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Irish Brown Bread Ice Cream


Transform vanilla ice cream with sweetened breadcrumbs.

Brown bread ice cream is unique to Ireland. Just as other European cuisines have their own iconic dishes used to stretch the last of ingredients which might otherwise go stale. Since home baked Soda bread is best eaten within a day or two of baking, you don’t want to waste any.  It is wonder simply spread with butter on the first day, fabulous toasted on the second day but, by day three, it might be more brick than brioche. Brown bread ice cream was a way to use up the old (not quite stale) bread. Similar traditions exist in cuisines all over the world. In France the 'pain perdu', is used in many different recipes. In Italian cuisine, 'gremolata' dishes make use of the day old bread, turning the stale bread into breadcrumbs, and in England, bread and butter pudding makes use of the nearly stale sliced pan.

An English friend of mine was bemused one day when I mentioned the ‘heel of the loaf’ – a term she had never heard of to describe the crusty end slices. Just as every English language speaking country has colloquial terms, every country seems to have a recipe up its sleeve for using up stale bread. From panzanella to pangritata, fattoush to bread and butter pudding, the uses for breadcrumbs and stale leftover bread are many and varied.

Our answer, is brown bread ice cream. The combination of creamy vanilla ice cream with crunchy, caramelized, toasty crumbs is an absolute winner. Green grass from our cool, damp climate enables our cows to produce rich thick milk and cream, perfect for ice cream. This could explain our abiding love of a random scoop, in all weathers. The rise of food markets means we can now access small Irish producers selling handmade ice cream in hipster flavours such as gin and tonic, sea salt and seaweed, as well as rediscovering some old favourites like this brown bread ice cream. When we hosted International visitors for an Irish Cooking Class in my previous Cooking School in Dublin, I loved to see the jaw-dropping reaction of the international guests when they made brown bread ice cream from scratch. My recipe uses brown soda bread. It is the quickest and easiest bread to bake and means the ice cream has a true taste of Ireland. Different flavours such as fruit compote, rum and raisin and praline can be added to this basic vanilla ice cream recipe. The next time you turn to throw out the heels, why not immediately crumble and freeze them, ready for the next batch of ice cream?

Ingredients (Makes 1 pint of ice cream):

For The Brown Soda Bread - 

  • 200g coarse wholemeal flour
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bread soda, sieved
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 300ml buttermilk

For Brown Bread Ice Cream - 

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 100g caster sugar
  • half a vanilla pod, seeds
  • 300ml cream
  • 100ml milk
  • 100g brown bread (preferably crusty end slices)
  • 30g dark muscovado sugar
  • 1-2 tsp water


  1. For brown soda bread, Preheat oven to 210°C fan and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix together the wholemeal flour, plain flour, bread soda and salt.  Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk, stirring with four to five turns of a spatula to a soft, sticky dough.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a well floured work surface. With well floured hands, roll the dough around gently to tidy it up, then turn it over and shape it into a patty. Transfer to the lined baking sheet, score a deep cross over the surface and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes until well risen and golden in colour. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  3. For the caramelized breadcrumbs, blitz bread and sugar to fine crumbs, stir in a little water to moisten. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and spread the crumbs on the centre of the tray. 
  4. Bake in an oven preheated to 200°C fan for 10 minutes, until crispened but not burnt, set aside to cool.
  5. For the ice cream:  Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until the mixture is thick and leaves a ribbon like trail.
  6. In a saucepan, bring the cream and milk to a simmer with the scraped seeds from the vanilla pod.  First whisk a third of the scalded cream mixture into the eggs and sugar, then continue whisking in the remaining hot cream.  Return to the cleaned saucepan, and stir over a gentle heat for approximately 10 minutes until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
  7. Transfer to a clean bowl to cool. When cool, transfer to the freezer and stir the ice cream every hour for 4 hours until just set frozen (and no longer slushy in the middle). Once set, stir in at least half the toasted sweetened breadcrumbs and refreeze.
  8. When serving, sprinkle the remaining caramelized breadcrumbs over the ice cream.


See my recipe published in the Irish Times Weekend Magazine.

If you liked this recipe, why not take a look at our ONLINE Ultimate Irish Cooking Course?  This at-your-own-pace on demand course is full of more traditional authentic Irish recipes like this one. Get a taste of the Emerald Isle at home! Find out more HERE.



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