Are you into salty? Or sweet?
Somehow, somewhere along the line, a wall was built through the city of our taste buds, and we feel we have to set up camp on one side or the other. I was recently asked my favorite flavor of ice cream. My response, mint chip, sent the asker practically falling off her chair about how sweets-lovers always favor mint chip. Salty folk? Cookies and cream.
Salty-or-sweet is a widely-held distinction that drives my sister a little crazy. And once that girl gets going on a rant, well, you best be wearing your waterproof mascara so your laugh tears don’t wreck your face.
What she wants to know is why does it have to be one or the other? Who said she has to choose? WHO said? Who IS this person and where did they COME from? She wants her salty French fries alongside her ice cream, not beforehand and not at separate meals, but side by side on the table in front of her.
My nephew John at 7 already gets this. His eyes went huge when talk of fries and ice cream hit the fan. His bag is a Wendy’s frosty with fries. Amazing, he says. Once I even dipped a CHICKEN TENDER in, he said.
Peg first started ordering her fries and ice cream at Juilleret’s, the old-fashioned restaurant in Harbor Springs whose claim to fame as the oldest family-owned restaurant in Michigan was not enough, it seems, to keep it open. Either the owners just got tired of the business, as the buzz went, or Michigan’s challenged economy of recent years left no town, including Harbor Springs, untouched. Juilleret’s closed in 2007, and there has been a town-wide pining for its re-opening ever since.
Like most everyone else here, we started going to Juilleret’s as kids. The place ranks high in my memory as one of the first places where we were allowed to go by ourselves, to order and eat and pay. Those skills have come in handy over the years.
But the more valuable take-away from a childhood of hanging out at Jullieret’s was for me the hot fudge sundaes with salty peanuts. Their famous Thunderclouds and Velvets gave me my first tastes of bittersweet chocolate. Then my sister started ordering her French fries along with her ice cream, and that was all she wrote.
My order was always very specific:
I’ll have a sundae with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and extra Spanish peanuts. Spoonful marshmallow.
The pre- and post-order haranguing from my siblings was equally specific: they could not seem to get why I didn’t just order the tin roof sundae, or the Thundercloud. Why did I have to enumerate all of the elements to my sundae separately?
Those poor souls, no matter how many salty fries and ice cream they ate, did not understand the subtle yet crucial differences. Tin roof sundaes employ chocolate sauce, not hot fudge. You might as well skip dessert altogether if you’re going to have chocolate sauce. It’s runny, too sweet (I’m sorry), and has no texture, no chewiness, no redeeming quality at all (except that it is, I’ll admit, chocolate). Thunderclouds, while rightly layering the ice cream with bittersweet hot fudge sauce, did not top it all off with the perfection of Spanish peanuts or the airy homemade marshmallow dollop (which is odd, given that ‘cloud’ was in the name of the sundae). Salty Peggy should have understood that any person in their right mind needs extra Spanish peanuts to eat when the top layer is gone.
So we arrive at the finest sundae I know. There’s nothing fancy here; no spice in the chocolate to make it 2013, no you-won’t-believe-how-easy method for the marshmallow. Just making sauces and layering them with good ice cream in a glass sundae dish, with salty nuts on top and on the side, is enough excitement for me, same as it ever was.
Hot Fudge Sundae with Spanish Peanuts and Marshmallow
In a tall glass sundae dish, layer fudge sauce with scoops of good vanilla ice cream. When I’m making the sauces, usually I’m not making the ice cream too and I bet you aren’t, either. I like Hagaan Dazs vanilla. Top the sundae with Spanish peanuts and a spoonful of marshmallow sauce. A long spoon is helpful. Serve with a side of french fries, if you can.
Hot Fudge Sauce
This recipe is based on David Lebovitz’s fudge sauce in his ice cream bible, The Perfect Scoop. It has the perfect balance of dark chocolate depth and sweetness, with a terrific texture. Don’t spoon this on the sundae until it cools off and is barely warm, otherwise it will melt the ice cream too quickly.
¾ cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, ideally Dutch process
½ cup light corn syrup or golden syrup
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon salted butter
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
In a 1 ½-2 quart heavy saucepan, mix the cream, brown sugar, cocoa, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Immediately remove from the heat and add the chocolate and butter. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the sauce is smooth, then add the vanilla. Cool the sauce to lukewarm, or refrigerate and rewarm at low heat on the stove or in the microwave. The sauce keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Homemade marshmallow is so very delicious, and so very short-lived. It just won’t hold when made well, without too much gelatin and no commercial stabilizers. So make it after dinner while everyone recharges for dessert, then eat it all up. Again, we’re turning to The Perfect Scoop for the basis of the perfect marshmallow sauce, one that uses hot syrup so that the egg white is “cooked” and safe for everyone to eat.
3/4 cup cold water
1/2 envelope (about 1 teaspoon) unflavored gelatin powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 large egg white
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin powder over 1/2 cup cold water and set aside. In a small, heavy-duty saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, mix the remaining 1/4 cup water with the sugar and corn syrup. Put the egg white and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Bring the sugar mixture to a boil, and when the syrup reaches 225 degrees F, begin beating the egg white at medium speed. When the syrup reaches 240 degrees F and the egg white is stiff (be careful not to over beat the egg white), remove the thermometer from the syrup and pour it into egg white in the running mixer in a slow, steady stream. Aim between the whisk and the side of the bowl.
While the marshmallow is whipping, scrape the softened gelatin into the warm saucepan (it will still have some residual sugar syrup in it; that’s fine). The heat of the pan will melt the gelatin off the heat. Pour the gelatin into the marshmallow while its whipping. Beat until the marshmallow is room temperature, then whip in the vanilla. Serve immediately.