Miso Walnut Cakes with Espresso Buttercream


It feels odd to write about cake with everything that has been happening this week. But with all the terrifying stories in the news, I guess we could all use some cheering up right about now. So cake it is. More specifically miso walnut cakes with espresso buttercream.

Coffee and Walnut is a classic cake pairing. So while I did not want to mess with the original idea too much, it was about time Miso and Walnut met in a sweet context. For quite some time now, one of my go-to easy dinners has been Heidi Swanson’s recipe for Miso Walnut Noodles. You make a pesto of sorts with walnuts, olive oil, garlic, white miso, some vinegar, honey and salt and that you stir through some pasta. The bitterness and delicate crunch of the walnuts is the perfect contrast to the creamy and sweet and slightly funky-tasting miso – the paste is so good I tend to make a big batch to keep in the fridge for sandwiches, cooked pasta and greens.

While Heidi’s Miso Walnut Noodles are decidedly savoury, her recipe made me realize how well walnuts and miso go together. And we already know how much I like using miso in sweets. While it lends a beautiful savoury note to custards and caramel or butterscotch (and in a less direct and less aggressive way than sea salt does), baking with miso I noticed how it can make things taste ‘malty’. A brilliant discovery when malted milk powder can be hard to track down and given my fridge already sports several jars of miso.


These little miso walnut cakes don’t contain a whole lot of miso. Like salt, miso is powerful and a mere teaspoon is enough to give these cakes a bit of a malty flavour and really underline the flavour of the toasted walnuts. The cakes are topped with a lick of espresso buttercream – enough for these little cakes to feel a bit more indulgent but without being cloying.


Miso Walnut Cakes with Espresso Buttercream

Note: Makes 6 small cakes. Recipe for the espresso buttercream lightly adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Book


50g walnuts (plus 6 additional walnut halves for decoration if you like)
50g brown rice flour
75g butter, at room temperature
50g light muscovado sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 tsp white miso

For the espresso buttercream
40g soft butter
125g icing sugar
2 tsp soluble espresso powder
2 tbsp milk


Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease a 6 hole muffin tin (or 6 similarly sized individual cake tins such as friand moulds).

Toast the walnuts in a dry pan on medium heat until fragrant, being careful not to burn them. Pulse in a food processor until the walnuts turn into a fine meal (but before they start turning into walnut butter!). Add the rice flour and whisk to combine. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat the soft butter with the sugar until pale in colour and doubled in volume (this should take ca. 4-5 minutes). Add the egg yolks and the miso paste and beat well to incorporate. Incorporate the flour and walnut mixture 3 portions, mixing well in between each addition.

Beat the egg whites until stiff before carefully folding them into the batter.

Carefully distribute the batter between the muffin tin holes/cake tins.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until well risen and the cakes are just starting to colour.

Leave the cakes to cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing them from their tins and placing on a cookie rack to cool down completely.

To make the buttercream beat the butter with the icing sugar and espresso powder on medium speed until combined (the mixture will look impossibly dry at first but should come together after 3-4 minutes). Add the milk and continue beating util the mixture is light and fluffy (at least 5 minutes). Using a spoon or a small spatula, carefully spread about 1 scant tablespoon of buttercream on top of each small cake. Decorate with the walnut halves if using.


Rye Molasses Ginger Snaps


I don’t know whether this is the same in every family, but in ours, my mum is the most adventurous eater, never afraid to try new things and always on the lookout for that one item on the menu she has never tried before. By contrast Gustav (my dad, but us four kids all call him by his first name), prefers to play it safe when eating out. If there is a steak or a nice piece of grilled fish on the menu, he will likely order it. Inevitably this results in food envy when my mum ends up stumbling upon yet another unknown-to-us but utterly brilliant dish. And it is funny really, while Gustav may hesitate to order a new-to-him dish in a restaurant, he likes strong flavors more than anyone in our family.

