How to spice up a scoop of vanilla ice cream?
Accessorizing ice cream is often most effective when there’s an element of contrast, whether it’s a tangy fruit puree (blackcurrant, for example) for old-school vibes, a handful of something something crunchy (toasted sesame seeds, nuts, crumbled cookies) or a broken magic chocolate shell (where you mix equal parts of melted chocolate and coconut oil, pour it over your ice cream and watch -it to solidify). And, lucky for you, Joe, it’s very vanilla-specific.
“Among very few other contenders, my number one dessert in the world is vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce,” says Jacob Kenedy, chef-patron at Gelupo in Soho, London. “These two things together are nirvana.” The chocolate sauce, however, should be made his grandfather’s way: “About half and half melted bitter chocolate and water, plus a tiny bit of sugar.” It is also essential that the sauce be lukewarm, not boiling, so that the ice cream only “melts a little”.
The idea of pouring other things over ice is also worth exploring, he says, such as with affogato (the Italian tradition of pouring double espresso over your vanilla). Or by opening the drinks cupboard: “You can pour cognac or whiskey on it; amaro is delicious; or a coffee and a spirit. Puddles of water in abundance await you.
“You can also combine fats,” adds Kenedy, throwing whipped cream into the arena — but don’t get carried away: “Add one or two things, not more,” warns Kennedy. “Either chocolate sauce and whipped cream, fruit (raspberries, strawberries, peaches, baked pears) and chocolate sauce, or toasted fruit and nuts.”
Terri Mercieca, pastry chef and founder of popular ice-sandwich and soft-serve vendor Happy Endings, often feels fruity too: “I’m a big fan of passion fruit with vanilla ice cream. In this state of mind, she grabs a bowl, pours her vanilla into it, accompanied by hazelnuts, pieces of caramel or good quality chocolate, or freeze-dried fruit, and garnishes with passion fruit. You can use mango instead — or, Mercieca adds, “any good fruit you get in the summer.” One such fruit is the cherry, which Diana Henry, in Simple: Effortless Food, Big Flavors, cooks in butter, sugar, lemon juice and grappa, before serving hot with ice cream. And there’s nothing, uh, vanilla about it.
An emergency solution for an ice cream sandwich is also at hand: take your favorite tub of vanilla and stick it between your favorite cookies. Work done. To build a better one, however, Mercieca has a few tips: “Flip a cookie upside down, place a cookie cutter on it, and crush the ice cream in it.” Remove the cookie cutter, cover with another biscuit and enjoy immediately: “If you put it back in the freezer, the biscuits become too hard, that’s why we use very thin biscuits”. You can, of course, make your own cookies, in which case chocolate chips or shortbread are the way to go.
Always a non-conformist, Mercieca is also known for serving up her spoonful of (potato) chips (yes, you read that right). “Especially if you get the chic Portuguese,” she explains. “With caramel sauce…Winning.” And who are we to disagree?
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