For a brief period in my childhood, my family and I lived in a small town outside of Boston. I don't remember much about that time, except that it was the year I discovered that New Englanders do not mess around when it comes to ice cream. Though it's hard to verify if the region's outsized reputation for consumption holds true, its pedigree in making the stuff is indisputable. Vermont has Ben & Jerry. And Massachusetts has Steve.
You can thank Steve Herrell and his original Somerville shop for helping popularize the ice cream parlor theatrical flourish known as the "smoosh-in." You know, like Benihana, but with Heath bars! The concept translated successfully into other mix-in ice cream chains, as well as the kitchen sink confections currently lining our grocery freezer sections. And most of the time, a carton full of premixed layers or tunnels or swirls gets the job done just fine.
Sometimes, however, you want to what you want exactly how you want it. You want that old school mix-in experience. I was reminded of this recently when a Molly Baz instagram post stopped me in my tracks. It was a photograph of her Salty Coffee & Peanut Slice Cream, a dish in which "sweet coffee ice cream gets swirled with salted cream and strewn with roasted peanuts," and which comes together in minutes.
The image took me back instantly to the glory days of Herrell's, as well my enduring fondness for ice cream terrines — a taste traced directly to the once ubiquitous Viennetta. It was also a perfect encapsulation of Baz's light, accessible style, which is all over her bestselling debut "Cook This Book." As she told Salon earlier this year, "The purpose of this book was to make it as easy and stress free as possible for those people for whom I know cooking is overwhelming. There are roadblocks. There's a lot of reasons to say, 'You know what? I'm just not going to do it tonight.'"
But you can do this. You can stir stuff into softened ice cream, and feel like you're getting something special. I've made my version closely akin to Baz's, because coffee and peanuts are two essential food groups, but you can play endlessly with the possibilities here. Start with your favorite flavor of ice cream. Swirl in Nutella or Marshmallow Fluff, stir in candy, cookies, or cereal. (I find Frosted Mini Wheats and ice cream strangely addictive.) It's your ice cream party, make it your own. If you're feeling ambitious, after your ice cream sets, you can scoop it into balls and refreeze them for DIY bon bons, but you will get no complaints if you just slice and serve.
- 3 pints of coffee ice cream (or your favorite flavor)
- 1 cup of salted peanuts, lightly crushed (Reserve a few for topping.)
- 1 cup of creamy peanut butter, if you are so inclined
- Soften the ice cream for about 20 - 30 minutes on the countertop, or 15 to 30 seconds in the microwave. Meanwhile, line a loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving an overhang on the sides.
- Transfer ice cream to a large bowl.
- Add your peanuts and stir quickly to mix throughout the ice cream.
- If using peanut butter, dollop it on to the ice cream one tablespoon at a time. Swirl it gently throughout the ice cream.
- Spoon the ice cream into the loaf pan and smooth it down. Cover loosely with plastic wrap.
- Chill in the freezer for at least two hours.
- To serve, remove from the freezer and give it a minute or two to soften a little. Ease it out of the pan using the edges of the plastic wrap to lift. Flip it over on to a plate and remove the plastic. Top with reserved peanuts. Slice and serve immediately.
Extra credit: Add a chocolate shell to drizzle over your ice cream. In a microwave safe bowl, melt 1 cup of dark chocolate for one minute, stirring gently halfway through. When the chocolate is completely melted, spoon over your ice cream, and top with more peanuts.
More Quick & Dirty:
- The best Sunday night comfort meal is rotisserie chicken chili, especially with a pinch of cinnamon
- Cacio e pepe pie is an insanely easy pasta dinner to make on nights when you don't feel like cooking
- A chocolate sandwich tastes exactly as comforting as it sounds — and it's sublime
- The viral feta pasta dish everyone's raving about is even better without pasta
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