He adores smelly cheese (mainly French n his case but as long as the cheese is really smelly and nicely ripe and soft, Gustav will likely like it) and while I love a good smelly cheese now, as a child, seated next to my dad for all our meals, I found the smell almost unbearable. Lately, Gustav is really into his fermented foods. A Christmas present of Sandor Katz’ book on fermentation kick-started an already nascent Kimchee operation in my parents’ conservatory. And then came the fermented sodas (which sound stranger than they are – I had a lacto-fermented quince soda at Semilla in Brooklyn last autumn and it was all kinds of delicious, similar to what you might expect to taste if someone offered you quince ‘cider’). But one thing I never understood until recently was his love of all things ginger. He must be one of the few people I know who actually enjoy the chewy ginger candies you can buy in what look like small cigarette packs in Chinese supermarkets.

With its undeniably soapy flavour, ginger can be an acquired taste. And it certainly was for me. Yet, the older I get, I have come to not only appreciate but in fact enjoy its flavour – sweet yet fiery – most recently in an incredible risotto that included both anchovies and small pieces of candied ginger Alessandro and I enjoyed at Marzapane in Rome. So it was no surprise that when I picked up Claire Ptak’s new book The Violet Bakery Cookbook, I was immediately drawn to the Chewy Ginger Snaps – with the wet and rather cold start to autumn we have been having here in Brussels, there is little I would rather like to do than sit on the sofa with a good book (currently reading this!), a steaming mug of homemade chai and a heavily spiced cookie like one of these ginger snaps.


Rye Molasses Ginger Snaps

Adapted from The Violet Bakery Cookbook

Notes: Claire writes that the recipe yields 12 cookies – what I was not quite expecting was that by 12 cookies she meant 12 cookies the size of your palm. While I am used to seeing and eating chocolate chip cookies that are that big, when it comes to ginger snap cookies I am used to seeing them in much smaller sizes, roughly the size of a slice of cucumber maybe. So just bear this in mind if you make these. The dough can obviously be divided into much smaller pieces for smaller cookies and that way should easily yield 18-24 cookies (just make sure to reduce the baking time accordingly). Claire rolls her cookies in caster sugar before baking which I skipped when I made these – next time I may follow her advice but use a flavoured sugar like cinnamon or cardamom sugar instead of plain caster sugar.


200g wholemeal rye flour
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
1.5 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground black cardamom
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground coriander
Pinch of salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g candied ginger, chopped finely
125g softened butter
100g dark brown sugar
100g molasses
1.5 tsp boiling water


Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line two sheetpans with parchment paper.

In large bowl mix the rye flour with the spices, the salt, the bicarbonate of soda and the chopped ginger. Set aside.

In a separate bowl mix the softened butter with the brown sugar until light and fluffy (this will take about 5 minutes). Add the molasses and beat to combine. Add the boiling water, followed by the dry ingredients. Mix until you have a smooth dough.

Divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll each into a ball. Place six balls on each sheetpan. Flatten each ball slightly using a spatula or the palms of your hands.

Bake for ca. 15 minutes or until the tops are starting to crack but the cookies are still somewhat soft in the middle (they will firm up as the cookie cool).


Cinnamon and Walnut Babka


_MG_0497After a summer of more Amazon packages carrying cookbooks arriving than I would like to admit, autumn so far has been all about making the most of them. Tara O’Brady has had me rediscover the brilliance and simplicity of a good dal (followed by her simply delectable chocolate chip cookies – it is all about the melted butter!). She also introduced me to a fresh chutney made with green apple and copious amounts of coriander which will become a staple in my kitchen. And Amy Chaplin’s At Home in the Wholefoods Kitchen has not only upped my game when it comes to preparing legumes, her stunning book also introduced me to Miso Mayonnaise. Simple yet delicious. Most recently, Heidi Swanson‘s Near and Far had me thoroughly enjoying Saag Paneer for dinner several nights in a row and enjoying an unexpectedly wonderful dessert of goat yoghurt topped with her saffron infused honey.

All of which is to say, there is some comfort in following a (good!) recipe rather than simply trying to make the most of the ingredients in your fridge. Someone has already done the heavy lifting for you and thought about the proportions of the main ingredients, flavour pairings and seasoning. All of those can of course be adjusted, but it is nice to have a solid base to start with. And one such solid base is the enriched dough recipe in Honey & Co: The Baking Book, the first step in making their famous babkas.

