Sweetening the deal
Claire Ptak dresses up everyday treats
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.
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.
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