This recipe was borne out of necessity, which sounds implausible when I’m talking about excess hot cross buns, but bear with me.
Sam tells me authoritatively that ‘everyone’ at this time of year has spare hot cross buns. I don’t buy that. I could eat toasted hot cross buns until the cows come home, thick with cold butter (the buns, not the cows).
My situation was a bit different. The one unexpected trickiness of doing this course is that bakes and cakes come in fits and starts. There will be weeks when I’m learning how to make plated puddings, intricate and delicately balanced and, crucially, impossible to get home.
There was a whole term where I brought a single, increasingly ridiculous gateau home twice a week every week. But this term, Sam and his workmates are likely to feel hard done by. Weeks of sugar work, pulled and blown and poured, or long-handled, unfilled croquembouche mean that there won’t be the treats they have grown used to.
But it’s not just the cakes themselves. I can’t bear waste, which is a bit tricky on this course to be honest. Egg whites are routinely thrown away, sheets of sponge cooked from which to cut small circles, whole bowls of cream from which to practice quenelles destined, ultimately, for the bin. And it makes sense. We’re there to learn techniques before we enter industry. In industry every scrap would be saved, but when you’re presenting one pate for marking, there is inevitably going to be wastage.
I do my best to save the elements I can, squirreling away leftover shortbread or brownie slabs or macaron mix; once, inexplicably, an entire tub of banana mousse that sat sadly in the fridge until I accepted that I was never going to find a use for it in addition to the eight other mousses I’d brought home.
The fortnight that I looked forward to was boulangerie. Bread, of course, has the huge advantage over our other bakes, that it is freezable. But I slightly underestimated the sheer quantities we’d be making. Last term, three practicals’ worth of baking brought home a large rye loaf, a very large enriched plait, a focaccia, about a hundred croissants, pains au chocolat and danish pastries; six different types of brioche, 6 devonshire splits and 6 hot cross buns. My freezer, for the last three months has remained 85% buttery bread.
So, you see, I really did have a surplus of buns. But more important than my bun surplus is that, once I’d made this recipe, I realised it would become a staple. No longer would I wait until I had more buns than I knew what to do with, or be precious about whether or not I made my own. I would stockpile supermarket buns, keeping them in reserve for this ice cream.
This is a bit of a cross between traditional brown bread ice cream and my nutmeg ice cream. It has a spiced custard base, infused with cinnamon and nutmeg. The buns are torn and toasted until crunchy and caramelised with demerara sugar. This is then folded through the ice cream with extra sultanas and zest. It’s absolutely bloody gorgeous and I am extremely proud of it. At this stage, I’m so evangelical about it, I’m likely to offer it to the postman if he rings my doorbell.
If you would like to make your own buns, this is my failsafe recipe, which I love. It’ll make you a handsome dozen, which is just enough to allow you to reserve 2 for this recipe.
It goes like this:
Hot Cross Bun Ice Cream
Makes: Just over a pint of ice cream
Takes: 1 hour plus 4 hours of freezing
Bakes: 20 minutes on the hob
For the ice cream
300ml double cream
80g light brown sugar
5 egg yolks
20g mixed, chopped peel
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
For the hot cross buns
2 hot cross buns
50g light brown sugar
50g demerara sugar
1. First, infuse your cream and milk. Place the cream and milk in a small pan, and grate the nutmeg into it, and stick the cinnamon stick in too. Bring the cream slowly to the boil. At the first sign of bubbles, turn off the heat and leave for thirty minutes.
2. Reheat the cream until it is just shy of a boil. Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until they are lighter in colour and thicker in texture, falling in ribbons from the whisk. Pour a quarter of the liquid into the sugar and eggs, whisking the whole time. Add the rest of the liquid, still whisking, and then return to the pan.
3. Cook very gently, stirring the whole time with a spatula, constantly moving the liquid on the bottom of the pan. Cook until the custard has thickened so that it covers the back of a metal spoon. First, the tiny bubbles will disappear, start testing on the back of a metal spoon when this has happened. The liquid will break apart on little spots on the spoon: this means that the eggs haven’t properly coagulated yet. When they do, there will be no spots, and you can run a finger down the back of the spoon, and a clean break will form between the sides of the liquid. You have custard!
4. Decant into a fridge-appropriate container, and cover with clingfilm, which should directly touch the surface of the custard. Chill.
5. Meanwhile, you can caramelise your hot cross buns. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Tear the hot cross buns into small pieces, maybe 1/2cm in width, and place them in a single layer on a tray. Sprinkle with the two different sugars sugar and cook for 15 minutes. The hot cross buns should be crispy and dry, but if they haven’t quite caramelised, pop them under the grill for a couple of minutes, keeping a close eye.
6. Once the custard is thoroughly cold, you can churn your ice cream. If you have an ice cream maker, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If not, pop the custard into the freezer and, at half hourly intervals, stir vigorously, breaking up the ice crystals.
7. When the ice cream has been churning for about thirty minutes and is very thick, like soft serve ice cream, remove from the machine and fold the hot cross buns crumbs, zest, and sultanas into the mix. Distribute evenly and then decant into a suitable tub and place in your freezer.
8. Depending on the ferocity of your freezer, you may need to take the ice cream out about twenty minutes before serving, if you want big, handsome boules.
Icing on the Cake
We ate this jammed between actual hot cross buns, as a hot cross bun ice cream hot cross bun sandwich. Try saying that after a couple of drinks, eh?