My husband and I realized honeymooning in Sicily in the middle of July was a bold move as soon as we saw the brush fires popping up on the highway as we made our way to the hotel from the airport. Steamy was an understatement. With most days easily breaking the 100-degree-F mark, we spent our afternoons lounging poolside sipping a spritz in between glasses of ice water and suddenly having no excuse not to eat all of the gelato. So, truthfully, it was a dream of a trip.
One of my favorite treats was gelato con brioche. This Sicilian ice cream sandwich is simply a split brioche bun with your choice of creamy gelato. The best part? It’s often eaten for breakfast in the hottest months of summer—though, really, it’s pretty wonderful any time of day.
Buttery bread may seem like a surprising vehicle for an ice cream sandwich, but the tender bun is the perfect counterpoint to gelato’s cooling richness. Make these for your next cookout and I can guarantee they’ll be a hit.
Choose Your Brioche Wisely
In Sicily, there is a specific type of brioche bun baked exclusively for gelato con brioche. It’s generously sized with a small hat, or tuppo, on top. The tuppo is typically pulled off the top of the bun, first, and enjoyed with a bit of the gelato before digging into the full sandwich.
Since you likely won’t find brioche col tuppo near you, look for sturdy, round brioche buns that you’d typically use for hamburgers at your local bakery or well-stocked grocery store. They should be soft and fresh, but not too squishy. Toasting the split buns in butter not only heightens their flavor, but also gives them a layer of protection so they don’t get soggy from the gelato.
As for the gelato, any favorite flavor will do. In Sicily, pistachio is beloved, as are stracciatella, hazelnut, chocolate, and crema, which is a simple egg custard flavor, similar to vanilla without the vanilla flavoring. Whatever pints you pick out, it’s hard to go wrong.
Sicilian Ice Cream Sandwich
- 2 pints gelato, such as pistachio, stracciatella, hazelnut, or a combination
- 6 brioche buns
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- Flaky sea salt
Let the gelato sit at room temperature to soften slightly.
Meanwhile, split the brioche buns and toast them: Melt 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in a 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat and swirl the pan so the bottom is coated. Add 2 sets of buns cut-side down and cook until toasted and golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer to a cutting board cut-side up and sprinkle with a pinch of flaky sea salt. Repeat toasting the remaining buns in two more batches, adding 1 tablespoon unsalted butter to the pan before each batch.
Let all the toasted buns cool for 5 minutes. Top each bottom half of the brioche buns with 1/3 pint of gelato (about 2 scoops). Press the top buns gently on top to adhere and serve immediately.