I have long been an advocate of having dessert for breakfast, but at England’s The Fat Duck, breakfast is the new dessert. Amidst the restaurant’s menu of Snail Porridge and Sardine on Toast Sorbet, a finale of Smoked Bacon and Egg Ice Cream seems to fit right in. After reading rave reviews about this dish, I simply had to try it myself. But since my chances of dining at The Fat Duck in the foreseeable future are next to zero, I spent last weekend trying to recreate it at home.
As you may have guessed, this dessert is Chef Heston Blumenthal’s whimsical take on a traditional English breakfast. In addition to the Smoked Bacon and Egg Ice Cream, the dish also includes a sweet and slightly sour Tomato and Red Pepper Jam, caramelized French Toast (or Pain Perdu), a rich and creamy Salted Butter Caramel, and a refreshing glass of Tea Jelly. The complete recipes for the dessert can be found here and here.
To infuse the bacon flavour into the ice cream, I soaked lightly roasted bacon in milk overnight, and to create the egg flavour, I heated the ice cream base until it began to curdle (about 185F). I should also mention that this ice cream uses twice as many yolks than normal for extra egginess - 24 yolks per litre! My first impressions were mixed - the salty and smoky flavours went against my preconceptions of what ice cream should taste like, but it was actually quite good as long as I didn’t think of it as ice cream. To add a Canadian touch to the dish, I garnished the ice cream with a few granules of maple sugar.
The Tomato and Red Pepper Jam, and the Salted Butter Caramel help temper the flavours of the dessert. They’re respectively sweeter and saltier than the ice cream, so in comparison, the ice cream tastes mild. Both components also add texture to the dish and taste great by themselves.
The sizzling French Toast contrasts the ice cream wonderfully. I used the brioche recipe from The French Laundry Cookbook, but any thick and fluffy bread should work just as well. After soaking pieces of brioche in a milk and egg mixture, I gave them a quick sear, topped them with sugar, and caramelized their surfaces using a blowtorch. The result is a crackly crème brulée-like crust, and a moist and fluffy interior.
The final component of the dish is a light and refreshing glass of tea jelly which serves as a palate cleanser for this rich and sugary dish. Blumenthal recommends using a mixture of teas, but I chose to simply use Mariage Frères Thé Sur Le Nil for its floral and citrus flavours.
I began this dish with many doubts, but I can say now say that this is certainly one of the best and most unique desserts I’ve had. The different components just seem to balance each other out so well. I suppose it’s no coincidence that The Fat Duck currently holds the title of Best Restaurant in the World!