Salted-bourbon caramel sauce
Rich dark chocolate sauce
Maple-bourbon whipped cream
Candied pecans & almonds
…need I say more?
These toppings – and the inevitable sundaes – are so insanely good, yet easy. I’ve been reading through The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters to help inform me for my trip to Chez Panisse in April. The anecdotes and winding recipes are so interesting, and you can tell instantly they produce beautiful results. The recipes for these goodies can be found in her book, I just added bourbon to the caramel and whipped cream (and maple syrup to the whipped cream). If you can bear to part with them, they make great gifts! All of these recipes are easily increased to make a larger batch.
I taste-tested a few sundaes this morning (for quality control, of course): all with vanilla bean ice cream, one with just the hot fudge and nuts, another with the caramel, nuts, and topped with cinnamon, and finally one with all of the above, including the maple-bourbon whipped cream. The cinnamon brought it to another level…you have to try it. The leftover ice cream went back into the freezer, with all the toppings, and now I have dark chocolate swirl ice cream with candied pecans & almonds waiting for me in the freezer! Not a bad deal.
Salted-Bourbon Caramel Sauce
makes about 1 cup
One thing Alice notes is that organic, unrefined sugar is unfortunately more difficult to caramelize. I’ve made caramel with organic sugar before, and it tasted just as good, but had a slightly gritty texture compared to the smoothness when using refined sugar. Also, organic sugar typically is darker, so it can be hard to tell when it starts to caramelize, whereas the change from white sugar to caramel’s golden brown color is obvious. So, I’ll just admit this recipe is not intended to be healthy anyway, and break my rule about refined sugar here. It’s a treat that’s worth it!
Measure and set aside 3/4 cup heavy cream.
Put 1 cup of sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and carefully pour in 6 tablespoons of water. Cook over medium heat, without stirring, until the sugar starts to caramelize. Swirl the pan gently – but don’t stir – if the sugar is browning unevenly. When the caramel is uniformly golden brown, remove from the heat. Stand back from the pan to pour in 1/4 cup of the measured cream; it will splatter and go a bit crazy, which is a sign it is at the right stage. Stir slowly with a wooden spoon until combined. Add the rest of the cream and 1/2 teaspoon bourbon and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste. When things aren’t scientific, like adding bourbon or salt, I tend to just add them to taste.
Rich Dark Chocolate Sauce
makes about 2 cups
In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, warm together:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup organic sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Stir to dissolve the sugar. When the butter is melted, add:
1/2 lb chopped bittersweet chocolate (60% or higher)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Turn off the heat and let it stand for a few minutes to finish melting, then whisk until smooth. Serve warm. Similar to the caramel, the chocolate sauce can also be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, and reheated in a jar gently over simmering water.
makes 3 1/2 cups
When you have all the ingredients almost ready, preheat the oven to 325F. (Hey, no need to have it on for long with nothing in it.)
In a medium bowl, whisk 1 egg white until frothy.
3/4 cup organic brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
A pinch of ground cloves
A pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Stir until combined, then add about 1 pound ( 3 1/2 cups) a mixture of whole almonds, and pecan and walnut halves.
Mix together until all the nuts are coated. Pour onto a lightly oiled baking sheet – coconut oil or butter would be perfect here. Bake for 30 minutes, turning the nuts every now and then with a spatula, until all the nuts are coated and dry. Let cool before serving, and store in a jar.
Maple-Bourbon Whipped Cream
makes about 2 cups
In a cold stainless-steel bowl, whisk together:
1 cup cold heavy cream
A splash of maple syrup, to taste
A splash of bourbon, to taste
Keep whisking until the cream just holds a soft shape and starts forming peaks. There’s something so satisfying about doing this by hand, rather than using a beater, and it only takes about 5 minutes. These make a really fun gift! I made a couple sets for some friends’ birthdays. I painted a few Ball jars with chalkboard paint (bordered with painter’s tape). It took about three coats, and came out really well. Then you can label the jars with chalk, and can actually sharpen the chalk with a handheld pencil sharpener to get nicer results. Tied with a bit of twine and voila!