Words: Charlie Monaghan
Photography: Elliot Sheppard
Our series, The Gift of Baking, in which we give our suppliers seasonal bakes from our Christmas menu in exchange for original recipes to share with you, has taken us to Lincolnshire for a chutney recipe from a cheesemaking family; to central London for a masterclass in assembling a cheeseboard; and, most recently, to Le Touquet in northern France for a marmalade-strewn bread and butter pudding method. We’re wrapping things up by gifting Rob and Iona Gore our mince pies, which they turn into a sublime Christmas ice cream we implore you to make at home.
Pictured above: Robert and Iona’s home is located on one of two farms comprising Westcombe Farm. A short walk from their farmhouse is where the dairy cows are spending the winter.
What do you do when you want to start a food business on your family’s dairy farm that’s already making some of the best cheese in the UK? It’s a question that Robert Gore asked himself when he and his now-wife, Iona, were living in Hong Kong and thinking about returning home. The answer they came up with? Ice cream, of course, putting truth in the idea that the time for ice cream is always – and so Brickell’s was born in 2018.
To rewind a few steps, Rob’s family owns the Somerset farm where Westcombe Cheddar is made. His great-grandparents, Florence and Albert Brickell, established a tradition of making unpasteurised cheddar on the farm in the early 1900s, a legacy that wained throughout the 20th century but was revived in the 1980s by farmer Richard Calver and Robert’s mother, Christine, who re-established artisanal cheesemaking practices. Then, in 2008, Richard’s son, Tom, a trained chef who had spent time at Neal’s Yard Dairy, joined the farm and has since moulded Westcombe into its current iteration, which, if it were a person, would be something of multi-hyphenate. In addition to the unpasteurised Cheddar, Caerphilly and Ricotta made by Tom, Westcombe Farm also houses a stone mill that supplies Landrace Bakery in Bath with flour milled from locally sourced grains, as well as Westcombe Charcuterie, which makes use of the farm’s bull calves, as well as nearby Gotheleney Farm pork.
Pictured above, clockwise from top: “Measure out all your ingredients before you get going,” advices Robert. Iona holds the couple’s son, Alfie, as he tucks into a mince pie. Robert watches over the browning butter on the stove.
Robert and Iona’s ice cream has added yet another string to Westcombe’s bow. “I always wanted to move back down to where I grew up and do something related to the farm. I’d thought about ice cream for a while, but the big question was what sort,” Robert says in the couple’s kitchen in their farmhouse, a short walk from the cattle house where the dairy cows are spending the winter. To answer the ‘what sort’ question and to learn more about ice cream in general, Robert enrolled in a week-long course at Penn State University Creamery (yes, really). “When I was looking into ice cream, I discovered a strong and well-established craft scene in the US, where the focus is on making everything from scratch, often with seasonal produce. We didn’t seem to have so much of that here, so that’s what I set out to create,” he says.
“I always wanted to move back down to where I grew up and do something related to the farm”
Returning home, Robert started experimenting with recipes and landed on a French custard-style ice cream using egg yolks. “One of the main things that sets our ice cream apart from others is that we don’t use any stabilisers or emulsifiers, which, even when called ‘natural’, are still processed,” Iona explains. “With a custard base, the egg yolk is your emulsifier, which wraps around the fat molecules and stops them from clumping together so much. Emulsifiers do that in a much more powerful way, so you need less cream and no eggs, but I think the way we make it gives a better body and a nice chew to the ice cream,” Rob explains.
With his ice cream method sorted, Robert next turned his attention to ingredients, which, because of his location at Westcombe Farm, meant he didn’t have to look very far at all. “Every day, 4,500 litres of milk come into the diary and I just let Tom know how much I need,” Robert says. He also turns to the diary for the ricotta used in the stracciatella flavour, while Landrace Bakery provides sourdough for the cinnamon toast recipe. It’s a beautiful thought, the idea of one farm not only being a thriving hive of craft food businesses, but them all cross-pollinating and sustaining each other in these ways. Other ingredients are sourced from likeminded businesses, such as Pump Street Chocolate and Hope + Arley, who supply pistachio butter.
Pictured above: As we walk, Iona says, “I was working in London until recently, and we lived halfway between there and Somerset, in Hampshire. It was a gruelling commute for both of us, so it’s so lovely to move down here and be in one place, now as a family.” Iona gave up her job in banking this year to help Rob with Brickell’s.
We recently got to know Robert and Iona when they came to our new studio in Camden to discuss summer next year, and a flurry of ideas about how we can bring GAIL’s customers Brickell’s ice cream ensued. With plans very much afoot and the couple busy experimenting with new recipes for us, we’re excited about the fruits this nascent partnership will bear. So excited, we simply couldn’t wait for summer next year to start collaborating – and why should we? The perfect time for ice cream, remember, is always. With that in mind, we gifted Robert and Iona some boxes of our mince pies after our meeting and sent them back to Somerset tasked with creating an original festive recipe we could share with you. We wish that what they came up with we could somehow magic in our bakeries now – it really is that good. But, alas, Christmas always comes around so quickly, so while we work on bringing you Brickell’s next year, we must insist you make their recipe for mince pie, brown butter and brandy ice cream instead – think of it as a present to yourself.
Mince Pie, Brown Butter & Brandy Ice Cream
“If you follow the exact measurements below you will get the perfect textured ice cream. Don’t be scared of the skimmed milk powder; all it’s doing is upping the number of milk solids, which are key to any good ice cream and are especially important when not using stabilisers or emulsifiers. It’s available in most supermarkets.”
20g double cream
64g egg yolk
124g granulated sugar
65g skimmed milk powder
160g unsalted butter
2 GAIL’s mince pie
10ml Brandy (optional)
Before you start, weigh the sugar, salt and skimmed milk powder into a bowl and combine so they’re properly mixed.
Put the butter in a medium-sized pan. Cook on medium heat and whisk until the butter has turned a dark golden brown and smells nutty. As the water evaporates, you will first get bubbles, which later turn to foam – it takes at least 10 minutes. Go further than you think because you want it dark, not golden brown, but be careful not to let it burn. Once ready, set aside to cool.
Separate your egg yolks from the whites and add to a bowl until you’ve got the right weight (roughly four medium eggs should be enough). Once you have the right amount, add this to a separate pan along with the milk and cream, and stir so they are completely combined.
Heat the milk, cream and egg yolk mixture on medium heat, stirring constantly. When the mixture starts to steam, add the butter and stir until completely combined. You’ll need to stir continuously, especially as the mix begins to heat, to prevent the eggs from cooking. Ideally, use a flat-headed wooden spoon or silicone spatula and scrap the bottom of the pan to prevent the egg from catching.
Once the butter is combined, add the sugar, salt and skimmed milk powder. Stir continuously, breaking the skimmed milk powder up against the side of the pan if needed.
Continuously stir while scraping the bottom of the pan until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spatula. Keep stirring and don’t let it overheat, or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs. The whole process should take around 15 minutes or more.
Once the custard is coating the back of your spoon, take it off the heat and keep stirring until the mix has cooled slightly. Pour through a sieve into a bowl. Add the brandy and stir to combine. For best results, place in the fridge for four hours before churning, or add straight to the ice cream maker and churn until thick.
At the end of the churning process, crumble in pieces of mince pie and let the ice cream maker mix them through the ice cream. Don’t add the mince pie when the ice cream isn’t set enough, as it will turn the pastry soggy.
Pour into a freezer box and freeze for at least four hours. Serve with mince pies and maybe some brandy.