Hey friends–Friday post this week. Today I will be seeing Alton Brown’s Edible Inevitable Tour, and I get to meet the man! So, I’ve put my best “Food Detective” hat on today, in honor of this momentous event: What makes Ice Cream Bread work? If you haven’t heard of it already, Ice Cream Bread is exactly as it sounds–bread, made from ice cream. The official recipe is equal parts of ice cream and self-rising flour. So simple, so nice. But my cousin and I each discovered that using only those two ingredients makes for a rather bland bread. So we’re doctoring it up!
(Interjection–I chose blue moon ice cream because, well, what could say “ICE CREAM Bread” better than blue moon? But did you know that blue moon is a regional thing? I know I’ve got a few readers from far away, so for those who don’t know, blue moon is almond-flavored ice cream that’s tinted blue. The funny thing is that most kids never find out it’s almond-flavored. Most of us grow up assuming it’s a mystery left to the ice cream gods.)
So, what makes this work?! First of all, it’s a quick bread. Not a yeasted bread like baguettes and the like. Quick breads are fundamentally different from yeasted breads in the way that they use baking powder and maybe baking soda instead of yeast for leavening. They are more cake-like that way. This is why the official recipe calls for self-rising flour–without the leavening, it would pretty much be a brick. Quick breads are different from cakes, however, in that there is no creaming process. (Use that in your next “A cupcake without frosting is NOT JUST A MUFFIN” argument).
Let’s take a look at all the stuff I’m actually putting in this thing: ice cream, all-purpose flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and almond extract. The ice cream does in fact do a lot of the work, being a large ball of fat and liquid to provide the hydration and tenderization. Remember my Wonderful World of Butter? Fat wraps around flour particles to keep them from getting wet and forming too much gluten (gluten = tough). Thus, a more tender crumb, as they say. While we’re speaking of the flour: it is responsible for toughening and drying the bread, giving it the structure it needs. If you were to use custard instead of ice cream, I imagine the eggs in the custard would help a bit with this too.
The baking powder, as mentioned, will make sure that this quick bread does not end up as dense as a brick. The leavening aspect of the baking powder will expand bubbles in the bread, giving it that fluffy, cake-like texture. I’ve taken this a step further with the addition of sugar (if the mere fact that it needed more flavor wasn’t enough of a reason to add sugar). Although there is no official creaming process here, I believe that mixing the softened ice cream with the sugar leaves little air pockets for the leavening to nicely expand upon. It is also for this reason that I mix it with a hand mixer rather than by hand, so that more air gets incorporated that way, too.
Finally, the salt and almond extract are there to flavor the loaf. They don’t do much chemically…not here, at least. And since this is blue moon bread, I also added a few drops of blue food coloring since it seems that color bakes out in the oven.
What do you think, Alton? Did I do it justice? We’ll just have to see if he ever finds my little blog… As for the rest of you, friends, I hope you try this with EVERY kind of ice cream. This may quite possibly be the easiest thing you will do all day.
Ice Cream Bread
Yield: 1 loaf
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups softened (not melted) ice cream of your choosing
1 1/2 tsp. complimentary flavoring (in blue moon’s case: almond extract)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the first four ingredients into a bowl. Next, incorporate the softened ice cream using a hand mixer. Finally, add the flavoring and mix well. Spoon into a greased loaf pan and smooth out the top.
Bake in oven until a prick to the center comes out clean. For me, this took about 45 minutes–start checking at 30 minutes. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a rack to finish cooling.