Similar to the Krantz cake of Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem fame, the Honey & Co Babka consists of a sweet enriched dough that is wrapped around all manner of fillings – chocolate, cinnamon and hazelnuts, tahini and white chocolate or a poppyseed filling that reminds me of the Mohnstrudel of my childhood in Germany. And while I have resisted the lure of the Jerusalem Krantz cake to date, I found myself unable to stop thinking about the Honey & Co babka and once I tried their recipe, unable to stop making it: in the past month or so, I have made the babka three times. Over that time, I have slowly adapted the recipe until I was happy with how it worked in my kitchen (and until the filling to dough ratio was spot on). Here are some tips I picked up along the way:

– the recipe mentions you can substitute the fresh yeast asked for with dried yeast. I don’t generally have fresh yeast at home (unless you count my sourdough starter Hugo) so I have been using dried active yeast instead (I use the Allinson bread – I pick up 2 tins every time I am in London). If using dried active yeast, I found it worked best to dissolve the yeast in the milk before adding it to the dough. This not only makes it easier to distribute the yeast evenly in the dough, but is also a neat way of checking whether your yeast is still alive.
– if you have a stand mixer, by all means use this for kneading the dough. For a small amount of flour as is required here I am quite happy to knead by hand. But, and here is the but, the dough is very sticky initially and it will take about 15 minutes to turn it into a smooth ball if kneading by hand (good for anger management though)
– while the recipe asks for room temperature butter, I am the first person to forget to take the butter out of the fridge in the morning if I want to bake in the evening. But, I am glad to report that the recipe works equally well with melted butter as it does with room temperature butter
– ensure the babka can proof somewhere warm. If your kitchen is anything like mine, it is probably too cold, hovering just above the 20 degree mark, and the proofing times will be off. One way to get around this is to let the dough rise while running the washing machine or tumble dryer and placing the bowl with the proofing dough on a chair in front of it. That being said, don’t expect the dough to grow to double its size while proofing – it is ready when the dough is puffy and when pressed gently with a finger the dent will only slowly disappear.

_MG_0492Cinnamon and Walnut Babka

Note: Recipe for the babka dough is only very very slightly adapted from Honey & Co: The Baking Book. The filling recipe can be easily adapted using different nuts or spices (almond and cinnamon would work equally well or pumpkin seed and mixed spice). Similarly, you can make the syrup without honey (just substitute the same amount of sugar in weight) and can be flavoured with different spices or with orange blossom water for example.


For the babka dough

2 tsp dried active yeast
100ml milk
330g wholemeal spelt flour
40g sugar
Pinch of sea salt
1 egg
90g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, at room temperature

For the cinnamon and walnut filling

75g soft butter
100g sugar
100g walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon

For the syrup
100ml water
60g sugar
40g honey
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 cloves


Start with the babka dough. Warm the milk in a small saucepan until hot to the touch. Add the yeast and set aside for 10 minutes or until bubbly.

In a large bowl, add the flour, sugar, salt, egg and the butter. Add the yeast mixture. Using your hands or a mixer, mix until everything comes together in a shaggy and sticky ball of dough. If using a stand mixer, knead for ca. 8-10 minutes or until the dough is perfectly smooth and no longer sticky – alternatively, turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead by hand until it is perfectly smooth and no longer sticky, this should take around 15 minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover, and set aside for 30 minutes.

While the babka dough is resting, prepare the filling. Add the butter, sugar, walnuts and cinnamon to the container of a food processor. Pulse until the walnuts are chopped finely and the mixture comes together.

Grease a loaf pan with butter and line with parchment paper.

To assemble the babka, place the dough on a floured surface and roll out to a 30x50cm rectangle (don’t worry if the edges are a bit uneven – no one will be able to tell once the babka is baked!). Brush off any excess flour with a pastry brush, then add the filling and try and distribute it as evenly as possibly – there won’t be enough filling to cover the entire rectangle in a layer of it (I found that much filling overpowering in previous tests) but try and ensure it is evenly spread across the dough.

