Sweet­en­ing the deal

Claire Ptak dresses up every­day treats

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Claire Ptak

My mother was a pro­lific baker – still is, ac­tu­ally – so we al­most al­ways had a baked pie or choco­late cake on the go. But on the rare oc­ca­sion that the cup­board was bare, my dad would drive down to the lo­cal gro­cery store to buy vanilla Häa­gen-Dazs and Her­shey’s choco­late syrup. By the time he re­turned from the two-mile jour­ney, the ice-cream was in the per­fect state of soft­ness.

To make sun­daes, all we had to do was use the can opener to pierce the top of the Her­shey’s tin in two places – I re­mem­ber lov­ing the sound it made as it punc­tured the metal, re­leas­ing an ooze of choco­late syrup. My dad used to add salted peanuts to his sundae and mom liked wal­nuts on hers. My brother and I went for plain, but re­ally there was noth­ing plain about these spe­cial ice-cream nights.

There is some­thing won­der­ful about a quick dessert. My love of them got me think­ing about other fun and de­li­cious pud­dings that could be made from a tub of ice-cream – how to em­bel­lish the every­day and make it spe­cial. Or­anges and dark caramel make good bed­fel­lows, and I love the idea of a more grownup sundae made with crim­son blood or­anges – cur­rently in sea­son – and a salted caramel sauce melted into swirls of vanilla ice-cream.

We have an ice-cream sand­wich in the US called an It’s-It: cof­fee, vanilla, choco­late or mint choc chip ice-cream sand­wiched be­tween two oat­meal­raisin cook­ies then cov­ered in a hard choco­late shell. It’s a cinch to recre­ate at home: all you need are three in­gre­di­ents from the cor­ner shop and about 20 min­utes. I opted for vanilla ice-cream in mem­ory of my child­hood favourite, but you could choose any of the myr­iad flavours avail­able these days to add spark to your sand­wich.

Ice-cream sun­daes

This recipe makes more caramel than you will need for the sun­daes. It will keep well for up to two weeks in the fridge and three months in the freezer. ServesFor 150g the dou­ble2 caramel cream sauce 1 vanilla pod (or ½ tsp vanilla ex­tract) 4 tbsp wa­ter 250g caster sugar 4 tbsp golden syrup 1 tsp lemon juice ¼ tsp fleur de sel (or other flaky salt) 75g un­salted but­ter To as­sem­ble 2 blood or­anges 500ml tub of good-qual­ity vanilla ice-cream

1 For the caramel sauce, put the cream and vanilla ex­tract into a large, heavy­based pan. Put the wa­ter, sugar and golden syrup into an­other large, heavy­based pan. Have the other in­gre­di­ents mea­sured and ready to go.

2 First heat the cream and vanilla. Keep an eye on it as it can bub­ble over quite eas­ily. Mean­while, start heat­ing the wa­ter, sugar and golden syrup – don’t stir it, but you can swirl the pan if nec­es­sary – all the while keep­ing an eye on the vanilla cream. As soon as the cream starts to bub­ble rapidly, turn the heat off.

3 Once the sugar mix­ture starts to colour, give it a few swirls. You want the sugar to turn golden brown and then al­most black. When you see a wisp of smoke start­ing to rise out of the pan, you know it’s done. Take the sugar off the heat and im­me­di­ately

whisk in the vanilla cream. If us­ing a vanilla pod, don’t worry about it at this point as it will con­tinue to in­fuse flavour. Stir in the lemon juice, salt and but­ter, mix­ing un­til smooth. Al­low the caramel to cool com­pletely, then re­move the vanilla pod, trans­fer to a plas­tic tub with a tight fit­ting lid and put it in the fridge to chill.

4 Use a small ser­rated knife to supreme the blood or­anges, trim­ming the peel and pith from the out­side of the or­anges while keep­ing the fruit in­tact. Care­fully sec­tion them, cut­ting the seg­ments out from the mem­brane. Put the seg­ments in a bowl. Squeeze the re­main­ing mem­brane, adding the juices to the bowl. This will keep them from dry­ing out.

5 When you are ready to serve your sun­daes, place two gen­er­ous scoops of ice-cream into each sundae glass. Top with the or­ange sec­tions, a driz­zle of caramel sauce and a lit­tle of the blood or­ange juice. Serve im­me­di­ately.

Ice-cream sand­wiches

Serves 2 500ml tub good-qual­ity vanilla ice-cream, slightly soft­ened 8 di­ges­tive bis­cuits 200g dark choco­late

1 Line a bak­ing tray that fits in your freezer with parch­ment. Cut a sec­ond piece of pa­per to fit the tray, and set aside for later.

2 Lay 4 of the bis­cuits up­side-down on the pre­pared tray. Place a gen­er­ous scoop of ice-cream on to each bis­cuit. Top each scoop with a sec­ond bis­cuit, then press the sand­wiches to­gether care­fully, so as not to break the bis­cuits but to flat­ten out the ice-cream. Use a small knife or spat­ula to smooth the sides of the ice-cream. Put in the freezer im­me­di­ately to firm up.

3 Break the choco­late into small pieces, and put in a heat­proof bowl set over a pan of sim­mer­ing wa­ter. Turn off the heat and leave the choco­late to melt for about 10 min­utes.

4 Re­move the sand­wiches from the freezer and re­line your bak­ing tray with the clean piece of parch­ment. Work­ing quickly, dunk the sand­wiches in the choco­late one by one, flip­ping them over to cover them com­pletely, scrap­ing any ex­cess choco­late on the edge of the bowl. Put the choco­late­cov­ered sand­wiches on to the bak­ing tray and im­me­di­ately trans­fer them to the freezer.

5 Al­low the sand­wiches to soften at room tem­per­a­ture for a cou­ple of min­utes be­fore eat­ing them.

I re­mem­ber lov­ing the sound the can opener made as it punc­tured the metal, re­leas­ing an ooze of choco­late syrup

▲ Cook’s tip Choco­late doesn’t need high tem­per­a­tures to melt. It be­comes grainy and will burn if ex­posed to too much heat, so do not rush the melt­ing process

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