There is an art to selecting sauces for ice cream sundaes

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

The Culinary Institute of America

HYDE PARK, N.Y. -- There are tough decisions to make throughout life, but few more important to an ice cream sundae connoisseur than how to top one's ice cream.

With so many sauces and toppings, which combination creates the ultimate sundae? It wasn't always this difficult. There was a time when all you could order were different flavors of ice cream.

Just who created the ice cream sundae? The jury is still out, because a few towns lay claim to the honor -- among them Two Rivers and Manitowoc, Wis., and Ithaca and Buffalo, N.Y. However, the Wisconsin State Historical Society recognizes Two Rivers as the birthplace of the sundae and in 1973 erected a historic marker to make it official.

The earliest account is from the folks in Two Rivers. According to them, an ice cream parlor owner served George Hallauer a dish of ice cream back in 1881.

On a nearby shelf, George spotted a bottle of chocolate syrup used to make chocolate sodas, but the owner protested when George asked him to pour some syrup on his ice cream, warning him he would ruin the flavor.

George liked it, however, and so the ice cream sundae was born.

The confection was originally available to customers only on Sundays, so the story goes. As time went on and more people asked for "that ice cream dish you make on Sunday," they shortened the request to "give me a Sunday."

How the spelling changed from "y" to "ae" remains a mystery. There are quite a number of different explanations for the spelling change.

There are also many different ways to create a "perfect" ice cream sundae -- among them, choosing your favorite sauce, pouring it over your favorite ice cream, and adding one or more toppings such as walnuts, peanuts, sprinkles or cherries.

On the more professional level, the Culinary Institute of America teaches that proper sauce accompaniment is crucial to any successful dessert presentation.

"Always serve a sauce that will complement or enhance, and not overwhelm, the textures and flavors present in the dessert," associate dean-chef Tom Gumpel says. "Avoid serving sauces of the same consistency and texture as the dessert. For example, do not serve creamy vanilla sauce with a creamy ice cream."

Creating a chocolate sauce is very easy if you follow a few rules. Chop the chocolate into small, consistently sized pieces. Place the chocolate pieces into a completely dry glass or stainless steel bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan of slightly simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the surface of the water. Stir the chocolate occasionally until completely smooth.

This technique for melting chocolate also works well for warming and reheating sauces.

The following ice-cream sauce recipes are adapted from the Culinary Institute of America's "Baking and Pastry, Mastering the Art and Craft."

Chocolate Sauce

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup water

3 tablespoons light corn syrup

3/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted

1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate, melted

Place the sugar, water and corn syrup in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil to create syrup. Remove the pan from the heat. Place the cocoa powder in a bowl. Add half of the boiled syrup and stir until the mixture is a smooth paste.

Gradually add the remaining syrup to the paste and mix until the syrup is fully incorporated. Add the melted chocolate and blend until fully incorporated. Strain the chocolate sauce through a fine-mesh sieve.

Serve the chocolate sauce either warm or cold. Sauce may be kept under refrigeration in an airtight container for 7 days.

Classic Caramel Sauce

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

2 1/2 tablespoons butter

Create an ice bath by filling three-quarters of a large bowl with ice and water.

Place the sugar and corn syrup in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture forms a light golden caramel. Remove from heat and place pan in the ice-water bath for 10 minutes.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the cream to a boil over medium heat. Remove pan from heat.

Remove the caramel from the ice bath and stir in the butter. Carefully stir in the hot cream until fully incorporated. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. Sauce may be kept under refrigeration in an airtight container for 5 days.

Butterscotch Sauce

3/4 cup light corn syrup

2 cups brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup heavy cream

Place the corn syrup, brown sugar, butter and salt in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool for 3 to 5 minutes.

Bring cream to a boil in a separate saucepan. Carefully whisk the cream into the sugar mixture until fully blended. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. Sauce may be kept under refrigeration in an airtight container for 5 days.

Hot Fudge Sauce

1 1/4 cups dark chocolate, melted

1/2 cup cocoa powder

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons light corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Place the melted chocolate, cocoa and water in a saucepan over low heat. Stir mixture until it is fully combined. Add the butter, sugar, corn syrup and salt to the mixture. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium heat until it thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Sauce may be kept under refrigeration in an airtight container for 7 days.

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