Carefully roll up the babka starting from the long side. The easiest way to do this is to first fold the edge of the dough in over itself as tightly as possible starting from one end of the dough and slowly working your way to the other end. From then on you should be able to roll up the entire dough using both hands and resting the heels of your hands on the folded dough and gently rolling your hands forward.

Roll the dough so that the seam is facing downwards. With a sharp knife or a pastry cutter, cut the roll in two halves along the long side. Turn the dough slightly to ensure the cut side is facing upwards on both pieces. Pinch the ends together on one side then gently twist the two pieces of dough, pinching the other ends together as well. Carefully push on both ends to compress the twisted strands of dough until they are about the length of your loaf pan. Using both hands, carefully place the babka into the prepared loaf pan. Cover and let proof somewhere warm for ca. 1.5-2h or until risen and puffy and a dent made in the dough with a finger will only slowly disappear.

While the babka is proofing, preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Once the babka is proofed, bake for 30-40 minutes until well risen, springy to the touch and golden brown in colour.

While the babka is baking, prepare the syrup. Combine the water, sugar, honey and spices in a small saucepan and bring to a boil on medium heat. Wait for the sugar to be dissolved completely, then continue boiling until the syrup just starts to thicken slightly. Immediately pour the hot syrup over the babka – you may not need all the syrup.

Leave the babka to cool in the pan before turning it out.

The babka should keep 3-4 days at room temperature.


Preserved Lemon and Almond Cake


Certain recipes do not really warrant an introduction given how well known (and well loved!) they are. Claudia Roden’s Orange and Almond Cake is one of those recipes. A fat-free sponge made with whole oranges (cooked until soft) and ground almonds instead of flour, the final cake is more than the sum of its parts. Simple in appearance, the cake is deliciously moist and incredibly perfumed thanks to the use of two whole oranges per cake.

In fact, it is so good that once you start making it, it becomes difficult to stop. My parents went through a long phase of cooking oranges in batches (the process takes about 1 hour) and freezing the orange pulp so the cake was that little bit quicker to prepare once another craving for Claudia Roden’s delicious cake struck.

I read Helena Atlee’s The Land Where Lemons Grow with great interest during the summer. And while I most certainly do not have a green thumb it was nonetheless fascinating to read about the origins of the different citrus fruits we now eat on an almost daily basis, how revered ornamental citrus trees once were and the impact the appearance (and disappearance) of certain types of citrus has had on local economies all over Italy. Reading about some of the challenges of growing citrus (and the sudden mutations that can happen) has made me appreciate even more the subtly varying flavours different citrus fruits have.

There are a couple of lemon varieties native to Morocco, typically called citron beldi (i.e. traditional lemon). What they have in common is that they are rather small in size (not much larger than a ping pong ball) and coloured bright yellow that almost tinges into orange. They are incredibly fragrant with a perfume not unlike that of bergamot lemons (the flavour we all recognise from Earl Grey Tea). Their most famous use is probably in preserved lemons – one of the key ingredients of many delicious Moroccan tagines.

If you can get your hands on citron beldi or similarly profumed lemon varieties such as meyer lemons, it is very easy to make preserved lemons at home (David Lebovitz has a simple recipe on his website). In theory you can use whatever lemons (ideally organic) you can find at the market, but the flavour will be slightly different using normal varieties. Failing that, most Middle Eastern and North African delis will sell preserved lemons by weight these days.

In addition to flavouring tagines, preserved lemons are also a wonderful addition to salads, they can serve as the base for a North African twist on gremolata to finish off rich stews (substituting finely diced preserved lemon peel and coriander for the lemon zest and parsley) and can be used for all manners of different marinades, especially for fish. But one should not stop there. Given how fragrant they are, I was curious to see how a cake made with preserved lemon would taste. And what better recipe to adapt than Claudia Roden’s Orange and Almond Cake.

