Fancy sauces are often reserved for savory dishes, but they work just as well in desserts, too. Whether it be a drizzle of hot fudge sauce over some ice cream, caramel on a slice of apple pie, or the blueberry sauce on this Meyer lemon olive oil cake, the right sauce can take a dessert to the next level. Pro chef Ina Garten's preferred sauce for her scrumptious dessert recipes is actually a whole other dessert in itself: melted vanilla ice cream.
In her 2018 cookbook "Cook Like a Pro", the celebrity chef shared her recipe for vanilla brioche bread pudding, along with what she called a "pro secret" of drizzling melted store-bought vanilla ice cream over the finished treat, as if it were a sauce. Simply melting the ice cream results in a very simplified version of a traditional sweet French sauce called crème anglaise. This melted ice cream hack isn't just reserved for bread pudding, as Garten once shared on Instagram that the sauce also pairs well with her chocolate cake.
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A Shortcut To Crème Anglaise
In "Cook Like a Pro," Ina Garten referred to vanilla ice cream as "essentially crème anglaise that has been frozen," and it's an accurate description. Crème anglaise is a sweet dessert sauce that's made with heavy cream, vanilla extract, egg yolks, and sugar. These ingredients are carefully whisked together over controlled heat to form a custard that should be just thick enough to coat a spoon. Vanilla ice cream is made the same way with the same ingredients, but after the custard forms, it's chilled, churned, then frozen. Melting vanilla ice cream therefore reverts it to the liquid custard stage, essentially turning it into a crème anglaise, as Garten said.
While a pro chef like Garten would likely have no problem adding real crème anglaise to her desserts, making it from scratch isn't a simple feat for most home cooks. You have to temper the custard by cooking it on the stovetop, and the eggs could easily curdle if the temperature get too hot, resulting in scrambled eggs instead of a smooth sauce. In this case, Garten's iconic adage that "store bought is fine" is especially true, because melted vanilla ice cream requires far less effort and tastes just as good on top of cakes, puddings, fresh fruit, or even on top of ice cream for some double ice cream goodness.
Using Ina Garten's Ice Cream Sauce
Crème anglaise is a versatile sauce, and so is melted vanilla ice cream. It complements a variety of desserts from fruit tarts to cream pies. Any dessert that would benefit from the flavor of vanilla or a touch of creamy texture would pair well with this sauce. It can also take on a variety of flavors. Try mixing the melted ice cream with mint extract, strawberry puree, or chocolate syrup.
Vanilla ice cream differs from brand to brand, so to ensure it tastes as close to homemade crème anglaise as possible, you'll want to check the ingredients list on the label of the container. If there are a lot of "gums" listed, like guar gum or cellulose gum, it means the ice cream is relying on stabilizers rather than a properly churned custard to achieve its smooth, uniform texture. It will not melt as well, and may have a different taste that doesn't resemble crème resemble anglaise as closely. For optimal taste and texture, per the suggestion in Garten's cookbook, go with Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream or a similar formulation -- the shorter the ingredients list, the better.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.