Pour It On

Let the ice cream toppings flow this summer, from the favorites to the new taste tinglers.

Focus On Desserts

July 18, 2004|By Suzanne White | Suzanne White,Special to the Sun

When it comes to ice cream toppings, here's the latest scoop: They're endless, creative and, oh-so adventurous.

Don't get me wrong. Ice cream consumers still love their classic hot fudge sauce, gooey butterscotch and '60s crushed pineapple over a bowl of ice cream or three-dip sundae. But the newer breed of toppings is bold and sassy.

Chocolate sauces are infused with spirits and studded with summer fruits and gourmet nuts. Fruit toppings are made from ripe mangoes, strawberries, blueberries or a combination of fruits, enhanced by balsamic vinegar, a splash of lime juice or sweet liqueurs.

Then we have the evolving world of sprinkles. If it's new, dessertish and can be semi-pulverized, chances are the product will find its way to the ice cream counter. Animal crackers, white chocolate baking chips, teeny flavored marshmallows, granola, chopped candy bars, and cookies hold the share of this market.

New ice cream topping flavors and concoctions are born each summer, reflecting trends in the food industry and consumer preferences. This year is no exception.

"I see a lot of people introducing low-carb toppings like dark chocolate, peanut butter, chocolate mint and praline," said Lynda Utterback, executive director of the National Ice Cream Retailers Association.

The possibilities are endless. But you had better get started soon. Why?

July is National Ice Cream Month. We can thank President Ronald Reagan for making this designation in 1984, in which he also declared the third Sunday of the month as National Ice Cream Day.

So go celebrate -- and don't forget the maraschino cherry.

Caramel Nut Topping

Makes 1 pint

1 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup white corn syrup

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnut, hazelnut, macadamia)

Mix all ingredients except nuts and boil to soft-ball stage, 234-240 F; stir until boiling point, then cook without stirring until soft ball stage. Cool mixture and add nuts. Serve on vanilla ice cream.

-- makeicecream.com

Mango Topping

Makes about 1 cup

3 mangoes, peeled, pitted and chopped

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon sugar

Puree all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Strain sauce and refrigerate until well chilled.

-- makeicecream.com

Strawberry Balsamic Sauce

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 pint strawberries, stemmed and sliced

Heat sugar, water and vinegar over moderately low heat in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Toss with strawberries in a bowl and let stand 5 minutes.

-- "Gourmet Every Day" by the editors of Gourmet, Conde Nast Publications, 2000

Blueberry Topping

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 pound blueberries

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the cornstarch dissolves. Boil until mixture thickens, stirring occasionally. Cover and refrigerate.

-- makeicecream.com

Bittersweet Hot Fudge Sauce

Serves 4

one 3-ounce bar bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces

2 tablespoons Amaretto or orange-flavored liqueur or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup whipping cream

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate, Amaretto and cream. Cover tightly and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Remove from oven and stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Serve immediately over ice cream.

-- "The Convenience Cook," by Judith Finlayson, Robert Rose Inc., 2003

Crumble Topping No. 1

Makes about 3 cups

3/4 cup sugar

6 tablespoons butter, melted

1 1/2 cups unblanched almonds or pecans, coarsely chopped

Blend sugar and butter. Stir in nuts. Spread on jelly-roll pan or baking sheet with sides. Bake in 375-degree oven for 12-18 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes until golden brown. If necessary, drain off excess butter. Cool completely. Put in a plastic bag and crush to make coarse crumbs.

Crumble Topping No. 2

Makes about 3 cups

1/2 cup butter

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

Melt butter in large frying pan. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cook, stirring constantly over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, or until mixture is golden brown. Cool completely. Put in a plastic bag and crush to make coarse crumbs.

-- "Summer Weekends Cookbook" by Jane Rodmell, Cottage Life Books, 2001

Low-Carb Cinnamon Pecans and Almonds

Makes 1 cup

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup pecans halves

1/2 cup raw sliced almonds

1/4 cup sugar substitute (recommended: Splenda)

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, and then add all ingredients and saute for about 2 minutes or until a little crispy, stirring gently so as not to break up the sliced almonds. Serve warm or at room temperature.

-- www.foodnetwork.com, recipe courtesy George Stella, "Low Carb and Lovin' It"

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