I've been thinking about mixing bread, cake or pastry of some sort into ice cream for a little while now. In particular, I knew pumpernickel goes well with chocolate so I've had that on my to do list. I had an inkling that the texture there wouldn't be the greatest so I've been holding off. But now that I've got a quarter loaf of pumpernickel going stale in my kitchen there's never been a better time. I thought it would just be chocolate ice cream with chunks of bread, but I recently came across some thoughts on the matter by Michael Laiskonis, executive pastry chef at Le Bernardin, in his blog. I was researching browned butter ice cream which I've been seeing pop up in cooking competitions recently. (There are stability issues, but I've got a bag of xantham gum so I may give it a shot.) He talked about making ice cream flavored with french toast and Twinkies and said the trick was soaking the baked goods in the milk and cream and then blending it all together. It seemed worth a shot with pumpernickel too.
I used 1 1/2 cups milk and 1 1/2 cups heavy cream and soaked maybe 2 cups of pumpernickel bread cut up in cubes overnight. The bread was a bit stale and pretty hearty to start with so it held together pretty well. If it hadn't, I had considered just mashing up the bread by hand, but instead into the food processor it went.
Along with the bread and dairy went 1/4 cup Nutella, 1/4 cup cream cheese (which cuts the bright flavor of the Nutella and gives it a bit more of a cheesecake sort of flavor, particularly when it's been around a little while and has started getting a little tangy.), 2 Tablespoons Dutch process cocoa, 3/4 cup sugar, a dash of salt and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla.
Once it was done I decided the pumpernickel flavor was getting a little lost so I crumbled the slice I had left and added it to the mix before chilling it overnight.
The next day the mix had thickened up quite a bit and the crumbs had fallen apart a little. It also wasn't quite as flavorful as I had hoped so I mixed in a bit more sugar and cocoa (included in the amounts I mentioned) before putting it into the churn. It froze up quickly--too quickly, really--as I ended up with thick layers of unaerated ice cream stuck to the side and bottom of the bucket that I had to chisel off and mix in frequently. Next time I have a mix that looks likely to do that I should let it and the bucket sit out on the counter for ten minutes before starting. Remind me of that, would you? Thanks.
The mix thickened up nearly to the point of stopping the motor, which no ice cream had managed with my relatively powerful Cuisinart churn before. When I noticed I added another big dollop of Nutella and a teaspoon of caraway seeds. I tried to turn the churn back on to mix them through, but the static friction was too much and it wouldn't get started. So I dished it out and mixed it by hand. I think I managed to distribute them nicely enough.
The final result is a bit of a mixed bag. First, the flavors of both the Nutella and the bread are muted at freezing temperatures so it's a very mild ice cream unless you let it sit out until it's almost melted. But if you do, that pleasant pairing is there just the way I was hoping. The texture is quite unusual and I'm not sure I entirely like it. Crumbling that last bit of bread in resulted in fully distributed crumbs like a mouthful of cake a la mode. I could have given it another few minutes in the food processor but I don't think smooth and/or creamy was really an option. A finer grain would have just made the mix even more closely resemble concrete. On the other hand, the Nutella swirl and sprinkling of caraway seeds create pleasant bursts of flavor--rather unexpectedly in the later case. I think there are some real possibilities in using seeds in ice cream: anise and sesame are two strong candidates for livening up fruit-flavored sherbets I think. Overall, this was an interesting experiment with some strong points. I could see making other ventures in this general area.