This week is a trifecta of events … we have Cinco de Mayo, the Kentucky Derby, and Mother’s Day, one right after the other. I will be sharing fun ways to celebrate all three, but let’s start with one of my favorite days of the year, the annual run for the roses, the Kentucky Derby!
Last year, just in time to watch American Pharoah win the first leg of the Triple Crown, I made a chocolate-bourbon sauce and served it over mint chocolate-chip ice cream in an ode to the traditional flavors found in a Mint Julep. Oh yeah baby! This year I am continuing my love affair with ice cream sauces and bourbon, except I made a bourbon caramel sauce and added white chocolate to vanilla ice cream. Another winner’s circle finish!
Adding Kentucky bourbon to the caramelized sugar syrup brings the flavor of traditional Derby treats into your kitchen and helps get you in the spirit. When it comes to caramel I love it in any form, but when I have a chance to include some booze and add depth and complexity, you can guess which direction I head. 😉
For the ice cream, I took a shortcut and simply added white chocolate chips to my favorite vanilla, but you could use chocolate or any other flavor your family loves. And if you are so inclined, make your own ice cream from scratch.
If you are making your own ice cream, this sauce would make a wonderful swirl running through the middle. Once the ice cream is churned, scoop some of it into a container, add a thick drizzle of the caramel sauce, another layer of ice cream, more caramel, and keep layering until you’ve got all the ice cream in the container. Cover and freeze until firm. The final ice cream will be naturally swirled when you scoop out servings.
David Lebovitz, the wizard of ice cream, has 10 wonderful tips for making caramel that will answer your more technical questions. Caramel is an art, but one that is quickly mastered. The biggest key is to follow your nose! It will tell you when the caramel is at the perfect temperature.
You can serve these sundaes in simple bowls, but I thought it would be fun to make a vertical sundae like the ones I used to get at the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory in San Francisco. My favorite was called an Emperor Norton, stacks of vanilla ice cream, sliced bananas and hot fudge ~ sort of a vertical banana split. I would make a special request to have them add some caramel to the sundae and they usually would. Then it was perfect! I kept today’s version simple, but you can certainly make any additions you like.
As you enjoy the festivities of Derby day, admire the elegant hats and fashions worn by the women, possibly sipping a julep or two (or three, I won’t tell 🙂 ), you can dive into this delightful sundae and enjoy a taste of Kentucky. And who knows, we may be seeing the next winner of the Triple Crown race to victory!
Happy Chocolate Monday!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Adding corn syrup when making caramel greatly reduces the chances of the sugar re-crystalizing as it cools, helping keep it creamy and smooth. Consider it an insurance policy. If you don’t want to use it, you can leave it out but be extra vigilant not to get any crystals on the sides of the pan and use a pastry brush dipped in water to wash down the sides of the pan occasionally.
Some people with severe gluten intolerance or anyone with celiac disease cannot tolerate bourbon or other dark liquors. The distillation process removes the gluten from the grains, but to add an appealing dark amber color, many distillers add caramel coloring to their liquors. This coloring agent is one place where gluten often hides.
If you are cooking for someone with strong reactions, the safe way to make this caramel sauce is to use potato vodka plus 1 tsp brown sugar in place of the bourbon. This is a fairly close approximation of the flavor.
- Ice Cream
- 2 pints of your favorite vanilla ice cream, softened
- 1-1/2 cups white chocolate chips, preferably mini chips
- 1 cup finely chopped pecans, optional
- Bourbon Caramel Sauce
- 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tbsp dark corn syrup
- 1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp kosher or fine sea salt
- 2 tbsp bourbon (or vodka plus 1 tsp brown sugar, see Note)
- Assemble the Ice Cream: Scoop the ice cream into a large bowl, add the white chocolate chips and fold them in until evenly distributed. Scoop into a smaller container or back into the original - you want to be able to tightly close it to reduce icing - and return to the freezer to firm up.
- Make the Bourbon Caramel Sauce: Place the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a large saucepan with a light interior (this helps you watch the color of the syrup change as it cooks). Very gently stir just until the sugar is moistened, being sure not to splash any on the sides of the pan. Cook over medium-high heat, swirling the pan occasionally without stirring, until it becomes dark golden and smells like caramel, about 10 to 12 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat, and using a long handled spoon, stir in the cream, vanilla, and salt. The sauce will boil up furiously but will subside quickly as you stir. Add the bourbon, stirring until the sauce is smooth and silky. Pour into clean glass jars (canning jars work well). Cover and store the sauce in the refrigerator.
- NOTE: If you are serving someone with celiac or those who are highly reactive to gluten, you can replace the bourbon with potato vodka. Some people cannot tolerate dark liquors, usually due to caramel coloring added by some distillers.
- This recipe makes about 2 cups or 1 pint of sauce.
Create a New Tradition Today!
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