DIY Ice Cream Pairings

Confession: I have an ice cream problem. I just love the stuff, always have, always will. Apparently, the good folks at Ketchum knew that, because they invited me to come to their kitchen to gorge on the stuff. Specifically, they were promoting ice creams made entirely of California milk. It seemed like a good way to boost the state economy. What can I say? I'm a giver. 

I'm perfectly content to sit down with a bowl (read: trough) of good old vanilla ice cream, but Ketchum had engaged pastry chef Tim Nugent of Scala's Bistro (you may recall him as the Snow Queen from the inaugural season of Top Chef: Just Desserts) to come up with clever and interesting topping pairings of toppings to dress up your workaday sundae. Chef Nugent doled out bowl after bowl of combos like chocolate ice cream with bitter chocolate syrup, smoked salt and pink peppercorns; coconut-pineapple syrup with lemongrass syrup, grilled pineapple and toasted shaved coconut; and lemon chiffon ice cream with limoncello, whipped cream and salted marcona almonds. 

Did I mention I hadn't eaten lunch beforehand? I developed a serious sugar high, fast. 

But it got me thinking: As DIY enthusiasts, we always have a jar or 50 of this or that in the house looking for a cause. Ice cream is the perfect palate on which to paint our homemade goods. 

Suddenly the site looked like a giant ice cream parlor with a million exciting toppings. Sure, there's a post for chocolate syrup, spicy no less. But that was just the tip of the syrup iceberg. How about some strawberry-rosemary syrup over vanilla? Or warmly spiced chai simple syrup to add depth to coffee ice cream. And what about some jalapeños in honey syrup with chocolate? I know, right? 

Jams, jellies and preserves ... well, there's no shortage there. Spicy sour cherries and chocolate might be too good to be true, and pretty much any variation on strawberry jam will work with vanilla and more. 

Make it a little more grown up with a homemade liqueur. Chef Nugent used limoncello (I might break out my beloved pompelmocello), but sour cherry liqueur, cherry pit liqueur, or (swoon) elderflower cordial all are likely players. 

One of the things Chef Nugent did that I adored was topping one sundae with whipped crème fraîche as opposed to humdrum whipped cream; it can only be better if you've cultured your own

Pickles? If they're cherries in five spice, I don't see why not. And heck, if Humphry Slocombe can make ice cream out of prosciutto, I'd say even the Charcutepalooza crowd can get in on the act. 

What are your favorite homemade goodies to put on ice cream? 

Plum Chutney

Plum Chutney over really good quality vanilla ice cream.

I like to make a simple mint

I like to make a simple mint sugar syrup, or make lavender syrup and pour that over sliced strawberries. Lemon sugar, made with just lemon zest and sugar, is good, too. Oh, or brandied cherries!

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