Friday, March 14, 2014

Irish Coffee Sundaes

I've never really been one for celebrating St. Patrick's Day.  When I was little, I never really looked forward to it because for some reason, I just never really had very many green clothes.  As I'm sure you know, when you're in elementary/middle school, the cool thing to do is dress up in the colors of whatever holiday is being celebrated.  I always had pink and red options for Valentine's Day, and cute red options for Christmas, but I never had anything for St. Patrick's Day.  I mean, I'm sure I had green clothes somewhere but they always seemed to magically disappear come March 17.  In addition to the lack of green in my wardrobe, there was something even bigger lacking from the holiday itself...chocolate and candy.  There's no such thing as St. Patrick's Day fun-size candy! Any holiday that comes without the promise of sweet candy isn't much of a holiday for me.  I mean, I liked corned beef and cabbage as much as the next person (and still do), but it can't compare to holiday themed candy.  

Now that I'm older, St. Patrick's Day still isn't a holiday that really excites me (I don't think it would excite any sane person if they are unlucky enough to have to maneuver through Penn Station or Manhattan on that me, it's awful).  I'm not much of a drinker, so I don't see the point in going out to get completely plastered (I'd much, much, much rather consume empty calories in the forms of ice cream and cake, thank you very much).  I do enjoy a good beer on occasion, but what I really enjoy are boozey-flavored things.  You know, like caramel whiskey sauce drizzled on scoops of coffee ice cream and dollops of freshly whipped cream.  All of that in one combined into a single, perfect spoonful. 

This, my friends, is an Irish coffee sundae.  In case you don't know what an Irish coffee is, it's basically just hot coffee that has Irish whiskey mixed in and is then topped with freshly whipped cream.  I've never actually had an Irish coffee (no surprise there, as I'm still at that baby stage where I have to force myself to drink regular coffees to stay awake long enough to be productive), but the idea of an Irish coffee sundae translated into a sundae seemed delicious!  I may not care for hot coffee (but I do like coffee-flavored things), and I definitely DO NOT like whiskey straight (but somehow, I do like whiskey-flavored things), so I figured that this Irish coffee sundae idea could either be really good or it could be really bad (for me, at least).  With a 50% chance of ending up with a winning recipe, I felt that the odds were good enough, and oh boy, was this a winning recipe.

These sundaes are super super easy to make, as the only thing that actually needs to be prepared is the caramel whiskey sauce (I'm not counting the whipped cream, because that literally takes all of about three and a half minutes to whip up with a hand mixer).  I really liked the idea of making a whiskey-infused caramel sauce, because this adds to the classic sundae effect and at the same time adds the sweetness that the whiskey needs to make it work in a dessert.  I love homemade caramel sauces, and even though they can be a little intimidating at first (believe me, I've burned more batches of caramel than I'd like to admit), once you get the hang of them, they're not difficult to make at all.  The key is not to stir the caramel once the sugar has dissolved, and to keep a constant close eye on your saucepan, because the caramel could go from a beautiful rich amber color to burned in a matter of seconds!  Caramel sauce making time is not multitasking time.  You just have to focus for a few minutes and then you'll have perfect caramel every time you make it.  What makes this caramel a real sauce is the addition of heavy cream and salt, which keeps the caramel smooth and prevents it from hardening.  Adding the heavy cream can be both a scary and really cool process, depending on how you look at things.  Immediately upon adding the cream, the caramel sauce will begin to bubble violently and steam, it will start to turn hard. Simply stir the sauce until it becomes smooth, and you are good to go!

You can use your favorite Irish whiskey to mix into the caramel sauce, and feel free to adjust the amount you use to your personal preferences.  I think the next time I make this, 5 1/2 tablespoons of Irish whiskey will be more than sufficient, but if you like your whiskey, by all means add all 6 tablespoons!  This caramel sauce can be made in advance, and just needs to be briefly re-heated before serving alongside some coffee ice cream and whipped cream.  It's an easy grown up way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day!  Here's a few more boozey treats that I've whipped up over the years that are perfect for the occasion:

Guinness and Pretzel Truffles
Chocolate Stout Cake
Bailey's Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

No matter how you choose to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, this Irish Coffee Sundae better make an appearance at some point!

Irish Coffee Sundaes

caramel recipe from Epicurious


For the Caramel Whiskey Sauce

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup water
6 tablespoons Irish whiskey 
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Sundaes

2 pints coffee ice cream

freshly whipped cream


To make the caramel sauce, bring the sugar and water to a boil in a large heavy saucepan set over medium high heat.  Stir the sugar only until it is dissolved in the water.  Boil the syrup until it turns a deep golden caramel color, swirling the pan occasionally (no more stirring!).  

Once the syrup has reached its golden brown color, remove the pan from the heat (I just slide the saucepan over to the next burner) and carefully add the whiskey, cream, and salt all at once.  Be careful, the mixture will immediately begin to bubble up/steam/harden, but only for a moment.  Once its calmed down, return the pan to the heat and simmer, stirring, until the caramel sauce is smooth.  Cool to warm.

To make the sundaes, add a spoonful of the caramel sauce to a bowl or large glass.  Add scoops of coffee ice cream, and top with whipped cream and additional caramel sauce.  Enjoy!

Makes about 1 cup caramel sauce


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