Preserved Lemon and Almond Cake

Adapted from Claudia Roden

Notes: If you love lemon flavoured cakes, you will love this cake. It is true that preserved lemons are stored in a salty brine, but once you rinse off the lemons and boil them in water, the saltiness is neutralised. So all the preserved lemons impart to the cake is their beautiful perfume. And the ground coriander? Earthy yet zesty in flavour, the small amount of this spice tames the perfume of the preserved lemons just enough to ensure the cake does not taste overly perfumed or soapy. In short, if you have been wondering what to make with that jar of preserved lemons lurching at the back of your fridge, make this cake!

4 preserved lemons
6 eggs
250g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
250g sugar
1/2 tsp ground coriander


In a medium saucepan boil the preserved lemons for ca. 20 minutes or until soft. Drain and set aside.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease a round springform and line with parchment paper.

Cut the lemons in half, remove the seeds, then add the lemons to the bowl of a food processor. Process until roughly chopped. Add the eggs, ground almonds, baking powder, sugar and ground coriander and process until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared springform. Bake for ca. 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the springform before serving.

The cake will keep ca. 5 days at room temperature.

(The recipe is easily halved. If so, reduce the baking time to ca. 30 minutes and start checking for doneness around 25 minutes.)

Turmeric Tonic


That nasty sore throat I brought back from my summer holiday? It is thankfully long gone. What is not gone is my mild obsession with turmeric, especially fresh turmeric. While I always have powdered turmeric at home to cook with, I only recently started buying fresh turmeric (mainly because my local organic supermarket only recently started stocking it).

So, while I was still soothing that sore throat, one day I decided to make turmeric tea using fresh turmeric instead. And it was nothing short of a revelation. While I used to dutifully sip mug after mug of turmeric tea to help my at times battered immune system, I cannot say I ever much enjoyed its flavour (and in fact I always tried to hide it underneath copious amounts of honey). Yet the same tea made with fresh turmeric tea is positively delicious because the balance of flavours of fresh turmeric is completely different. Fresh, the root has a really bright and almost zesty flavour, sweet yet earthy. And that acrid flavour that can be overpowering when using dried turmeric? It is barely noticeable in the fresh root. Fresh turmeric is so delicious in fact, I now happily drink turmeric tea and even make a turmeric soda (and I may or may not have enjoyed the odd gin & (turmeric) tonic too once that cold was gone)!

Maybe you don’t drink turmeric tea at all when you have a cold. Maybe you already know about fresh turmeric. But in case you don’t, and you too have been dutifully sipping acrid turmeric tea for too long, then today’s recipe is for you. Because I could not keep all that deliciousness all to myself. So in a short break from cookies, cakes and other baked goods and desserts today we will have turmeric tonic instead (and fret not, more cake is coming!).

Turmeric Tonic

Note: Unless you use kitchen gloves or a food processor, chances are making turmeric tonic will heavily stain your hands an any other surface it touches. Given this, I now tend to make a big batch of turmeric tonic (it will keep for about a week if stored in the fridge). And while I am no nutritionist, I have read that some suggest adding freshly ground black pepper when drinking turmeric tonic to help the body absorb or all those immune-boosting properties of turmeric, so I have included that suggestion below.

Makes enough turmeric tonic for ca. 2-2.5 L of turmeric tea or turmeric soda


500ml water
2 tbsp grated fresh turmeric
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp honey

To serve: extra hot water (for turmeric tea) or sparkling water (for turmeric soda), juice of 1/2 lemon per person (or to taste), optional: freshly ground black pepper


Bring the water to a boil in a medium-sized pot. Turn off the heat. Add the turmeric and ginger. Cover the pot and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Strain (discarding the turmeric and ginger) and add the honey, stirring to dissolve the honey completely.

For turmeric tea, add 1 part tonic to 3-4 parts hot water (depending on how strong you like it) and the juice of 1/2 lemon per mug (and you may want to add extra honey if you prefer things sweeter).

For turmeric lemonade, wait until the turmeric tonic has come to room temperature. Use 1 part tonic to 3-4 parts sparkling water (again, depending on how strong you like it). Add the juice of 1/2 lemon per glass (again, feel free to add more honey if you prefer things sweeter) and finish off with some ice.

