Cooking, for me, is all about memories; indulging in old ones and creating new ones. Looking back over previous posts, you’ll notice that the vast majority include the lines ‘When I was little’ or ‘I’ve always wanted to recreate’, and I think this sentiment is somewhat universal. Much of our lives can be measured in the edible; from celebratory meals and birthday cakes, to the comforting smell of a Sunday roast, the zing of an exotic new spice or a single taste which transports you instantly to a certain time or place.
When I was given an ice cream maker for my birthday, there were certain flavours I knew I had to make. Rich chocolate and vanilla – my all-time favourite childhood combination – velvet smooth and dripping from a giant cone; milky straciatella, packed with fragile shards of bittersweet chocolate; nutty gianduja, a slightly more sophisticated take on Nutella, and mint choc chip – for me the flavour of France – piled high in a sundae glass and topped with delicate clouds of crème chantilly.
I also wanted to make a recipe that Carniverous Boyfriend would enjoy – when your freezer is packed with litres of ice cream, you need a partner in crime to help polish it off – so I asked him to pick a flavour that brought back his fondest childhood memories. The answer came immediately. Butterscotch please.
Not just any old butterscotch mind. CB’s all-time favourite childhood dessert was butterscotch Angel Delight. That’s right, the powdered, packeted confection, rammed full of sugar and preservatives, stripped of any nutrients and whisked with milk to create an instant, mousse-like dessert. Considering he comes from Doncaster, the birthplace of butterscotch (as I discovered when researching this post, who knew!), Angel Delight’s saccharine version of the real deal seemed a slight snub to this proud heritage. I was sure I could create something infinitely superior . . .
The recipe below is a winner; rich, buttery and unbelievably addictive. But never underestimate the power of nostalgia when it comes to food. Having dug out my ice cream bible,The Perfect Scoop, I informed my loving boyfriend that I’d found the perfect recipe to make him; butterscotch ice cream with salty buttered pecans and a cheeky shot of scotch for a sophisticated take on a childhood classic. Did he jump with joy? No chance. My adventurous, whiskey drinking, ‘I’ll try anything’ boyfriend wrinkled his nose in disappointment and looked at me through puppy-dog eyes. Nuts? And whiskey? Angel Delight didn’t contain alcohol. It just won’t taste the same.
The divinely rich aroma of buttered pecans toasting early one weekend morning overcame his first objection, and I met him half way by relenting on the scotch – it’s certainly not vital in this recipe, and omitting the booze actually allows the toasty butter flavours to really shine through. I’d originally planned to serve big bowls of ice cream steeped in hot fudge sauce and sprinkled with nuts, but when I saw a picture of tartufi tucked away at the back of The Perfect Scoop, I knew I had to give them a go.*
Tartufi are fun to make and even better to eat. Once you get the hang of them you can use different flavours of ice cream, trying different toppings from chopped nuts to chocolate swirls, using a combination of dark, milk and white chocolate. If you’re feeling really lazy you could use a tub of good quality shop-bought ice cream and skip to the relevant stage of the recipe to have a play around. I suppose if you’re feeling really lazy you could go and buy a pack of choc ices, but that’s not really the point. This recipe may be time consuming, but it’s worth every single second.
After melting, whisking, stirring, freezing, melting, dipping and freezing again, you’re left with what can only be described as a little taste of heaven. The best pimped-up Snickers ice cream you ever ate but with miles more oomph, packed with beautiful buttery pecans in place of peanuts and cloaked in a smooth chocolate shell. Sheer butterscotch bliss. And you can’t say fairer than that.
What foods and flavours bring back childhood memories for you? And would you allow anyone to play around with them for a more mature adult palate or are they set in stone?
Butterscotch pecan ice cream tartufi (created using recipes from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop)
Makes 12 generous tartufi
For the pecans
150g pecan halves
1/4 tsp coarse salt
For the ice cream
170g dark brown muscovado sugar
1/2 tsp coarse salt
500ml double cream
180ml full fat milk
6 large medium free range egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
One quantity of buttered pecans, as above
For the tartufi
340g good quality dark chocolate
170g unsalted butter, cubed
3 tbsp corn or glucose syrup
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. Melt the butter in a frying pan then remove from the heat, mix in the pecan halves until thoroughly coated then sprinkle with salt. Spread evenly on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 10-12 minutes, stirring once about half way through. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely before coarsely chopping.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan with the sugar and salt. Whisk in 250ml of the cream and all the milk then warm slightly. Pour the remaining cream into a large bowl in an ice bath and set a mesh sieve on top.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warmed sugar mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
Stir the mixture constantly over a medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour this custard through the sieve into the cold cream and stir. Add the vanilla, then continue to stir over the ice bath until cool.
Chill your mixture thoroughly in the fridge, then freeze in your ice cream maker. During the last few minutes of churning, add just over 3/4 of the buttered pecans (reserving the rest to decorate). Freeze until a good texture to scoop.
At the same time, line a two large trays or dinner plates with parchment paper and pop in the freezer to chill. Once chilled, scoop 12 large scoops of ice cream – making sure they are solid and well formed, with no dangling bits – and return to the freezer on one tray/plate to harden completely. I rolled the scoops with my hands to form a perfect round.
To dip the tartufi, melt the chocolate, butter and corn or glucose syrup in a bain marie until smooth. Allow to cool slightly, then remove your ice cream balls from the freezer. Using two soup spoons, drop a frozen scoop of ice cream into the melted chocolate and toss quickly til completely coated. Transfer back to the chilled tray/plate and sprinkle with chopped nuts. Repeat with the remaining scoops of ice cream, returning them to the freezer if they start to melt too much. Once complete, return to the freezer until ready to serve, removing about 10 minutes before eating so they soften slightly.
*I’ve actually skipped a stage of my thinking above for sake of space saving. After the hot fudge sauce idea, I decided to try and make little choc ices using ice lolly moulds, inspired by some beautiful creations I’d seen by the Italian seaside. Needless to say they didn’t set, fell apart and were a complete disaster. But that’s another post altogether so watch this space, I’m working on an alternative. . .