Quick. What’s the best food pairing you can think of? Anyone who does not immediately answer "hot fudge and vanilla ice cream" is far too grownup. There are hundreds of perfect pairings—bacon and eggs, peanut butter and jelly, rice and beans—but none is as wonderful as the pure black and white simplicity of hot fudge and vanilla ice cream. It has everything going for it.
Hot and cold. Black and white. Sticky and smooth. But best of all is the way hot fudge makes vanilla ice cream taste more like vanilla, and vanilla ice cream makes the densest hot fudge reveal new aspects of its personality.
If you’ve been buying banal bottled hot fudge, this may be news to you: Making hot fudge is easy. Nothing you can do in the kitchen offers bigger rewards for so little effort. As for ice cream, there are many excellent brands out there, but ice cream is always at its best when it is freshly made and eaten right out of the churn. Here are the steps to sundae heaven.
1. Use the best, deepest, densest, chocolatiest chocolate you can find. (I use Tcho chocolate baking drops.) In this case, better really is better. You also need cocoa powder for that fudgy taste.
2. And you need a little bit of instant espresso. Coffee has the magical ability to make chocolate taste more like chocolate. A little pinch of instant espresso powder makes the chocolate flavor leap right to the forefront (and you will never taste the coffee).
3. Corn syrup has a bad reputation, but you really do need it to give your hot fudge body, shine, and smoothness. Why? Because corn syrup is an invert sugar, which means that it prevents sugar crystals from forming as it cooks.
4. Whipped cream? Nuts? Cherries? Up to you, of course, but I don’t—why interrupt perfection?
Makes about 2½ cups
2/3 cup heavy cream
½ cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 pinch salt
¼ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix and heat: Mix the cream, corn syrup, brown sugar, salt and cocoa powder together in a small (1-2 quart) heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add half the chocolate and stir, over medium heat, until the chocolate is melted.
Keep cooking: Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until it is smooth. Add the butter, remaining chocolate, vanilla and coffee and keep stirring, off the heat, until it is smooth and shiny.
Serve or store: Pour it over vanilla ice cream and revel in the flavor. Or let it cool and keep it, in a covered jar in the refrigerator, for up to a couple of weeks.
Vanilla Ice Cream (adapted from David Leibovitz)
Makes about 1 quart
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 cups whipping cream
5 large egg yolks
Infuse the milk and sugar: Stir the sugar and salt into the milk in a small saucepan over low heat. With a small knife, slit the vanilla bean open and scrape the seeds into the milk mixture. Throw in the bean pod as well. When it is warm, cover the pan, take it off the heat, and let it sit for an hour so that the milk soaks up all the vanilla flavor.
Make an ice bath, and chill cream: Put a small (2-quart bowl) inside a large one that is filled, about half way, with an ice and water mixture. Put the cream into the small bowl to keep it cold.
Temper egg yolks into milk: Gently stir the yolks in a small bowl to combine. Reheat the milk, very gently, pour a bit of the warm into the yolks, whisking constantly, and then pour the now warm yolks into the milk in the pan. Cook, over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard is thick enough to coat a spatula.
Combine cream and milk base: Put a strainer over the bowl of chilled cream and slowly strain the yolk/milk custard into the cream. Stir over the ice until it is cold, and put in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, until it is completely cold. Longer is better.
Spin and serve (or freeze): Take the vanilla bean out of the mixture and freeze the ice cream in an ice cream maker. Serve right away, or pack into a freezer-proof container and freeze until hard, at least 4 hours.