To store, pour the turmeric tonic into a glass bottle or large jam jar and place in the fridge where it should keep about a week.

Lebanese Sfouf Cake


We have been back from Malaysia for just over a week. Despite the occasional afternoon of heavy rain (early signs of Monsoon perhaps?), we had an amazing time and probably saw more wildlife than ever before in our lives. But my favourite part was actually our short trip to the Cameron Highlands, an area North East of Kuala Lumpur which is famous for its mild climate, numerous tea plantations and streets lined with mock tudor mansions. While I had seen pictures of tea plantations before, I was completely taken aback by the smell surrounding the tea plantations, where the air is thick and heavy with the smell of the young tea leaves, not unlike freshly brewed Mate tea, although fresher and grassier.

Alas, two weeks of tropical temperatures with frequent frigid interludes thanks to the rather overzealous use of air-conditioning on buses, trains and planes had me return to Brussels with an eye-wateringly painful sore throat. So I have been spending the last week dutifully downing mug after mug of turmeric tea, hoping that turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties will kick my sore throat in the butt. In an attempt to make turmeric tea a little bit more palatable, I turned to google (it turns out the trick is to use fresh turmeric root!). And in doing so I came across a Lebanese cake called Sfouf.


While I had never heard of this cake before, it turns out it is a classic Lebanese cake typically served with tea. It is a simple cake that contains no eggs and that can be prepared in a single bowl in less than 5 minutes. What is unusual about this cake is that the recipe includes a healthy amount of turmeric – enough to turn the batter bright yellow!

I am forever trying to make the most of my spice drawer and trying to incorporate unusual (to-me) spices in my baking, so I was intrigued to try this recipe. And I am glad I did. The beautiful bright colour of the batter comes through in the finished cake and there is none of that bitter or acrid flavour turmeric can have if used too heavy-handedly. Instead the cake is only delicately sweet and tastes a little bit earthy (but in a nice way). While Sfouf will keep for about a week (if it even lasts that long) what I like even more about it is how easily it can be whipped up with ingredients you likely already have to hand.

Wonderful on its own alongside a cup of tea or coffee, one day I ate a couple of pieces for breakfast alongside some thick yoghurt and greengages poached in an anise-scented sugar syrup – an easy way to turn this plain cake into a simple and seasonal dessert while greengages are perfectly ripe and delicious.

Lebanese Sfouf Cake

Adapted from Marie Claire

Serves 8-12

Note: I have seen recipes for Sfouf made with and without ground anise. I am rather partial to anise’s flavour so have included it here – the combination of the turmeric and the anise gives this cake a beautifully earthy yet delicately sweet flavour. As the cake contains no eggs and is made with vegetable oil instead of butter it can easily be made vegan – simply substitute a plant or nut milk for the milk.


125g wholemeal spelt flour
125g wholemeal semolina
1/2 tbsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground anise
2 tsp baking powder
125g caster sugar
100ml vegetable oil
175ml milk
25g pine nuts

Tahini, for greasing the pan


Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and grease a pie tin or a springform with tahini.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, semolina, turmeric, anise, baking powder and caster sugar. Form a well in the middle and pour in the oil and milk. Whisk to combine.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and scatter the pine nuts all over the batter.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cake is risen, springy and lightly golden and a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Set aside to cool to room temperature before cutting into diamond-shaped wedges.


Toasted Sourdough Ice Cream – Goes Well With Coffee – 9th Edition


When I started the Goes Well With Coffee series I knew there had to be at least one ice cream recipe. For affogato. One of my favourite desserts. Nothing more than a delicious scoop of your favourite ice cream (ideally something neutral like vanilla but pistachio or roast almond work well too), drowned (affogato) in a shot of bitter espresso. The espresso cools down almost immediately as the ice cream starts melting. And while not exactly a pretty dessert, I love the contrast between the unsweetened and bitter still warm espresso and the cold, sweet and creamy ice cream.

