Up Your Ice Cream Game With One of These Easy Sundae Sauces
I do a lot of screaming, and a non-negligible portion of that screaming is ice cream related. “Where is the ice cream scoop?!” (The drawer.) “Who put the ice cream in fridge instead of the freezer??!” (Me.) “Are we out of hot fudge???” (Almost always.)
If McDonald’s has taught me anything, it’s that a sauce, be it caramel-, fruit-, or fudge-based, is what turns a simple serving of ice cream into a sundae, and sundaes are just a little more special, intentional, and delicious.
You can buy a sauce or several at the grocery store, but there are multiple sundae finishers that can be made with very few ingredients in the comfort of your own kitchen. Plus, if you happen to be sharing, serving homemade sauces is one way to earn a few bragging rights, if you are into that kind of thing.
Easy Hot Fudge
Hot fudge is perhaps the most iconic sundae topping, because it is rich and delicious. This recipe from Food52 calls for a mere four ingredients, two of which are water and salt. The other two are unsweetened chocolate and sweetened condensed milk, which meld and merge to create a thick, rich, just-sweet-enough ice cream topping that can be riffed on if desired with vanilla extract, instant espresso powder, chili powder, or any other extract or powder you desire, though I encourage you to try it in its purest form before making tweaks.
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup water
1/4-3/4 teaspoon salt, depending on your taste for salty-sweetness
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broke into bits
Combine the first three ingredients in a medium sauce pan over low heat. Add the chocolate and stir continuously as it melts to form a thick, shiny sauce. If the fudge is a bit too thick for your liking, you can add little splashes of water to thin it out. This makes a fair amount of fudge, but don’t worry: You can reheat it on the stove or in the microwave. Just heat slowly and gently and stir frequently.
Easy Dulce de Leche (with a vegan option!)
Transforming a can of sweetened condensed milk into a thick, rich, buttery caramel sauce is a favorite party trick of mine, and one of the first food hacks I learned from my maternal grandmother.
Take any can of condensed sweetened milk (or sweetened condensed coconut milk if you’re avoiding dairy and/or want your dip to taste like a Samoa Girl Scout cookie) and place it on a trivet inside your Instant Pot or other electric pressure cooker. Cover the can with water, and cook under high pressure for 35 minutes (if you’re using dairy milk) or 45 minutes (if you’re using the coconut stuff). Let the pressure release naturally and the can cool completely before opening it up to reveal your golden caramel sauce. (If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can also use a slow cooker, which takes longer but works just as well.)
Chocolate or Peanut Butter Magic Shell
There is something about cracking through a sweet candy shell that’s just, well, magical. To make a chocolate shell, you need seven ounces of roughly chopped chocolate—any chocolate—and two tablespoons of coconut oil. Combine the two in a double boiler or in a sauce pan over very low heat, stir until smooth, pour on top of ice cream, and get to cracking. For the peanut butter shell, combine half a cup of smooth peanut butter with a quarter of a cup of coconut oil and microwave in 30 second intervals until smooth. (If you have any leftovers, store them in the fridge and reheat them in the microwave before each use.)
My stepmom changed my life when she served me a bowl of vanilla ice cream and peaches. The peaches weren’t cut into slick slices or chopped into bits, they were sprinkled with sugar and mashed with a potato masher to create a sort of raw compote. The juices and bits swirled and intermingled with the ice cream, rather than falling to the bottom of the bowl. It was very simple, but made “ice cream and peaches” taste more like “fresh peach ice cream.” You can try the sprinkle-and-mash move with any fruit, but I think peaches are a good place to start.