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Ice Cream Solves Dilemma of What to Serve for Dessert

May 31, 1990|KAREN GILLINGHAM | Gillingham is a Los Angeles-based food writer. and

Inviting friends over for dinner used to mean scratch-building some elaborate dessert. If it didn't involve preparing a filling, frosting or one layer or another at least a day ahead, it didn't qualify.

Yet, at some stage of construction, I frequently gave up in frustration that my dessert would ever look like the pictured recipe. And I was never sure if the taste really was a disappointment or it was just the bad attitude I had worked up by the time it, and the rest of the dinner, was finished.

Well, gone are the days of such desserts. It's not that I got any smarter, just tired. The day before a dinner party should be a day off for the cook. Besides, I like to visit with my friends, not miss the punch line of an after-dinner story because I'm in the kitchen warming some silly sauce to the degree needed to ignite en flambe.

Now I serve ice cream. Just plain store-bought vanilla, although I usually choose French. All I need to do is stir up a quick topping to make it a dessert that friends seem to like as much as the fancier ones. No one has even asked me where the good old dessert days have gone.

I like the contrast of a warm, boozy topping. But any of the ideas that follow could be served at room temperature with vanilla, almond extract or other flavoring replacing the liquor.

Almond Sauce is actually part of a recipe from the old days. I used to serve French vanilla ice cream in puff pastry shells and set the sauce aflame. Now it's just ice cream and warm sauce. Hot Hazelnut Fudge turns a scoop of vanilla into the adult version of my favorite childhood treat. Scoops of vanilla go on top of the Brandied Bananas instead of the other way around. Or if there isn't any ice cream left, the bananas are almost as good on their own.

ALMOND SAUCE

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup dark corn syrup

2 tablespoons water

3/4 cup sliced almonds

2 tablespoons almond liqueur

French vanilla ice cream

Heat butter and brown sugar in small saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Stir in corn syrup and water. Add almonds and cook 1 minute longer. Remove from heat and stir in liqueur. Serve warm over ice cream. Makes about 2 cups sauce.

HOT HAZELNUT FUDGE

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup half and half

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup toasted chopped hazelnuts

3 tablespoons hazelnut liqueur, optional

French vanilla ice cream

Melt chocolate with butter in saucepan over very low heat, stirring until smooth. Stir in half and half, sugar and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is completely dissolved and sauce is hot. Stir in nuts and liqueur and heat 1 minute longer. Serve warm over ice cream. Makes about 2 cups sauce.

BRANDIED BANANAS

4 large, firm, ripe bananas

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup brandy

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

French vanilla ice cream

Peel bananas and cut in halves, first crosswise, then lengthwise. Arrange in single layer in shallow buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with walnuts, brown sugar and brandy. Dot with butter. Bake at 400 degrees 8 to 10 minutes until sugar is melted. Serve warm topped with ice cream, spooning some of the sauce over ice cream. Makes 4 servings.

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