If you follow me on instagram, you will have noticed that my feed is looking decidedly brown-ish these last few weeks with photo after photo of baked sourdough loaves, dough sitting in proving baskets and bags of flour from my favourite organic mill here in Belgium. I bought the third Tartine book for myself when I still lived in Rome. But the impending move to Brussels and getting settled here meant it took me almost a year to really start using it. And using it I most certainly am right now – following the mantra practice makes perfect, I am currently baking as many loaves as I can (which, given my work and travel schedule is about 4 times a month), taking notes of the process, watching endless videos on youtube on how to handle the high hydration dough Tartine is so famous for and slowly starting to tweak the process to my own liking. And while that perfect oven spring, the big holes and a soft and custardy crumb at times still elude me, I haven’t bought any bread since starting this endeavour so there is that.

Baking bread this frequently when I often find myself eating breakfast, lunch and dinner at my desk at work means I invariably have surplus bread. I have taken loaves to parties, travelled with them to Italy to share with Alessandro and his family, given them to friends and colleagues and my freezer is full to bursting with carefully wrapped loaves. And yet I invariably find myself with bread going stale every once in a while. While sourdough toasts up beautifully and makes delicious breadcrumbs, ever since the toasted breadcrumb dacquoise I made years ago, I was keen to try using sourdough bread in more sweet applications.

Using bread in ice cream is nothing new – there is after all the classic English recipe of brown bread ice cream. This is not dissimilar although even nicer in flavour if you ask me. Stale sourdough gets torn into small crumbs that are tossed in melted butter, sugar and sea salt and caramelised in the oven. These are then folded into a custard-based ice cream that gets a little bit of extra tang from creme fraiche (to mimic the slight acidity of the sourdough). And while delicious on its own, this ice cream is even better topped with a shot of your favourite espresso.


Toasted Sourdough Ice Cream

Note: I am just going to say it: you should make a double, scrap that, a triple batch of the caramelised sourdough crumbs. They are as addictive as kettle corn (if not more so) and you will find yourself grabbing a handful every time you step into the kitchen. So do yourself a flavour and make plenty – set aside 2-3 generous handfuls to stir into the ice cream once it is almost done churning and keep the rest for snacking. As for the ice cream, I tried infusing milk and cream with toasted sourdough (too much hassle and not a strong enough flavour to make it worth it), a cream cheese based recipe (the texture was all off), a mascarpone based recipe (funny mouthfeel) but in the end settled on a classic vanilla-flavoured custard. The one change I made was to lighten the custard with creme fraiche – this adds a nice little tang which mimics the slight acidity of the sourdough bread.


For the caramelised sourdough crumbs
200g stale sourdough bread, torn into small pieces (you are looking for pieces no bigger than a corn kernel – leave the crusts on as that is where a lot of the flavour is)
100g sugar
50g butter, melted
Generous pinch of sea salt

For the ice cream 
500ml full fat milk
1 used vanilla bean (I keep used vanilla beans to make vanilla sugar – we are not after a full on vanilla flavour here so just use a used one that has been split open, it will still have enough flavour to give the custard a lovely hint of vanilla)
5 egg yolks
100g sugar
250ml creme fraiche
1 batch of caramelised sourdough crumbs (see recipe above)


Start by preparing the caramelised sourdough crumbs. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. In a bowl mix together the sourdough crumbs with the melted butter, sugar and salt. Spread on the sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes until the bread is nicely coloured and fragrant. Set aside to cool.

To make the ice cream, heat the milk together with the vanilla bean until steaming point in a large sauce pan. While the milk is heating up whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a separate bowl. Slowly pour about a third of the steaming milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. This will temper the egg yolks and stop them from curdling.

Turn the heat down to low-medium and pour the egg yolk milk mixture back into the sauce pan with the rest of the milk. Discard the vanilla bean. Stirring constantly, cook the custard until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain the custard into a bowl and set aside to cool. Stir in the creme fraiche and churn according to the instructions of your ice cream maker. Alternatively,  pour into a container with a lid and place in the freezer for 6 hours, whisking thoroughly every 30 minutes to 1 hour to prevent large ice crystals from forming. Once the ice cream is nearly done (it should be very thick but you should still be able to stir it), fold in the toasted sourdough crumbs.