(Slightly expurgated version.)
Late one summer night when I was six, my mother and I returned home exhausted after hours at the Emergency Room, me with my broken left arm newly immobilized in a plaster cast from thumb to elbow. Once home, we then collapsed at the kitchen table and ate a dinner which consisted entirely of Eskimo Pies. This complete suspension of the sound nutrition rules my mother ordinarily insisted upon made it all almost worth it to me even with the realization swimming was out for me for the next month. I think that’s why I considered Eskimo Pies the most perfect of all childhood ice cream treats for years afterward. Until my twenties when I discovered that Hagen-Dasz and Dove produced an even more perfect execution of the crisp dark chocolate shell over vanilla ice cream concept.
But in truth, I just plain love ice cream. If you want to make me happy, just turn me loose near a sundae bar with a bowl and spoon. Ben and Jerry? I want to marry them. Both of them. Anyone who can come up with the flavors Coffee Heath Bar Crunch and Cherry Garcia just gets me. Throw in a certain Mr. Hagen-Dasz, and I’ll commit trigamy with Mr. Dove Bar as a spare boyfriend seen on the sly. Start talking about Signor Italian Gelato, and naturally, we’re discussing ice cream-motivated polyamory that would make the entire FLDS look like a bunch of undersexed feebs. During my trip to Italy in 2003, I sampled local gelato every time I had a chance. Sour cherry, peach, chocolate hazelnut, strawberry, pistachio; pomegranate, orange, lemon and raspberry sorbetto—I tasted every one. Italians had some other flavors I couldn’t identify or pronounce, but when that situation arose, I could still point and smile.
Gelato cups are just tiny little things, I would rationalize, walking down the cobblestoned streets unable to stop smiling as each divine taste melted on my tongue, delivered there by a tiny, shovel-shaped plastic spoon. I didn't even care how many Euros it cost each time. Gelato was the last thing I ate in Rome to bid my Addio to Italy before heading back to the airport on the train.
Melissa’s Warm Peach Split Sundae
I don’t own an ice cream maker being wise enough to myself to know my having unsupervised access to one is a Seriously Bad Idea.™ So despite my nostalgic memories of making hand-cranked ice cream back at summer camp in my teens, I will not be providing actual ice cream recipes. This is more about my latest idea for a good, fruity summer sundae.
For me, a good sundae needs variety, not only of flavors, but of textures and temperatures as well. I want warm combined with cold, crunchy combined with soft and smooth, tart with sweet. Warm, gooey sundae sauce over cold ice cream is da bomb for me, especially when they melt together.
Size is important, too. I don’t want a ten-ingredient ginormous butterfat extravaganza served in a bucket that leaves my taste buds confused, and me feeling nauseous and ashamed of myself before I even take the first bite. I’d much rather have a moderate-sized five or six-ingredient sundae, all the flavors of which combine into a pleasing whole and rise from the table pleasantly indulged rather than filled with self-loathing after eating it.
When it comes to fruit and ice cream, I know the banana split is an American classic. But, being an anti-banana hardliner and at the risk of having my citizenship revoked, the fastest way to wreck ice cream for me is to stick a big old slab of raw banana into my sundae dish—ew! Give me ripe berries instead, any day!
Then I got my brain storm: why not a peach split? A warm peach split, made with peaches that had been cooked a little?? That would cover the variety in taste, texture and temperature in one.
I want at least two flavors of ice cream in my sundae. While I am ordinarily an ardent proponent of hot fudge, chocolate did not seem to fit naturally into my peach split idea. I wanted to duplicate the flavors of a Peach Melba with peaches, and berries to celebrate summer, their season.
For my inaugural experiment in making a Peach Split sundae I decided on the following ice creams: 1 pint Ben and Jerry’s Willie Nelson Country Peach Cobbler. (perfect!)
1 pint Hagen-Dasz Strawberry. I think theirs is one of the best commercially made strawberry ice creams I’ve ever tasted. What ice cream flavors you decide on is up to you, of course. But if you’re having this for 4th of July with all of your family over, buy large quantities of all the ingredients.
1 ripe peach per person.
1/2 pint whipping cream.
1 basket of organic raspberries for raspberry sauce.
1 basket of raspberries. Wash the berries and place in a sauce pan with a scant ¼ cup water, and 2 TBs sugar and 1 TB Chambord, if you wish. Heat mixture to a boil, stirring often with a whisk. Taste, and add more sugar if the sauce seems sour, but I like it a little tart to add a bright note and to rescue the sundae from cloying sweetness. The thing I wanted to taste most was the raspberries. I also wanted a nice, runny consistency for drizzling.
Puree the sauce in a blender, then place a sieve over a bowl or jar and pour in the puree. This will strain out most of the raspberry seeds.
Ginger Caramel Sauce: I’ve always liked caramel sauce more than butterscotch!
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water.
1/4 cup whipping cream. (If you're making this for lots of sundaes, double or even triple these quantities.)
Approximately 1 tsp fresh grated ginger. Measure the sugar and water into a saucepan and grate the fresh ginger right into it.
When caramelizing sugar, it's not a moment for multi-tasking. Not only because the caramelization happens in the last seconds after several minutes of stirring your colorless hot sugar syrup, but because burns from caramelized sugar hurt like a mo-fo. The voice of painful experience speaketh! Accidents can be avoided though if you keep your mind on the job. You want medium high heat, a sturdy saucepan with a light colored interior, and you want to have a wire whip at hand. Right at the end of this procedure, the sugar will turn golden brown with amazing speed, and from there, it progresses to burned brown very rapidly which can taste bitter, so pay close attention. When the caramel reaches the color you want, add the cream and stir, stir stir until you have a nice, smooth sauce. The sauce will bubble up when you add the cream to the hot sugar, so don't be surprised by this. Add a little more cream if it seems too thick. Store in a canning jar in your fridge, but warm it at least to room temperature before serving. (It was delicious, and the ginger gave it a subtle, warm je ne sais quoi.)
Peaches: Bring a pot of water to a boil, and drop in one peach for each sundae you're making. Boil fruit for a minute or two, then immediately drop it in cold water. Peach skin should slide off easily. Quarter the peaches, removing the pit, and sprinkle brown sugar over each piece before popping them under a hot broiler. If you have a hot grill pan or a hot barbecue to put some stripey grill marks on it, that’s even better. You want to warm the peach and create a little crispness, but not cook it through. To make them easier to eat, cut up the quarters into smaller chunks or slices.
The ice cream and peaches.
Whipped Cream: Don’t wimp out on this—I have to have whipped cream on my sundae as long as I’m eating it at all.
Nuts: toasted almonds, coarsely chopped. Extra points if they’re still warm.
1 Rainier Cherry, up top.
This would be a good candidate for sundae bar assembly, letting guests make their own from supplied ingredients. For mine, I pooled a little raspberry sauce at the bottom of the bowl, added ¼ of the peach, then a scoop each of the two kinds of ice cream and the remaining three peach pieces on top, then drizzled on some of both the sauces.
Over that went a nice mound of whipped cream, the chopped toasted almonds, and more drizzles of both sauces. Then I added a Rainier cherry, to go with the peach and pink color scheme up top.
I can attest that the inaugural Peach Split Ice Cream Sundae...