As I write this post, I’m dreaming of summer sun, balmy breezes, sandy beaches and the beautiful city of Barcelona.
When you read this post, I’ll be there.
Writing this now from my flat in London, it feels a little more like autumn than the beginning of June: wind rattling round the flowerpots outside and rain scratching angrily at the skylights. When the weather’s like this, it’s hard to imagine a place where people live their lives outdoors, where carrying an umbrella isn’t compulsory, and where the sun can be seen without a thick shroud of ever-darkening cloud banked up against the brightness of its rays.
There’s something so completely magical about being on holiday. As a dedicated sunseeker, the weather plays an important role for me in making that magic happen, but it comes as part of a complete package of holiday happiness, sometimes made up of the most simple of components.
Soft beams of early morning sunshine streaming through an open window.
Ever-so-slightly unfamiliar breakfast smells drifting seductively through the streets.
A perfectly ripe piece of fruit for breakfast.
The chance to try new things and taste local produce, eating at a leisurely pace a world away from the more hurried meals of an average working week.
That warm, glowing feeling as you leave the beach for a lazy lunch; face slightly tight from a morning spent in the sun; sea salt dried in lacy lines across sun-kissed skin.
However long you spend on the beach, indulging in such strenuous activities as turning the page of a book, unscrewing the sun cream cap or flipping your body from front to back to ensure an even tan, there inevitably comes a time when you need to take a break from the sun. A swim in the sea or a splash in the shallows won’t quite cut it; you’ve drunk endless glasses of iced water, but still feel the need to cool yourself down from the inside out. The time when what you really need is an ice cream.
Eating ice cream is one of my favourite things about being on holiday. Spending every summer in Italy as a child, ice cream and holidays went hand in hand: now whenever I visit somewhere new I’m always eager to seek out the best flavours on offer, scooped high on a cone or jammed into a paper cup topped with a tiny plastic spade of a spoon. Unless I’m on the beach, in my bikini, and walking any further than a few yards for my fix feels like a serious mission. In emergencies like these, I’ve been known to succumb to a more standard, mass produced chocolate-coated ice cream, tearing open the wrapper and enjoying every last lick of slightly synthetic flavour right down to the little carboard stick.
Ok, so I’m being a bit of a snob. Magnums and other ice creams on sticks are fine if there’s nothing else on offer, and something I’ll happily eat on occasion. But if you had the chance to make a better version, with simple ingredients, no syrups or starches or gum pastes or colours, just good quality chocolate, full fat milk, yellow-yolked eggs and a few other flavours, you’d want to give it a try, right?
Inspired by the choc ices and Magnums and Kit Kat Chunky chocolate bars of my childhood, this ice cream cake is made in a loaf tin and sliced, so better for eating at home than bringing to the beach or on a picnic. But assuming you’re reading this post from the comfort of your home rather than anywhere more exotic, I’m hoping it’s exactly the kind of summery treat you’ll want to make. Rich, comforting malted milk ice cream is layered with crispy wafer biscuits which retain a lovely hazelnut crunch, before being cloaked in a sheet of shiny dark chocolate. It looks a little like a giant Kit Kat, tastes of all my favourite childhood flavours and should appeal to children and big kids alike.
I’ll be back from Barcelona on 24th June. In the meantime, please do leave any comments or questions below: I appreciate every one and promise to respond on my return. But for now it’s back to the beach. Did I hear someone offer me a Magnum . . . ?
Kit Kat Ice Cream Bar
For the wafer layers (adapted from Dan Lepard’s Short & Sweet)
3 large free range egg whites
85g golden caster sugar
65g hazelnuts, toasted & finely chopped or blitzed in a blender
35g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
35g unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for greasing
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease two baking sheets then dust with a little flour.
Whisk the egg whites and sugar together to form a thick meringue with firm peaks. Fold through the hazelnuts, flour and butter until combined, then spread into rectangles over the two baking sheets, using your loaf tin/s as a guide for the width of the narrow side (see below).
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the wafers are crisp and golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
For the malted milk ice cream (adapted from The Perfect Scoop)
250ml single cream
150g golden caster sugar
500ml double cream
¼ tsp vanilla extract
100g malt powder (I used Horlicks)
6 large egg yolks
Warm the single cream, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. In a separate bowl, whisk together the double cream, vanilla and malt powder until combined, then set a mesh sieve over the top.
In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks until pale and frothy. Slowly pour the warmed single cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Return the combined mixture to your saucepan and cook over a medium heat until the custard has thickened.
Remove from the heat and strain the custard into your double cream mixture. Put the bowl over an ice bath (I do this in the sink) and whisk until cool.
Chill in the fridge overnight.
For the ice cream cake
Malted milk custard (see above)
Hazelnut wafer biscuits (see above)
255g dark chocolate, chopped
125g unsalted butter, cubed
2 tbsp glucose syrup
Churn your malted milk custard into ice cream according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
While it’s churning, line one large or two small loaf tins with cling film (I used two 600g tins), allowing it to hang over the sides.
Slice or break your wafer sheets into rectangles approximately the same size as the tin and set aside.
When the ice cream is churned and thick, spoon a layer into each loaf tin, about 1cm thick. Top with a wafer rectangle, then spoon in a second layer of ice cream. Repeat until ice cream and wafers are all used up, or you reach the top of the tin. Top with a rectangle of greaseproof paper then seal with the overhanging cling film and freeze for at least six hours, or until hard.
Melt the chocolate, butter and glucose syrup then remove from the heat. Allow to cool slightly, then remove one loaf tin from the freezer. Tip upside down and ease the ice cream bar out, peeling off the cling film wrapping. Place on a board then spoon just under half the melted chocolate until completely covered. Return to the freezer on its board then repeat with the second ice cream bar.
Allow the bars to set – if the ice cream is nice and cold this should only take five minutes or so – the remove from the freezer one at a time, turn upside down, and pour the remaining chocolate over the bottom so the bar is completely encased in chocolate.
Store the bars wrapped in greaseproof paper and cling film until ready to serve, removing from the freezer about five minutes before slicing to allow them to soften slightly.