Make Your Vanilla Ice Cream Pop with Striking Sauces

By: Jeni Britton Bauer

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I can’t think of a better-suited end to a slow summer meal than an eye-popping ice cream sundae. Like summer itself, the best ice cream sundaes are about wild contrasts of taste, texture, temperature and flavor.

Voluptuous vanilla bean -- full and round. When it melts and relaxes on your palate it reveals notes of honey, jasmine, leather, smoke, and cream into your nose. There is nothing more full-flavored, full-bodied than a well-made vanilla ice cream. Vanilla has its own personality, and, like people, is at its best when paired with something that complements, highlights and occasionally pushes its limits.

Buy or make your favorite vanilla ice cream, then assemble these easy sauces for a dessert that really pops.

Plum Skin Sauce

A neon pink and puckery plum skin sauce is the perfect accessory; one bite of the two strikingly dissimilar flavor profiles makes all the flavors pop.

1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 plums

for serving
vanilla ice cream

Combine sugar and lemon juice in small saucepan over medium heat. Run a pairing knife around one of the plums as if you were skinning an apple. Put plum skins into lemon mixture, eat or reserve the flesh of the plum. Cut the other two plums into large chunks with the skins on and add to the sauce in the pan. Bring to a boil and cook just until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat.

Put in a blender and carefully puree the mixture. Force through a fine mesh sieve if you want.

Hot Honey Butterscotch Sauce

Vanilla ice cream is soft and round, chilled out. It pops when coated with crunchy, percussive corn flakes and frenetic, hot honey butterscotch.

1 cup sugar
2/3 cup honey
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
a good pinch of fine sea salt
1-2 TBS red pepper flakes (or to taste)

for serving
vanilla ice cream
crushed cornflakes

Combine the sugar and honey in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is melted. Then cook without stirring, swirling the pan occasionally. The mixture will become foamy at first, then the bubbles will turn to huge glassine spheres and subside into smaller shiny bubbles. At this point, the sugar will begin to brown rather quickly. Use a heatproof rubber spatula to stir the caramel. Allow it to bubble for a moment longer and then remove from heat.

Carefully drizzle the cream into the caramel, stirring until completely dissolved. Add the red pepper flakes and stir. Add the butter pieces and stir until melted and smooth. Allow the pepper flakes to steep for an hour (up to overnight). Pour through a fine mesh sieve. Serve warm or cool.

I love this sauce on fried ice cream. Instead of actually frying the ice cream, just roll the scoops of ice cream it in crushed cornflakes and refreeze. You can do it about an hour before serving. It adds another layer to the dish.

Smoked Sea Salt Fudge

Vanilla is humble, shy, wanting to be adored. Extra bitter hot fudge with smoked sea salt topped with almonds makes a tin roof sundae that heats up the night as the grill cools down.

1 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

for serving
vanilla ice cream

Combine the water, sugar and corn syrup in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and add the cocoa powder, whisking until smooth. Add the chocolate and let sit for three minutes. Whisk until smooth and glossy. Add smoked salts. You could even add a bit more salt on top of the sundae for crunch.

Which sauce would you pick for your sundae?

Jeni Britton Bauer has created ice creams for more than 15 years and opened her first ice cream shop, Scream, in 1996. Seeking a change, Jeni founded Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in 2002 with the help of her business partner and husband Charly. Her cookbook, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, is a New York Times best-selling cookbook has been dubbed "the homemade-ice cream-making Bible" by The Wall Street Journal. When Jeni isn’t developing new flavors, she devotes time to Local Matters, as well as reading, painting at her kitchen table, sewing, drinking wine, cooking, and making big messes with her husband and two children at their home in Columbus.

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