Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dessert meets Breakfast: Pain perdu with bacon and egg ice cream

So I had a dinner party. I decided to try a truly iconic Heston dish - Bacon and egg ice cream. A Fat Duck speciality.
I was quite taken by it's treatment in Heston Blumenthal at Home, with Pain perdu (which my Google-fu tells me is what we call 'French toast' and the Brits call 'eggy bread') and caramelised bacon. I love pancakes with maple syrup and bacon, so was keen to give it a try. I felt like it was time... I didn't make the caramelised bacon, as one of the guests was making some (completely by coincidence) for a small-goods class and so bought some.

Bacon and Egg Ice Cream

I've made savoury-sweet ice cream before - that mustard ice cream for the red cabbage gazpacho. It was nice. So we are on reasonably familiar territory here.

First, you need to make a flavoured milk for the base.

Take some really excellent sweet-cured smoked bacon - this is maple based.

 Bake in the oven to crispy.

Chop the crispy bacon bits (I could just break it up with my fingers) and cover the crispy bacon with milk to infuse overnight
After 12 or more hours, add some powdered milk, reheat to a simmer to allow the powdered milk to dissolve.

Take some eggs. Actually, a lot of eggs - two dozen.

 You just want the yolks though. This can take a while.

 Blitz your yolks with the unrefined caster sugar.

Add a spoonful of warm bacon milk to the egg yolks so they don't scramble (prematurely in this case).

Add your yolk/sugar mix to the rest of the milk and warm it up...

until the temperature hits...

eighty five (85) degrees Celsius. It looks like scrambled eggs, it was scrambled eggs.. but smelled sweet. Like overdone custard. This is not something I normally want to happen. But we bravely continue on.

The ice cream based gets pushed through a fine sieve to remove large lumps and the bacon bits.

Then chilled.

It looks like this...

Then gets pureed smooth. I was surprised that it picked up a hint of bacon colour there, in addition to the egg yellow. That's it until time to serve.

Well technically it would be, except I wasn't able at the last to get the required dry ice, so mine was churned in a friends refrigerated ice cream maker. (Which worked perfectly.)

Now onto the rest of the dish....

Pain Perdu

This dish is a variation of the normal French toast - being entirely encased in caramel.

Cut thick  slices of bread and refrigerate them for 12 hours so they are the right amount of stale.

Make your egg/milk mix with milk, sugar, eggs.

Whisk it up...

Add vanilla seeds and keep mixing until the sugar is dissolved.

Cut the crusts off your bread, and cut into nice triangles. Pour over the eggy milk mix. Leave to absorb for 20 minutes, then drain on a rack for a couple of minutes (while you get the next step ready).

Take large lumps of clarified butter...

And nicely brown the pain perdu.

Look pretty good, don't they.

Now we're going to make a dry-burn caramel to coat the pain perdu. Interestingly, Heston specifies a non-stick pan for all this. Take some unrefined caster sugar...
And heat into caramel.
 Coat the pain perdu..
 yeah... its kind of sticking ok....

Then try to flip it, and realise it's really not sticking to the pain perdu very well. This is deeply frustrating because I am doing exactly what it says, but it's just not working.

Eventually, my ex-chef guest took pity on my frustrations and finished the batch off. I'm normally able to cope, but damn, this just would not work properly.... I can make caramel dammit!!

Time to serve...

Two pieces of pain perdu, a nice lump of ice cream ....

and a slice of caramelised bacon.

It kind of looked like the picture in the book, except for the the pain perdu being unevenly coated. Grr.

Things I learned:

Even if I am frustrated with how a recipe is (not) going, don't let other people help. It just drives me nuts and makes me feel more incompetent than is necessary. Sorry kind and helping people, not your fault.



This is kind of awkward to write. 


I didn't like it. The ice cream just tasted wrong. Not spit-it-out-horrible or anything, but... not to my tastes. The ice cream was well made, good mouth feel etc. but ... no. It tasted like overcooked savoury custard.

The pain perdu would have been better without the caramel coating, which made it achingly sweet. Even eating them all together didn't work. I had so looked forward to trying this, not enjoying it was a bitter disappointment that I'm still getting over. (First world problems, I know). I don't think I would even try it at the Fat Duck as I am confident that the dish was 'right' in terms of prep and flavour balance... I just didn't like the flavour.


Guest opinions:

These varied from pushing it away after one mouthful with polite shake of head, to an interesting discussion with a fellow foodie who wanted to like it but couldn't get past the sense it was custard taken to far.

Out of seven of us, none of us liked it. A few didn't mind the french toast, but that was about it.

The nicest comment was a "Well, you have to try these things to see if you like them... now you know you don't."

Final thoughts:

I now have a lot of unwanted bacon and egg ice cream. Anyone want to try it, or should I just ditch it to free up the freezer space?

Next time: Another dessert - Banana Eton mess.


  1. WOW!

    Dedication indeed. Great post and brilliant detailed write up as always. I'm jealous because this is, as you say, iconic. Yet we've never given it a go.

    Interesting but underwhelming seems to be the perfect description. Maybe it;s better in the context of the Fat Duck, where weird and wonderful is expected. Out of context you're probably right about the "interesting but not exactly tasty" verdict. Although we did like the pain perdu when we tried making it, but you're right about it being a bit too sweet.

    Really looking forward to seeing how the Eton Mess turns out!

  2. Maybe best to brown the toast as you did but then make a syrup or glaze with egg white to put on the toast and coat with sugar to stick, toast in the pan and maybe give a better result. I'm looking at remaking this as my first effort was alright but from the 'Heston at Home' book and not The Fat Duck Cookbook version with the tomato jam and salted caramel. Very good effort though.