the almonds for 5-7 minutes until they are fragrant. Let the almonds cool before finely chopping.
Place 1 cup heavy cream in a large bowl and set aside.
Heat the remaining heavy cream, milk, sugar and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Slowly whisk half the cream mixture into the egg yolks and then return to the saucepan. Stir continuously until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Pour the cream mixture through a fine mesh strainer into the bowl with the heavy cream. Stir in the almonds and almond extract.
Cool the mixture over an ice bath and refrigerate until cooled completely.
Churn in an ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s instructions.
For ice cream sandwiches:
Split the buns and sandwich a scoop of ice cream in between the halves. Serve immediately.